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Destinations have so-called "traditional ways" of calculating visitor numbers, or Carrying Capacity, based primarily on hotel rooms and figures from inbound transportation.
Sometimes they may also get data from tour operators and official guides to help out, but it can be a complex and sometimes finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind equation.
Now, destination marketers and tourism boards are having to rethink how they do their number crunching for a number of reasons - increase in MICE activity, unmanaged travel, general increase in popularity of tourist attractions, and managing a destination's reputation.
There is no over-arching solution to it all, of course, but ideas around "smart foot-flow" of tourists in a destination are beginning to emerge and take hold.
Here is a decent clip from Destination Development Watch which outlines the problem of setting growth targets and how rethinking that Carrying Capacity figure might be able to help: