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World Tourism Day: rethinking tourism and its footprint on the planet

Tourism as a human need

If there is one thing we have learned during the pandemic, it is how important travel is for human beings. When stay-at-home restrictions prevented us from moving freely, we realized how much we need to travel to visit our relatives, to disconnect from routine, to discover new places and cultures. In short, to be more human.

Looked at in this way, we must think of tourism as a human need to be fulfilled, but always trying to ensure that its impact is positive both for the traveler and for  the communities of the places we visit. However, whislt the concept of tourism sustainability is often simplified by focusing solely on environmental aspects at Mabrian we firmly believe that tourism, as a sustainable activity, must be based on four pillars:

Without a balance between these four factors, we will not be able to count on a vibrant, healthy and lasting tourism sector.

On that basis, we must help destination managers and tourism companies by offering them tools that allow them to make decisions aligned with that desired balance. This is where innovation and technology play an essential role. From the perspective of Big Data analytics and Tourism Intelligence, decisions can be supported through indicators that allow measuring, monitoring and comparing the tourist evolution of a destination from four different perspectives: environmental, social, economic and  structural.

Rethinking Destination Marketing: The Income/Carbon Footprint Index

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

At Mabrian our solution to this question is the Income/Carbon Footprint Index. This index compares the average income generated by a visitor to the destination with the 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. You can learn more about the methodology of this indicator here.

This is not a totally comprehensive  indicator, of course, since it must be kept in mind that the carbon footprint generated by a tourist during their trip is not limited to air travel and is not concentrated solely in the destination. And in the same way, the expenditure made by the tourist in the destination is not dedicated exclusively to sustainability  actions.

However, even with these limitations, a measurer such as the Carbon Footprint / Income is a very valid approach to identify those markets that generate more wealth in the local economy of residents, with the least possible impact on the environment.

Seville as an example

Here we can see an example of the application of this index for the city of Seville, one of the pioneer destinations in the application of these criteria for its destination strategy:

In view of the results, we can affirm that the average income per stay that the city receives directly from visitors is $1.8 for each kilogram of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. This ratio shows great disparity between the average and the main markets of origin.

In the top 10 most efficient markets for Seville in the period looked at Portugal, Switzerland and France stand out. The former benefited from a low rate of emissions due to the short distance of their flight and the latter benefited from the high average cost during the stay. It may be surprising not to see the more traditional markets by volume of visitors to the destination, such as the United Kingdom or Germany.

Knowing these metrics, we could imagine a destination setting tourism objectives based on efficiency and sustainability, instead of the volume of visitors. In other words, the objective of a destination could be to achieve the maximum economic impact while minimizing the environmental impact, making a firm commitment to the most efficient segments.

This indicator, added to others such as the distribution of tourist income in the local economy, the concentration of the tourist offer in the territory, the perception of sustainability, the motivational diversification of visitors, the degree of dependence on certain markets of origin, and finally seasonality, offer a more complete vision of the desired balance of a sustainable tourist destination.

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