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Tourism sustainability: Income / Carbon Footprint Index

How can we help a destination rethink its best target markets? What indicator could help identify the most optimal markets or segments for the destination from a sustainability perspective?

To respond to this challenge at Mabrian we have created  the Income / Carbon Footprint Index. This index compares the average income generated by a visitor to the destination with the carbon footprint (CO2 emission) impact of traveling to the destination by air. With this, it is possible to identify the markets or segments that offer greater efficiency between the pollution they generate and the wealth they contribute to the destination.

The calculation methodology for this indicator is based on several ingredients or types of data, which when cross-analyzed, can provide highly relevant information:

  • Kg of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by all incoming flights to the destination. Using the updated real-time data of incoming air connectivity to a destination and applying the methodology established by ICAO (International Civil Air Association) for the calculation of the load, correction and CO2 emission factors, a metric of Kg of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere on average by each visitor can be reached.
  • Expenditure of tourists during the stay. Through the analysis of transactions made at the destination with MasterCard credit and debit cards, metrics related to the total expenditure made by visitors at the destination during their stay are obtained. In addition, the distribution of this expenditure in the destination among the different categories of establishments is analyzed, paying special attention to those that have a more direct benefit for the local economy (activities, leisure, restaurants, local services, etc.)
  • Income / Carbon Footprint Ratio. A division between the average expenditure per stay and nationality and the total Kg of CO2 emitted on average per passenger, gives us this indicator.

In addition to this indicator, through this methodology the following indicators can also be offered:

  • Total carbon footprint generated into the atmosphere by visitors and its evolution over time.
  • Carbon footprint generated by each market of origin.
  • Carbon footprint generated by visitor and origin and its evolution over time.

This indicator measures a key factor, the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere generated by tourist activity when using air transport in relation to the wealth generated in the destination. You can see a concrete example of the application of this index in this post.

The carbon footprint impact is one of the most relevant aspects for sustainability and for achieving the Net Zero 2030 goal of the United Nations, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by that year. Air transport accounts for around 12% of the carbon emissions into the atmosphere caused by transport. The reduction of these emissions is very important and goes through the improvement in the efficiency of the aircraft, but also of the system as a whole (routes, load-factor, investments).

At the same time, the well-being and economy of the residents of the destination is another key factor for the sustainable development of tourism. Objectives such as stable employment and a living wage, infrastructure, services, etc.  are based on tourism that provides added value to the destination.

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