Measuring and Reporting Net Impact of Tourism


Information on measuring tourism impacts can inform planning, management and promotion of tourism at policy and business level. This information also justifies tourism importance to Sustainable Development. Tourism may be making significant contribution to the economy, but at what cost? How can we address these costs if we do not understand their impacts on prosperity? Net impacts of tourism should be measured. These are the highlights from the 21st Inter University seminar on sustainable tourism that was hosted by Muranga University of Technology. the topic of discussion was on Rethinking Measurement & Reporting of Tourism Impacts

Emerging Issues

Challenges in measuring and reporting net impact of tourism

Tourism is currently being measured using economic indicators, but tourism also has social and environmental impacts that are important for development. Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) is a standard statistical framework developed by UNWTO, and is the main tool for economic measurement of tourism. Satellite Accounts is a term developed by the United Nations to measure the size of economic sectors that are not defined as industries. Tourism is a sum of other industries e.g. accommodation, food and beverage, transport, recreation, entertainment among others.

Tourism Satellite Accounts measure tourist traffic, spending and the resulting economic impacts from their visit and consumption of tourism and non-tourism products and services at a destination.
Other tools for measuring tourism impacts include, Country National Account Systems e.g. KNBS. Despite these measurements, the following questions cast some doubt on effectiveness of the measurements.

• If tourism contributes billions of dollars and creates 1 out of 10 jobs globally, why are host communities in popular tourism destinations, especially in developing nations poor?
• If tourism supports inclusivity, why do we have more women than men working in tourism but less in management?
• If tourism supports or adds value to other industries, why is 40% of global food waste from tourism?
• If tourism supports conservation, why are five star hospitality experiences offering water in plastic bottles?
• If more tourists means competitive, why are residents protesting against tourism?
• If tourism is expected contribute to sustainable development, why are we measuring and reporting on economic impacts only?

When we report tourism, we must say who the numbers benefitted and what happened to household income in key destinations. There is need to interrogate the numbers to know its net impact of its operation to the destination. Economic statistics alone cannot be used as a justification to guide sustainable development. Understanding how tourism affects the environment and culture and its relationship to the economics is required for this.

What alternative considerations are there to measure and report tourism performance?

UNWTO is currently piloting a new framework for measuring impacts of sustainable tourism, and this is welcome because it will help create competitive travel experiences that improve quality of life. Measuring The Sustainability of Tourism (MST)-Currently being piloted by UNWTO is an improvement to the TSA i.e. combining various other tools and indicators from other development measurement methodologies/frameworks

World Economic Forum-Considers action by countries to prioritize tourism, management of tourism, business environment and protection the environment. Does not measure or report on impact of tourism

Can certification work to measure sustainability in business?

The challenge is that eco certification is expensive, it is a tourism business by itself. The less travel businesses support eco certification schemes the more expensive it becomes for those businesses wanting to do business sustainably. A truly sustainable operator measures sustainability impact through certification. This comes with empowered and secure staff, and measurable commitment of people and planet. Tourism eco certification can provide a basis for justifying tourism’s contribution to sustainable development, because eco certification systems and reports capture the net impact of a travel business. Certification can allow a company to engage its employees, supply chain and clients in their sustainable tourism practices. They can be able to measure and report on the impacts of these engagements.

Why do businesses want to be certified?

1. Need for third party verification, Third party certification should be neutral and independent to verify that what the business says is truthful, socially responsible and sustainable.
2. Belief in sustainability,
3. As a PR strategy to show commitment to sustainable travel and tourism.


Net Impact of Tourism and its potential contribution to sustainable tourism remains less understood or unknown. When measuring impacts of tourism, economic metrics cannot be wholly relied on to interpret or justify social and environmental metrics. There is evidence to show that high tourism numbers as a measure of competitiveness comes with a risk of over tourism which includes over development of tourism infrastructure and overcrowding. New indicators need to be developed for measuring social impacts of tourism.

Presentations by;

Let’s Go Travel Uniglobe
Students and Faculty from Murang’a University of Technology
Students from Kenya Methodist University
Invited guest from the Directorate, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenya

Universities in Attendance

Murang’a Technical University-Hosts
Zetech University
Dedan Kimathi University
University of Nairobi
Machakos University
Amboseli Institute
Technical University of Kenya
Total number of Students in attendance: 228

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