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A data-driven approach for a sustainable tourism

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By Mirko Lalli

· 4 min read

A data-driven approach for sustainable tourism is the best option we have.

As the world continues to face pressing environmental and social challenges, the importance of sustainability in the travel and tourism industry has never been greater.

Today’s young travellers are increasingly conscious of their choices’ impact on the planet and are looking for destinations that prioritise sustainability in their development and operations. Recognising this trend, destination management organisations (DMOs) are turning to data and analytics to inform and optimise their sustainability efforts.

This is why we will explore the various techniques and technologies that DMOs can use to measure and improve the sustainability of their destination and highlight real-world examples of successful data-driven sustainability initiatives.

Sustainable tourism

Let’s first clarify what sustainable tourism means: it’s a form of tourism that aims to minimise negative environmental, social, and economic impacts while maximising positive ones.

It is a holistic approach that considers the ecological, social, and economic effects of tourism on a destination and seeks to balance these impacts in a way that benefits both the goal and its residents and tourists. It is based on the principles of intergenerational equity, conservation of natural and cultural heritage, and respect for local communities.

The ultimate goal of sustainable tourism is to create a balance between economic development, social well-being, and environmental protection while ensuring that the tourism industry is resilient and adaptive to change.

A data-driven approach to sustainable tourism

By understanding the data-driven approach to sustainability, DMOs can create a more sustainable future for their destination while meeting the needs of travellers looking for sustainable travel options. Sustainable tourism has become a top priority for many governments and organisations around the world.

With the increasing impact of tourism on the environment and local communities, it is crucial to develop innovative solutions that can support the transition to a more sustainable future. One way to achieve this goal is by leveraging data-driven projects.

By analysing large amounts of data, it is possible to identify patterns and trends that can inform decision-making and guide the development of new solutions. Several organisations have already adopted this approach, which has proven effective in promoting sustainable tourism.

One example of a data-driven project in sustainable tourism is the EU DigiTOUR project.

The project received funding from the EU and aimed to support the digital transition of the tourism sector. The goal was to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lead the tourism recovery through innovative and technological solutions. In total, nearly €9 million was made available for nine projects, all of which focused on using data to improve the sustainability of the tourism industry.

Another example is the South West United Kingdom’s sustainable tourism plan.

This plan is comprehensive and award-winning; it considers using data to support sustainable tourism development in the region. The project includes marketing and training assistance for businesses, visitor education programs about their impacts and ways to make more sustainable choices, and a green tourism toolkit (Destinations).

In addition, the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition, with its report Leading Examples of Smart Tourism Practices in Europe, showcases the most innovative projects in smart tourism in Europe. This report is a guide to smart tourism in the EU, and the collection of best practices has been derived from the applications the cities submitted to the competition.

Other innovative projects in sustainable tourism include the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership: Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative (SRTI) and the HSBC’s ESG-concerned green finance.

Regarding data-driven projects, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has a Tourism Statistics Database, which provides information on sustainable development goals, COVID-19 and tourism statistics, and other resources such as a tourism data dashboard and language services.

Many innovative projects in sustainable tourism are leveraging data-driven approaches to promote a more sustainable future. These projects demonstrate the potential of data-driven solutions in supporting the transition to sustainable tourism and provide valuable insights for organisations looking to develop similar solutions.

This article is also published on Data Driven Destinations. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Mirko Lalli is the CEO & Founder of The Data Appeal Company, a company that democratises and simplifies data to help companies and institutions make effective and informed decisions. He is also the Chief Group Digital Strategy Officer at Almawave.

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