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Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe

1. Definition



Brief definition

Number of overnights stays by tourists per square kilometre per annum and in peak season.

Unit of measure

Number per k in an annual or peak period

2. Position within the logical framework DPSIR

Type of Indicator

Pressure/driving force

3. Target and political pertinence


This indicator shows the average distribution of tourists and gives a general indication of pressures on land use due to tourism, with regard to a reference period (year) or during a peak season.

Importance with respect to desertification

Tourist activities can create a wide variety of stresses, damage and pollution in the host area. With respect to desertification the main impacts are: possible loss of soil productivity, soil erosion and compaction at accommodation/shelter sites, soil erosion and compaction from transport links (roads, airstrips, tracks, boats, boat moorings) plus service provision (electricity, telephone, pipelines, fire trails, sewerage systems) and contamination of soil from waste generation at tourist sites.

International Conventions and agreements

In 1996, three international organizations - the World Travel & Tourism Council, the World Tourism Organization and the Earth Council - joined together to launch an action plan: "Agenda 21 for the Travel & Tourism Industry: Towards Environmentally Sustainable Development", a sectoral sustainable development programme based on the results of the 1992 Earth Summit. The UN Commission for Sustainable Development, at its Seventh Session in 1999, considered tourism as an economic sector, held a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the topic and adopted an international work programme on sustainable tourism development. Implementation of the programme was reviewed in 2002 as part of the 10- year review of progress achieved since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

With respect to the European Commission, Article 3u in the Amsterdam Treaty included, for the first time, 'measures in the sphere of tourism' in the list of Community activities foreseen in support of the Community's overall objectives. The Treaty gives no particular guidance for a Community tourism policy and there is no specific legal basis for Community measures on tourism. In 1999, while discussing the Commission's communication "Enhancing Tourism's Potential for Employment" the Council of (Internal Market) Ministers recalled the importance of better integration of the needs of the tourism sector into other Community policies and invited the Commission and the Member States to work together on a number of priority issues including promoting environmental protection and sustainable development in tourism. EU Working groups (Member States and European Commission) addressed these issues and were due to recommend a set of policies to the Council by mid-2001.

Secondary objectives of the indicator

The indicator provides suggestions for a programme of actions and policies to improve the sustainability of tourism.

4. Methodological description and basic definitions

Definitions and basic concepts

A tourist is a visitor who stays at least one night in collective or private accommodation in the country visited.

A night spent (or overnight stay) is each night that a guest actually spends (sleep or stay) or is registered (physical presence being unnecessary) in a collective accommodation establishment or in private tourism accommodation.

Benchmarks Indication of the values/ranges of value

I° range: < Local Mean -St. Dev.
II° range: >Local Mean - St. Dev. < Local Mean
III° range: > Local Mean < Local Mean + St. Dev.
IV° range: > Local Mean + St. Dev

Methods of measurement

To calculate tourism intensity the number of overnight stays (including second homes) with regard to a reference period (year) or within a peak season is divided by the area measured in square kilometres.

Limits of the indicator

The indicator does not take into account visitor activity. Also, at many sites it is often day trip activity that causes the damage. Focus on tourists who overnight in the area may overlooks a major pressure, but data availability for day trips is difficult to collect.

Linkages with other indicators

The indicator is closely linked to other tourism indicators such as Penetration of tourist eco-labels.

5. Evaluation of data needs and availability

Data required to calculate the indicator

Data on the number of nights spent by residents and non-residents in tourist accommodation (hotel, campsites, second home and with friends). Where data on second home and friends are not available, these may be omitted and a specification of this exclusion included.

Data sources

The primary data sources are national statistical offices and country publications.

Availability of data from national and international sources

Apart from national statistical agencies, the data are also available from Eurostat, World Tourism Organization and OECD.

6. Institutions that have participated in developing the indicator

Main institutions responsible


Other contributing organizations

Universities of Basilicata, Lisbon, Murcia, Athens.

7. Additional information


Eurostat-OECD-WTO, Tourism Satellite Account (TSA): Methodological References, 2000

Other references

World Tourism Organisation, 1996. What tourism managers need to know. A practical guide to the development and use of indicators of sustainable tourism, WTO Spain

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1994. Environmental Indicators - OECD Core Set, OECD Paris.


Contacts Name and address

University of Basilicata
Prof Giovanni Quaranta
email: quaranta@unibas.it