Using Tourism Indicators for Monitoring and Evaluation

Over the past decade, a great deal of work has occurred on the clarification of the key issues in sustainability for tourism and the means by which indicators can support better decisions and actions.

The development and use of indicators is increasingly viewed as a fundamental part of overall destination planning and management, and an integral element in efforts to promote sustainable development for the tourism sector at all scales. The stimulus for the tourism sector comes from the perception that many destinations have been at risk due to insufficient attention to the impacts of tourism and to the long-term sustainability of destinations.

Incidences of contaminated landscapes, beaches and dunes and damaged cultural and ecological assets, hostile reactions to tourists and to tourism development, and resultant problems for the tourism sector have occurred in many regions. Studies done by the WTO and many others have supported the conclusion that the planning and management of tourism in many destinations have occurred with insufficient information, particularly with regard to the impacts of tourism on destinations, the impacts of changes in the social and natural environment on tourism and the longer term maintenance of the key assets which make a destination attractive.

Within this context, indicators are an early warning system for destination managers of potential risks and a signal for possible action. They serve as a key tool, providing specific measures of changes in factors most important to the sustainability of tourism in a destination.

Tourism decision-makers need to know the links between tourism and the natural and cultural environments, including the effects of environmental factors on tourism (possibly expressed as risks to tourism) and the impacts of tourism on the environment (which may also be expressed as risks to the product).

Responsibility requires knowledge. Using existing and newly gathered data, changes in environmental, social and economic conditions can be detected. This information, in turn, enables the status of issues relevant to a destination’s sustainability to be gauged on an ongoing basis. Decision-making in tourism planning and management can, therefore, be improved.

The objective is to reduce future risks to tourism destinations. Some of the benefits from good indicators include:

  • better decision-making – lowering risks or costs;
  • identification of emerging issues – allowing prevention;
  • identification of impacts – allowing corrective action when needed;
  • performance measurement of the implementation of plans and management activities – evaluating progress in the sustainable development of tourism;
  • reduced risk of planning mistakes – identifying limits and opportunities;
  • greater accountability – credible information for the public and other stakeholders of tourism fosters accountability for its wise use in decision-making;
  • constant monitoring can lead to continuous improvement – building solutions into management.

In future blogs we will deal with the types of indicators, measurement and expression of indicators, identification of desired indicators, selection of indicators and more.

Lorton Consulting has done extensive work with use of indicators in planning and management of tourism destinations.  Contact us if you need our professional input for your project.


  1. Karen

    I love the information that you share and wish I would have had access before the semester began. I am working on a masters degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism Admin with a special interest in wine and agritourism. The information you share enhances the limited amount of info received in my tourism class, but provides me with more in depth understanding of the tourism industry. Thank you!

    Karen Burleson

  2. Darryl Lombard

    Thanks Karen. I am happy that my blogs are of some value. Hopefully, in 2015 I will have some time to post heaps of new material!

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