A New Method For Tourism Carrying Capacity Assessment

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Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VI365A new method for tourism carryingcapacity assessmentV. Castellani, S. Sala & D. PiteaUniversity of Milano Bicocca, Department of Environmental Sciences,ItalyAbstractTourism activities can generate both positive and negative effects on theconditions of the areas where visiting and fruition activities take place; everyform of human use of natural environment causes changes to the environmentconditions. Evaluation of carrying capacity of a destination has as a purpose themeasurement of the threshold over which alteration due to human activitiesbecomes unacceptable. To evaluate the consequences of tourism activitiesimpacts it is necessary to know the characteristics of the environment where theyoccur and especially its resilience, which is the measure of the disturbance thatthe natural environment can tolerate without altering its equilibrium state. Thecarrying capacity concept is linked with resilience and rises from the necessity ofmeasure which is the maximum acceptable level of impact for the environmentor for one of its components and the capability of recovery of the previouscondition. The purpose of this study is to suggest a model for assessing thephysical carrying capacity of tourism destinations, as a tool to evaluate whetherthe current situation is sustainable or not and to determine if a rise in visitornumbers could affect the quality of the environment, the resources available andthe quality of public services. For the assessment, all environmental aspects areseparately analysed and the main environmental issues related to the daily life ofresidents and to tourism activities (air quality, water quality and disposability,waste management, soil use) are considered. The methodology is based on anevaluative procedure inspired by the DPSIR model, useful for underlining whichare the drivers of impacts and which is the most relevant dataset to describecurrent and future scenarios. The innovative aspect of this study is the integrationof the physical carrying capacity assessment with the evaluation of the managingcapacity of environmental and public services, which can lead to depletion ofecosystem quality.Keywords: tourism, carrying capacity, destination management, DPSIR model.WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)doi:10.2495/ECO070341

366 Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VI1IntroductionTourism activities can generate both positive and negative effects on theconditions of the areas where visiting and fruition activities take place; everyform of human activity causes changes of environmental conditions; the purposeof the evaluation of carrying capacity of a destination is the measurement of thethreshold over which alteration due to human activities becomes unacceptablefor the resource recovery. To evaluate consequences of tourism activities impactis necessary to know the characteristics of the environment where they insist onand especially its resilience, which is the measure of the disturbance that naturalenvironment can tolerate without altering its state of equilibrium. Carryingcapacity concept is linked with resilience and rises from the necessity of measurewhich is the maximum acceptable level of impact for the environment or for oneof its components and the capability of recovery of previous condition (Holling[6]).World Tourism Organization has defined Tourism Carrying Capacity as “themaximum number of persons which could visit a location within a given period,such that local environmental, physical, economic, and socio-culturalcharacteristics are not compromised, and without reducing tourist satisfaction”(WTO, [12]). Thus, physical (or ecological), social and economic carryingcapacity can be defined as follow: Physical (or ecological) carrying capacity is the threshold limit beyondwhich natural and cultural heritage of a destination are damaged by tourism;physical carrying capacity of a destination is thence determined through theanalysis of its environmental components (for example, water resourcesquantity and availability, limits for air pollutants concentrations) andthrough the analysis of the facilities required by both tourists and residents:saturation limits for existing facilities (for example, sewage treatment plants,waste treatment plants) and limits for new facilities construction. Economic carrying capacity is the threshold limit beyond which tourismgrowth becomes economically unacceptable; this situation may rise fromtwo conditions: a) when tourism interfere with other economic activitiesobstructing their development, b) when the presence of a great number oftourists makes the destination no more comfortable and attractive and causesa contraction in tourism demand. Social carrying capacity is the threshold beyond which social aspects of thehost community are badly influenced and damage by tourism activities andlife’s quality of residents is no more granted; this situation can also lead toconflicts between tourists and resident population, generating socialtensions.In this paper a study of physical carrying capacity of a tourist destination ispresented, applied to Oltrepo Mantovano area, in northern Italy. The innovativeaspect of this study is the integration of physical carrying capacity assessmentwith the evaluation of managing capacity of environmental and public services,which could lead to depletion of ecosystems quality.WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VI367Oltrepo Mantovano is an interesting area of application because it is a newlyemerging tourism destination according to the tourism area Life Cycle Model(Agarwal [1], Butler [4], Miossec [11]) and also because protected areas ofOltrepo Mantovano have undertaken European Charter for Sustainable Tourismin Protected Areas, a process promoted by Europarc (the European Federation ofParks), with the aim of assuring environmental conservation and promotingeconomic and social development through a sustainable tourism strategy.Assessing carrying capacity in this area is thence an effort to provide a usefultool to decision makers (i.e. local administrators and park managers) that arenow planning tourism development policy for future years, trying to promotesustainable development and prevent adverse effect on the environment.2 MethodologyThe methodology is based on an evaluative procedure inspired to DPSIR model,useful to underline which are the drivers of impacts and which is the most usefuldataset to describe current and future scenarios. For carrying capacityassessment, all environmental aspects are separately took into account and mainenvironmental issues related to daily life of residents and to tourism activities(air quality, water quality and disposability, waste management, soil use) areconsidered.The methodology aims to integrate physical carrying capacity assessmentwith the evaluation of managing capacity of environmental and public services.This approach is based on the consciousness that two major types of impact canbe identified in a tourist destination: those with are associated with tourismstructures (hotels, roads and other facilities) and those resulting from the touriststhemselves (crowding of natural sites, air and water pollution) (May [9]).The analysis of tourism sector based on DPSIR model allows one to identifymain issues related to tourism activities and to address tourism carrying capacityassessment.Table 1:DriversPressuresStateImpactsResponsesDPSIR model for tourism sector.Construction and management of hospitality structures and facilities,presence of tourists, urban traffic.Emissions of air pollutants, use of groundwater resources, immissionof pollutants in stream waters, production of solid urban waste, landuse and soil erosion, energy consumption, presence of tourists inprotected areas.Concentration of pollutant in air and water, groundwater availability,quantity of solid urban waste, level of urbanization, level of crowdingin natural sites.Loss of biodiversity, disturb of wild species, adverse effects onhuman health.Promotion of sustainable tourism: reduction of water and energyconsumption, reduction of waste production and increasing ofseparated waste collection, promotion of public transports, use ofrenewable energy, promotion of ecotourism activities.WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

