A destination’s sustainability ultimately depends on how well it can balance the needs, well-being and quality of life of its residents with the needs, well-being and quality of experience of its visitors.
This incredibly delicate equilibrium
means sustainability is a complex, multidimensional concept that includes all environmental and societal aspects of a given destination.
Traveling in itself is, however, contributing majorly to a pressing global sustainability issue — climate emergency — and is responsible for roughly 8% of the world’s
carbon emissions, according to Sustainable Travel International.
Addressing this challenging problem is at the top of the industry’s list of priorities. Luckily, data can play a crucial role in the solution and can shed light on the next
steps we need to take towards real sustainability.
The relationship between data and sustainability
Travelers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability. A recent study by the World Travel and
Tourism Council, “A world in motion,” revealed that 69% of travelers actively seek sustainable travel options. Almost 60% said they either pay to offset their carbon emissions or are currently considering it if the price to do so is within their budget.
statistics and many others show the exponential demand for sustainable options — and destinations need to adapt to these changes if they want to maintain their competitive edge and continue to attract visitors in the future.
is the most effective and efficient way to achieve sustainability goals. And although many international companies and tourism destinations claim to be “data-driven,” most of them have yet to grasp the tangible benefits that data can offer, particularly
regarding sustainability and inclusivity.
Data can provide a solid and reliable foundation to develop a 360-degree sustainable transition strategy for destination management organizations (DMOs) throughout every phase of the sustainable transition
- Data represents the collective voice of travelers and a powerful reflection of the dynamic world we live in.
- User-generated content, along with data on consumer behaviors, spending capacity, mobility, safety, preferences and the sociodemographic composition of visitors, all provide an accurate picture of our reality.
- Naturally, this content reflects the increased demand for sustainable options, and by analyzing these digital traces, both businesses and destinations can thoroughly understand what travelers are looking for in terms of sustainability.
- This is why destinations need to collect, use and listen to what data is saying, to identify issues, themes and solutions for sustainable actions and investments in line with visitors’ needs and preferences.
- Take action
- By analyzing large amounts of data, it is possible to identify patterns and trends that can inform decision-making and guide the development of new, concrete solutions to build more sustainable infrastructure, public mobility, services and
- The wide range of data available to destinations provides an excellent foundation for developing new sustainability key performance indicators and keeping track of the results of every single action, investment and marketing campaign.
- Test and improve
- Measuring data allows you to test the outcomes of actions and initiatives, compare results, benchmark against other destinations and adjust the strategy over time.
- Inform and educate
- Businesses, stakeholders and shareholders can have a comprehensive overview of a particular destination by sharing sustainable data analysis and trends with local operators. The entire supply chain must become aware and lay the groundwork
for more sustainable common strategies, reflecting on the travelers' experiences and the destination's reputation.
All major global tourism institutions are already incentivizing destinations to take sustainable actions based on data, such as the EU Guidebook on Sustainable Tourism for
Smart cities such as Incheon, Sydney, Amsterdam, Singapore and San Francisco have excelled at integrating services based on different types of urban data.
The Italian Region of Veneto — a leader in the data-driven decision-making
process — has already laid the foundations of a data-driven sustainability strategy.
“Sustainability is one of the most debated topics and simultaneously a daily challenge in tourism governance," said Stefan Marchioro, head of tourism for
territorial projects and governance at Regione del Veneto. “In the tourism sector, sustainability requires a data-driven approach in destination management, i.e., finding and using objective and reliable information to shape new strategies and decisions
around sustainable development.”
The Veneto Regional Tourism Observatory is among the few public, dynamic online dashboards currently available for the operators, media and travelers, regulated by a comprehensive governance system. The platform
offers an all-around overview of real-time data about the destination regarding sentiment, hospitality and more.
“To support sustainability assessment, the Veneto Region — through the Tourism Observatory — is considering developing sustainable indexes (social, economic, environmental) to facilitate effective and sustainable governance of tourism destinations,”
The four pillars of sustainable tourism
We usually think of sustainability as an environmental issue.
