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Indicators of Sustainability for Tourism Destinations
In the context of sustainable tourism development, indicators are information sets which are formally selected for a regular use to measure changes in assets and issues that are key for the tourism development and management of a given destination.
UNWTO has been promoting the use of sustainable tourism indicators since the early 1990s, as essential instruments for policy-making planning and management processes at destinations.
The Guidebook on Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations, published in 2004, is the most comprehensive resource on this topic, the result of an extensive study on indicator initiatives worldwide, involving 62 experts from more than 20 countries. The publication describes over 40 major sustainability issues, ranging from the management of natural resources (waste, water, energy, etc.), to development control, satisfaction of tourists and host communities, preservation of cultural heritage, seasonality, economic leakages, or climate change, to mention just a few.
For each issue, indicators and measurement techniques are suggested with practical information sources and examples. The publication also contains a procedure to develop destination-specific indicators, their use in tourism policy and planning processes, as well as applications in different destination types (e.g. coastal, urban, ecotourism, small communities). Numerous examples and 25 comprehensive case studies provide a wide range of experiences at the company, destination, national and regional levels from all continents.
UNWTO organized a series of regional and national workshops on sustainable tourism indicators to train tourism officials and professionals on their application, using a demonstration technique and participatory approach at pilot destinations:
Hungary (1999) for Central- and Eastern-European countries (Final Report)
Mexico (1999) for Central American nations and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean (Final Report)
Sri Lanka (2000) for South Asia (Final Report)
Argentina (2000) for South American countries (Final Report)
Croatia (2001) for the Mediterranean islands (Final Report)
Cyprus (2003) to assist the Cyprus Tourism Organization in developing a national system of sustainability indicators for tourism
Trinidad and Tobago (2004), jointly with the Association of Caribbean States
Thailand (2005), regional workshop with a special focus on Sustainable Redevelopment of Tourism Destinations for Tsunami Recovery (Final Report)
Bolivia (2005) for countries of the Andean Community (Final Report)
China (2005) (Final Report)
Saudi Arabia (2006) for countries of the Middle East and North African Region (Final Report)
Kazakhstan (2006) Regional seminar for the UNWTO European Commission on "Policies, Strategies and Tools for Sustainable Development of Tourism" (Publication, Conclusions)
Lombok, Indonesia, 21-24 March 2007, Workshop on Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations (Final Report)
Kolaš, Montenegro, 25-27 April 2007, Regional Workshop on Sustainable Tourism Indicators and Destination Management (Final Report)
Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines, 15-18 October 2008, National Workshop on Sustainable Tourism Indicators and Destination Management (Final Report)
UNWTO is working on setting up Sustainable Tourism Observatories to promote the use of indicators in policy-making and planning processes at the national and local destination levels, following examples of similar UN initiatives.
Currently there are three observatories in operation, opened by UNWTO and the Government of the People's Republic of China and located in Yangshuo (Guangxi), Huangshan (Anhui) and Zhangjiajie (Hunan). The three of them are managed by the Monitoring Centre based in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
These observatories assist policy makers to ensure sustainable tourism growth. They gather and report data on the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism in the area, based on UNWTO sustainable tourism indicators.