368 Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VIEvaluation phases, used for every issue, are:Selection of the issue and characterization of the drivers related to itSelection of drivers relevant for the issue in tourism contestIdentification of main pressuresDevelopment/application of specific indicators for identified pressuresSet up of benchmark values, minimum and maximum, and definition ofclasses for the result. Selection of benchmark values is based on:a. literatureb. limit values determined by European and Italian lawsc. benchmarking with other situations6. Collection of local data and data processing7. Evaluation of carrying capacity of the issue, based on benchmarking amongconsidered variables; for the evaluation, precautionary principle is adopted:worst case is taken into account and, if one variable is near the limit, lowcarrying capacity is attributed to the entire compartment.8. Elaboration of the results to select appropriate responses for short or longterm solution of main problems identified, which can be performed bypublic and private administrators and by tourists themselves, in a sharedresponsibility perspective. Mantovano is a plain area, with low population density and little urbancentres. Industrialization is not very high, but the presence of two electric powerplants strongly characterises the area, both from industrial and environmentalperspective. Protected areas are mainly homes near Po river with seminatives andtimbers and have high ecological value: part of the areas is classified asImportant Bird Areas (IBA) and there are also many endemic species (e.g.Lataste’s frog).Table 2 shows an example of a detailed scheme, developed for eachcompartment, applied to Oltrepo Mantovano area.The previous conceptual scheme, applied to all compartment considered,gives an overall evaluation of tourism carrying capacity in Oltrepo Mantovano.The main results are presented in table 3.4DiscussionResults of tourism carrying capacity of Oltrepo Mantovano, though notcompletely exhaustive, show that the situation is critical for some aspects,suggesting that a sustainable tourism policy for the future should take intoaccount the necessity of some actions to prevent environmental damage and ariseof problems for environmental and public services management.Issues that have a low (or very low) carrying capacity rank are groundwaterdisposability and air quality. This result is to take into serious account in view ofa tourism development because both this issues could be seriously affected by aWIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VITable 2:369Methodology for air carrying capacity assessment.DPSIR1) DRIVERSMETHODOLOGYAnalysis of datasets ofemissions sources aimed toidentify which sources /activities are most relevant inthe area object of theinvestigation.2) DRIVERS ANDVARIABLESRELEVANT FORTOURISMSECTORFrom the drivers set identifiedin step 1, selection of driverswhich are most relevant fortourism sector.3) PRESSURESSelection of main pressuresgeneratedbyidentifieddriver/s.4) INDICATORSSelectionofappropriateindicators to measure state.Indicator used by Europeanand Italian legislation toevaluate air pollution level isthenumberofdailyovercomingoflimitconcentration during a year.5) STATECLASSESOn the base of indicators andlimit identified in theprevious step, classes ofcarrying capacity are fixed.6) LOCALRESULTAnalysis of local data aboutindicators identified.LOCAL RESULTSAnalysis of data from InemarLombardy Region inventory ofemission sources: main drivers forOltrepo Mantovano are: electricpower generation (electric powerplants), non industrial combustion(heating) and urban traffic, whichcause emissions of PM10, CO2, COV,NOx, SO2 and CO.The emission source most relevant fortourism sector evaluation in OltrepoMantovano is urban traffic, becauseelectric power generation is anindustrial activity, not strictly linkedwith local consumption and heatingbecomes not relevant during hightourist seasons (spring-summer).Urban traffic generates emissions ofPM10, CO, COV and NOx.ARPA monitoring network registersperiodicallythevaluesofconcentration of PM10, CO and NO2;data of COV concentrations are notavailable.a) number of overcoming for PM10concentration in Oltrepo Mantovano;limitvalue:35daysofovercoming/year.b) number of overcoming for NO2concentration in Oltrepo Mantovano;limitvalue:35daysofovercoming/year.A limit for CO is not fixed becausethis pollutant is no longer a problemin Italy.a) nr of overcoming for PM10 10:HIGH carrying capacitynr of overcoming for PM10 35:LIMIT of carrying capacitynr of overcoming for PM10 35:LOW carrying capacitynr of overcoming for PM10 35:VERY LOW carrying capacityb) nr of overcoming for NO2 10:HIGH carrying capacitynr of overcoming for NO2 18:LIMIT of carrying capacitynr of overcoming for NO2 18: LOWcarrying capacitynr of overcoming for NO2 18:VERY LOW carrying capacitynr of overcoming for PM10: 108nr of overcoming for NO2: 1WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

