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Assessing the Impacts of Tourism

Dr. Maksim Godovykh, University of Central Florida

Accurately measuring the impacts of tourism is a complex task that requires a multidimensional approach. Assessing tourism impacts can be split into the process of evaluation of economic, sociocultural, and environmental impacts, and they can have both positive and negative effects. For example, tourism can create jobs, generate income, and stimulate economic growth, but it can also cause price inflation, create seasonality and dependence on tourism, and contribute to gentrification and social exclusion. In terms of sociocultural impacts, tourism can promote cultural exchange, support cultural preservation, and enhance local identity, but it can also cause cultural commodification, lead to cultural clashes, and disrupt local lifestyles. Finally, tourism can have both positive and negative environmental impacts, such as the conservation of natural and cultural resources, pollution, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Another way to address the impacts of tourism is to quantify the carrying capacity of tourist destinations or the maximum amount of tourist activities that can be carried out without harming the destination. This approach takes into account the environmental, social, and economic limits of a destination, and ensures that tourism activities are sustainable and do not negatively impact the local community and the environment. However, determining the carrying capacity of a tourist destination is a complex task that requires a thorough analysis of the destination’s resources and the impacts of tourism upon them.

Measuring the real impacts of tourism is essential for several reasons. First, it allows us to understand the extent of the positive and negative effects of tourism on the host destinations. This knowledge can help policymakers, destination management organizations, and tourism stakeholders to develop strategies that maximize the positive impacts and mitigate the negative impacts of tourism. For example, if a destination is experiencing overtourism, policymakers can use impact measurement data to make informed decisions as to how many tourists to allow, how to manage the tourism flow, and how to distribute tourism benefits more equitably.

Second, measuring the real impacts of tourism can help to evaluate the effectiveness of tourism policies and programs. By comparing impact measurement data over time, policymakers and tourism stakeholders can assess the outcomes of their interventions and adjust their strategies accordingly. For example, if a destination is implementing a sustainable tourism development program, impact measurement data can be used to track the progress of the program and evaluate its success in achieving its goals.

Third, measuring the real impacts of tourism can help to promote transparency and accountability in the tourism industry. By providing accurate and reliable data about the impacts of tourism, destination management organizations and tourism stakeholders can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and responsible tourism. This can enhance the reputation of the destination, attract more responsible tourists, and increase tourism revenues.

Finally, measuring and effectively managing the impacts of tourism has the potential to improve the quality of life, health, and well-being of local residents in national and regional tourist destinations. An approach that centers on tourism impacts can assist tourism management organizations, community decision-makers, governments, and nonprofit organizations in positively impacting residents’ well-being by shifting the focus of tourism development from increasing visitor numbers to enhancing the social, economic, and psychological well-being of the local population.

Case study. One of the tools to evaluate the impacts of tourism on destination communities was designed by the Blue Community Consortium. They have developed an app with a set of assessment questions that help destinations evaluate their impacts. Evaluation involves answering several questions covering topics including destination community, tourism satisfaction and promotion, cultural and environmental sustainability as well as sustainability management plans such as waste disposal systems, water usage control measures, land usage plans and building designs, plastic reduction efforts, organic local food offerings, etc.

Recently, the tourism industry has been facing various challenges, including economic and social instability, terrorism, global environmental issues, and popular anti-tourism protests in many destinations (Uysal et al., 2016). The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the negative impact of tourism on residents’ health and has resulted in border closures, cancellation of international flights, and restrictions on mobility, as stated by Gössling, Scott, & Hall (2020). Although residents often initially welcome tourists due to the income they bring to the destination, further tourism development may lead to resident resistance when tourist demand exceeds the destination’s physical, ecological, social, psychological, and/or political capacities, as noted by Dodds & Butler (2019). Therefore, it is essential to consider additional indicators of tourism intensity and density, the contribution of tourism, as well as its impacts on national destinations, in addition to the traditional numbers of international tourist arrivals.

In conclusion, accurately measuring the impacts of tourism is a complex task that requires a multidimensional approach. Assessing economic, sociocultural, and environmental impacts reveals that tourism has both positive and negative effects. Quantifying the carrying capacity of tourist destinations can help ensure sustainable tourism practices. Measuring the real impacts of tourism is essential as it informs decision-making, evaluates the effectiveness of policies and programs, promotes transparency and accountability, and improves the well-being of local residents. By prioritizing the well-being of communities and adopting responsible tourism practices, the tourism industry can contribute to the sustainable development of destinations.


Uysal, M., Sirgy, M. J., Woo, E., & Kim, H. L. (2016). Quality of life (QOL) and well-being research in tourism. Tourism Management, 53, 244-261.

Gössling, S., Scott, D., & Hall, C. M. (2020). Pandemics, tourism and global change: a rapid assessment of COVID-19. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1-20.

Dodds, R., & Butler, R. (2019). The phenomena of overtourism: A review. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 5(4), 519-528.