Sustainable tourism indicators in the region

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An existing indicator framework for the area of Sumava national park includes results of surveys with tourists and the local population [1] and indicators criteria of sustainable tourism exists for the area [2]. These efforts may be used as a basis for developing sustainable tourism in the area but have not yet been successful in engaging the local community in tourism development. In contrast to these, qualitative indicators were developed through participatory processess. A systemic indicator methodology developed by Schianetz & Kavanagh (2008); Chan & Huang (2004) and; Kristjánsdóttir, Ólafsdóttir & Ragnarsdóttir (2016) specifically concentrates on the needs and specifics of local communities. In Prasily, in-depth semi-structured interviews were carried out with individuals from different stakeholder groups. These interviews were transcribed and coded in order to identify key sustainability themes for tourism development in the area. This resulted in a list of 23 themes that were reduced to 13 sustainability indicators (see table). An expert panel was then used to analyze to what extent the indicators describe the tourism system in Prasily, how the indicators are interconnected, how they impact each other and which indicators are most crucial to the system. The indicators were selected to show transformative potential of sustainable tourism introduction in the concerned region, and allow comparison in space and time. In this respect, the indicators can be considered as opportunities (e.g. to increase attractiveness, build infrastructure etc.) or with regards to the potential threats (e.g. for the biodiversity, cultural heritage etc.). The results furthermore map out the specific sustainability challenges and opportunities in the community of Prášily as participants were given the opportunity to mark specific concerns in a map.

Table: Sustainability indicators – participatory research methodology applied (data from interviewing tourism stakeholders in Šumava national park, 2016; adapted by Kristjánsdóttir).

Indicators of sustainable tourism Cause & effect
1. Polarity between NP and community No primary production in NP: Dependence on tourism and NP management: disputes and conflict of interests, polarity in employment opportunities.
2. Maintaining wilderness attraction Large territories of unspoiled forest and solitude the main attraction of area. Issues with adapting tourism activities to unspoiled wilderness.
3. Forest management and conservation Large territories of unspoiled forest - the main attraction of area: Conserve vs. use and non-intervention vs. forest management: Visible forest management (vehicles) in same area as tourism activities.
4. Nature conservation and regulations Opportunities for commercial activities & employment rare and not evenly distributed: Lack of transparency, conflict with conservation.
5. History of the region Community relationships disrupted. Rapid changes in the society. Distorted opportunities.
6. Value in tourism development Perception of the value of the NP varies between stakeholders and tourists as target groups also perceived differently: Tourism development has different goals simultaneously: differences in opinions on authenticity and how to enhance value of heritage sites and facilities in NP with regards to environment and culture.
7. Number of tourists Continuous increase contradicts attraction of NP (wilderness, solitude). Conflict of interest between NP and tourist hosts.
8. Seasonality Capacity to accommodate and entertain in high seasons: competition. Community reactions to tourists trespassing and littering.
9. Tourist expectations Conflicting tourist activities in same areas, as well as forest management. Conflicts concerning number of tourists and hiking trails, accessibility.
10. Tourism carrying capacity Basic Tourist facilities, signs, services, and alimentation inadequate in some areas: Differences in opinion.
11. Transport infrastructure Public transport, parking, capacity, hiking trails, accessibility
12. Tourism management Responsibility for tourism development is unclear: NP the driving actor even though not officially responsible for tourism management.
13. Environmental Management systems Label of regional products is the only EMS known to the interviewees.


  • Chan, S-L. & Huang, S-L. (2004). A systems approach for the development of a sustainable community - the application of the sensitivity model (SM). Journal of Environmental Management 72: 133–147
  • Kristjánsdóttir, K.R., Ólafsdóttir, R., Ragnarsdóttir, K.V. (Accepted). Integrative sustainability indicators for tourism: A Systemic Indicator System framework for a Northern periphery community. Manuscript accepted for publication (2016) in Journal of Rural Community Development. Special Issue: Communities and New Development Paths in the Sparsely Populated North
  • Schianetz, K. & Kavanagh, L. (2008). Sustainability indicators for tourism destinations: A complex adaptive systems approach using systemic indicator system. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 16(6): 601-628