370 Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VITable 2:7) CARRYINGCAPACITY8) RESPONSESContinued.Carrying capacity assessment,based on classes identifiedand data collected; carryingcapacity level of the entirecompartment is assignedaccording to precautionaryprinciple.Elaboration of the results toselect responses for mainproblems identifieda) PM10: VERY LOWb) NO2: HIGHCarrying capacity of the issue: VERYLOWPromote public transport and touristoffers for discouraging use of privatecar by tourists.raise in the number of tourists: indeed groundwater is the main source ofdrinking water in the area and moreover Oltrepo Mantovano is in the critical areaof Lombardy Region and the difficulties of using public transport to move in thearea (as the high percentage of tourists reaching the destination with private carsconfirm) may cause an additional decline of air quality situation in case ofincrease of tourists number.Besides, carrying capacity is at limit for some other important issues, bothfrom environmental and managing perspective: ecological status of streamwaters and percentage of separated waste disposal are now sufficient, but boththe natural resources and public services would be not able to manage additionalload coming from the increasing of tourism impacts.Regarding current situation, main critical aspect, not directly depending fromlocal policy management, seems to be the ratio between daily visitors andresident tourists: daily visitors, that are proved to generate more impacts on theenvironment and cause more consumption of resources rather than residenttourists (Beltrame et al [3]) are currently twice the number of resident tourists inOltrepo Mantovano.5ConclusionsThe main critical aspect associated with carrying capacity assessment of tourismdestination is the complexity of providing numeric results (Bimonte and Punzo[2]). Following Manning point of view [10], this study is an attempt to quantifycurrent state of every compartment involved in tourism management and give aquantity perspective on present and future scenarios of destination developmentconsidering environmental, social and economical indicators.The main difficulties emerging from this application of the methodology are: necessity of setting precise values that are widely recognises as thresholds ofsustainability, could be a quite controversial aspect: a good solution seemsto be the use of law limits, but these are not available for all issues: in thiscase, further investigation, also considering local contest and expertjudgement, could be required. European Charter for Sustainable Tourism inProtected Areas is a good tool for this purpose, because the process stronglyencourage the involvement of local stakeholders;WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VITable 3:Results ofassessment.OltrepoIndicatorDisposability ofgroundwaterwithdrawal /recharge(m3/g) / (m3/g)people servedby sewagedisposal(peopleserved/peopleresident) *100 ty 1 11,35 1 100%-75%75%-50%75% 1 50%potential P.E. /actual P.E. 1 1 1ecological statusof streamwatersclassificationaccording to title152/99 andsubsequentmodifications(LIM parameter)EnergeticconsumetourismState / classes Quality ofstream waterMantovanomean energeticconsume(municipalitylevel) / meanenergeticconsume(national level)(MWh/residents)daily per capitaproduction(kg/ residents *d)% of separatedwaste disposal excellent, goodsufficientsufficientbad, awful 1 1 1 1,6 1 1,8 - 2,2 Kg/res*d2,2 – 2,5 Kg/res*d 2,5 Kg/res*d 45%35-45%39,80% 35%WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)371

