Sustainable tourism encompasses much more than solely protecting the environment in the destination, even though that is essential of course. A sustainable destination must be one that cares for its wildlife and landscapes, but also one that cares for its inhabitants! When thinking about tourism, one often thinks about visitors and the private tourism sector within the destination. But sometimes we forget the most important stakeholder: the local community, which is not always directly linked to the tourism sector.

The definition of sustainable tourism by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) highlights the need to consider all of these stakeholders very well: “Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. (…)”.

Tourism development will directly impact resident’s quality of life. A global survey on the perception of residents towards city tourism by the UNWTO and IPSOS in 2019 showed that residents think that tourism in their city has a significant or moderate impact in (1) creating overcrowding on the streets/shops/transports (46% of respondents); (2) increasing cost of housing (45% of respondents); (3) increasing cost of goods and services (45% of respondents); and (4) increasing cost of transport (36% of respondents). Happy residents will become the best ambassadors a destination could ever have, spreading positive word of mouth, providing a welcoming atmosphere for visitors (increasing visitor satisfaction) and potentially spending more time in their own destination (e.g. staycations). Involving residents and monitoring their satisfaction, therefore, becomes crucial.

Green Destinations has identified community involvement and monitoring of satisfaction as two of their 30 Core Criteria of their standard. This means that they are amongst the most important guidelines destinations should follow when developing a sustainable tourism destination.

Get the community involved in planning

Several methods exist to ensure that local communities are engaged when considering tourism development:

  • Focus groups/face to face interviews – a great way to gain an in-depth understanding of resident needs/concerns/etc. about a specific development. The key to the success of this method lies in identifying the right individuals to talk to. Acorn regularly conducts such consultations for projects. When commissioned to evaluate the feasibility of developing a visitor facility at Woodberry Wetlands (United Kingdom), Acorn organised focus groups with multiple key groups of the community to understand their aspirations and priorities for the new facility. This project resulted in the creation of a sustainable visitor site that could become a great visitor attraction and provide benefits to the local community. Find out more here.
  • Referendums - a method particularly appropriate when the destination wishes to know whether the community supports a particular development (hosting an international event, constructing new facilities, a new policy, etc.). But it does not allow you to involve residents in the development of the project nor understand why they support it or not.  In 2015, when Hamburg (Germany) found out that most of its residents (52%) were not in favour of the destination hosting the 2024 Olympic Games, the city decided to withdraw its bid. A mega sports event like the Olympic Games would have most likely significantly disrupted residents’ lives before and during the event. And the success of the event would have significantly been impacted if residents did not support and welcome it.
  • Quantitative methods of research can also be used but will generate a limited understanding of aspirations and worry. They can also lead to biased samples. These methods of research are not recommended for involving residents in planning but are an excellent tool for monitoring inhabitant satisfaction.

Monitor inhabitant satisfaction

A resident survey is the best way to monitor resident satisfaction and gather data about their concerns. Simple and more affordable to put in place than qualitative methods of research, a survey can also help reach a larger sample size.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea required some data relating to its visitor economy to inform future policy decisions. As part of this project, Acorn had measured visitor expenditure, the utilisation of accommodation, the performance of businesses, as well as conducting a resident survey. Find out more about Acorn’s approach and outcomes on this project here. The Borough needed to understand how residents were affected by visitors and different tourism activities taking place. The results showed that some residents were negatively affected by key events in the destination, such as the Notting Hill Carnival and the Chelsea Flower Show, or the presence of several important museums. The impacts included crowded streets, traffic congestion and noise. However, most residents agreed that the benefits to the local economy outweighed any disadvantages from having lots of visitors, and did not wish that there were fewer visitors to the Borough.

To be most efficient and fully comply with the Green Destinations guidelines, a resident survey should be conducted regularly. The results must be publicly reported and considered in the destination’s tourism strategy.

You can download our free resident satisfaction survey template and start creating yours today!




Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?