However, sustainability is much more than that. The United Nations World Travel Organization defines sustainability principles as "the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects
of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions to guarantee its long-term sustainability."
To measure a destination’s current level of sustainability, we must consider data related to four
- Environment: analysis of the presence of green areas, natural environments, level of marine pollution and air quality.
- Society: cultural heritage protection and enhancement, level of satisfaction with the destination's urban green areas, quality of life, accessibility, education and inclusivity.
- Governance and management: how institutions manage sustainable issues.
- Economy and overtourism: the impact of tourist flows on the socioeconomic scenario of the destination and the degree to which tourists can coexist with the local population.
To assess sustainability comprehensively, DMOs must gather and analyze data about individual territorial activities, such as hotels, museums or restaurants in the entire area. There is a wide variety of data — both internal and acquired through third-party
providers — a destination can leverage to its advantage. This includes reputation and sentiment data, environmental data, tourist flows and forecasts, data on inclusivity and accessibility, data on management and overtourism, and data on how to integrate
tourist flows with local life.
Accessing all this data simultaneously can be challenging. Still, DMOs must do their best to select, track and monitor it over time, according to the goals defined in their sustainable strategy.
Without measuring your progress, it’s hard to know if you are, after all, making any progress.
Data paves the way through new KPIs and AI
Software based on technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, have become essential tools for optimizing the use of data. Data can be transformed into actionable insights to increase the efficiency of internal and logistic processes,
the supply chain and all aspects of destination environmental and social sustainability.
The Data Appeal Company, through its all-in-one platform for destination marketing and management platform, Data Appeal Studio, is among the international
companies providing new complex, data-driven, sustainability KPIs and indexes powered by AI technologies, machine learning and specific semantic analysis.
“Our core business has always been data, but since sustainability has become such an
urgent and vast issue, we have focused our efforts on making data a driver for positive, concrete, and actionable change to create a more sustainable and inclusive world,” said Mirko Lalli, founder and CEO at The Data Appeal Company.
help destinations and tourism organizations navigate this new era, we have invested a lot of time and resources in transforming our data into real-time KPIs to measure, assess and benchmark delicate and complex topics such as sustainability and inclusivity
— in all its nuances.”
The Destination Sustainability Index and the LGBTQ+ Index are just the beginning of The Data Appeal Company commitment.
The LGBTQ+ Index, part of an upcoming Inclusivity Index, is the result of a complex algorithm
that uses artificial intelligence techniques and specialized semantic analysis to go through online content, comments and reviews to assess how LGBTQ+ friendly a particular destination or company is.
Factors like inclusivity have become a
make or break for most business strategies — from simple marketing strategies to strategies for large-scale events.
For instance, according to a recent study about the tourism impact of the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 on Liverpool, we showed
the city scored an outstanding 80.43/100 on LGBTQ+ Index, indicating that all tourists feel highly welcome in Liverpool.
The Destination Sustainability Index is, on the other hand, based on Data Appeal’s proprietary data and third-party data, including satellite
environmental monitoring data. The reference point of this index is the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS), developed by the European Commission, one of the best-known and most-cited tools for measuring tourism sustainability at a destination
The index encompasses all the essential aspects of tourism sustainability: environment, economy and overtourism, society, and governance and destination management.
The first cities we put under the sustainability magnifying glass
are Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Rome.
Destinations must be equipped with data-driven tools, powered by technology and artificial intelligence, to accurately and automatically determine their sustainability level, without having to
rely on surveys or self-assessment.
More than just sustainability, tourism destinations should aim for data-driven sustainability.
Learn more in The Data Appeal Company's free webinar
Gain valuable insights into how to address the issue of overtourism
and ways to mitigate the negative impacts of unsustainable tourism practices. Additionally,
you will learn how to develop a sustainability strategy for your destination to help
ensure your long-term success.