372 Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VITable 3:Continued.Air qualitymean numberof overcomingof lawthresholds /yearlimit value:not over 35 days ofovercoming/yearforPm10,;not over 18 days ofovertaking/year for NO2Biodiversityloss of species,disturbnumber ofvisitors/ beds / 1000residents hospitalitydensityextension ofhospitalitystructures/totalextension oftourist area touristbuildingsnon hotelstructures / totalhospitalitystructures Soil useHouses not usedby residents /total of housesexpertlocalPM10: 108NO2: 14.0005.000 13,71 0,001% 54,20% 8% Low 0-10010-300 3000%-30%30%-60% 60% 20%10%-20% 10% 20%20%-50% 50% crowding ofnatural sitesand paths(expertjudgement)lowmeanhigh dailyvisitors/touristsI 11 I 2 2I 2WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, Vol 106, 2007 WIT Presswww.witpress.com, ISSN 1743-3541 (on-line)

Ecosystems and Sustainable Development VITable 3:Use of existingstructures[overnights /(beds*365)] *100 373Continued. 20%30,7620% - 40%over 40%% of touristsreaching thearea withprivate carsMobilityNumber ofprivatecars/residentsNumber ofmunicipalitieswith a railwaystationTouristintensity inpeak month(overnights inaugust/31days) /residents 40% 70%40%-70% 70% 0-0,30,590,3-0,50,5-0,8 0,8-10,60,4-0,70-0,3 I 0,50,5 I 10,002 3,14% I 1TouristemploymentEmployed intourism sector /total employednoclasses,judgementofexpertsexpertlocal difficulty to find data for a multi-year period;difficult to obtain exhaustive results for all considered compartment.Moreover, regarding the themes considered in tourism carrying capacityassessment, most critical issues seem to be: consumption of energy, for whichthere is a lack of data in Italian statistic dataset at local level, and impacts onbiodiversity.Data of local energy consumption available in Italy refers to 1997, because itis the last year of national management of energy market: from 1998 in Italythere are various energy supplier, so the collection of data is now very difficultand a detailed national dataset on consumption is no more available.Besides, measuring impact of tourism activities on biodiversity requiresspecific study on the areas under investigation, because every situation hasspecific characteristics. The assessment of loss of biodiversity due to tourismactivities requires one to individuate a representative species for each kind ofimpact, c

The analysis of tourism sector based on DPSIR model allows one to identify main issues related to tourism activities and to address tourism carrying capacity assessment. Table 1: DPSIR model for tourism sector. Drivers Construction and management of hospitality struct

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