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Tourist arrivals - outlook from WTO model

Indicator Specificationexpired Created 12 Apr 2007 Published 08 Jun 2009 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
This content has been archived on 12 Nov 2013, reason: Content not regularly updated
Indicator codes: Outlook 043
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Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Tourism is still one of the main drivers of increased demand for transport, particularly the most environmentally damaging modes: private cars and, more critically, air transport.

Coasts, islands and mountains - and in general settings characterised by attractive natural resources - remain particularly sensitive to tourism development. Degradation, sometimes irreversible, has already occurred in some popular and mass destinations.

The problems are projected to increase as a result of greater affluence, lifestyle and demographic change, and growing incomes. Tourism at peak periods is overwhelming the carrying capacity of some destinations. Tourist behaviour remains a crucial factor for sustainability.

Recent policy developments aim to increase the sustainability of tourism but there has been little progress with implementation. In particular, no compulsory targets have been set for the tourist industry.

Formulation of effective policy measures requires reliable and harmonised statistical information.

Outlook assists decision makers to view a plausible future of the industry and to develop necessary policies and measures for more sustainable development.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The indicator of tourist arrivals provides all data refering to arrivals and not to actual number of people travelling. One person visiting the same country several times during the year is counted each time as a new arrival. Likewise, the same person visiting several countries during the same trip is counted each time as a new arrival.


The indicator unit is million arrivals.

Policy context and targets

Context description

Recent policy developments introduce and aim to increase the sustainability of tourism but no compulsory targets have been set for the tourist industry. Below some policy documents referring to sustainable tourism are outlined.

Global context:  Internationally, the role of tourism with regard to biological resources and the conservation of biodiversity has been addressed since 2004 within the Convention on Biological Diversity. This recognition, and other earlier international and UN statements  provide a well-defined strategic framework for SDT, the need for which is now widely recognised. (UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), seventh session, 1999. Decision 7/3 on tourism and sustainable development, UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, 1999, Québec Declaration on Ecotourism, 2002, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, 2002. Article 43 of the Plan of Implementation, on the promotion of sustainable tourism and necessary actions, Sustainable Tourism -- Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) Initiative, 2002, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), COP 7 Decision VII/14 on 'Biological diversity and tourism', 2004, A Task Force on Sustainable Tourism, 2006 within the framework of the Marrakech Process -- an international initiative to foster the implementation of Chapter III of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.).

Pan-European context: At the regional level, there are several initiatives to foster SDT that promote or give a priority to sustainable tourism. These include: the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (2005); the Alpine Convention and its Protocols; the Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region; the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians (2003).

EU context: A vision for European tourism was first set by the European Council in its Resolution of 21 May 2002. In November 2003, the Commission released a Communication on 'Basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism' (European Commission, 2003). More significantly and recently, in March 2006, a further Commission Communication 'A renewed EU Tourism Policy: towards a stronger partnership for European Tourism' (European Commission, 2006a) suggested a framework for the development of the sector, also specifying supporting actions to promote its sustainability. Within this communication, tourism is considered as an important sector for tackling both growth and employment, the two main priorities set by the renewed Lisbon Strategy. A further key step in the process for promoting sustainable tourism will be the preparation of an Agenda 21 for European Tourism, to be finalised by 2007, broadly based on the reporting activity of the Tourism Sustainability Group launched in 2004.

EECCA and SEE context: While the absence of a tourism strategy at the regional level in EECCA (3) and SEE is evident, there are indications that tourism development is actually guided in these regions, as in several other European countries, through national policies and strategies, targeting either the whole industry or some of its segments.


There are no pan-european,EU or Member State, and EECCA objectives or targets relating to international tourist arrivals.

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

What are trends in tourism sector in the pan-European region?


Methodology for indicator calculation

A sophisticated forecasting models were not used due to certain characteristics of the WTO's data base (see uncertainties of the methodology) instead a pragmatic approach involving the adjustment of historical time series (where these are considered reliable) was used. The use of tourism arrivals as the parameter WTO's forecasts is necessitated by the fact that this is the category of data most widely reported by countries using the most standardised definitions. However, it is far from ideal, taking no account of length of stay or expenditure, but other data series are not sufficiently complete for these to be utilized for the detail of this forecast.

For the Tourism 2020 Vision study, the goal was to prepare forecasts for each of WTO's subregional pairs (i.e. 44 in total). A survey was conducted in late 1996/early 1997 with WTO's NTA membership - 85 usable responses were received. A follow-up survey was undertaken in January 1998 with a dozen Asian NTAs to revise forecasts in the light of the Asian financial crisis. A second follow-up survey of 15 Asian NTAs was conducted in September 1998 in response to the deeping and spreading of the economic turmoil.

A survey was undertaken among travel industry leaders - tourism's 50 'visionaries' - about developments that directly (or indirectly) affect tourism. Extensive study was made of publications and other research conducted on economic, social and industry trends (including travel forecasts of aircraft manufacturers); and consideration was also given to the wide range of individuals and organisations who present views of the future from one perspective or another.

This programme of research has given the WTO team the informed knowledge to adjust the historical growth rates for the 44 subregional pairs up (or down) over the period to 2020. Validation research was conducted at regional seminars, where the key findings and conclusions which emerged were 'tested' through presentations and round-table debates in order to reach a consensus. The WTO's forecasts can be seen, therefore, to be both realistic and practical, and constitute a sound working basis on which strategies and plans can be developed and implemented.

Methodology for gap filling


Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

WTO collects data from 211 countries and territories: not all of the data are complete; many destinations fail to submit their statistics in a timely fashion; revisions are common place; statistical procedures vary between countries - so it is not always compared like with like; countries change their data series making any long term series difficult, e.g. Spain in 1996.

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty

Tourist behaviour remains a crucial factor for sustainability.The use of international tourist arrivals as the parameter for measuring environmental impact of the tourism industry is therefore relative. The impact of tourism is projected to increase as a result of greater affluence, lifestyle and demographic change, and growing incomes. Tourism at peak periods overwhelms the carrying capacity of some destinations.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Anita Pirc Velkavrh


No owners.


Indicator code
Outlook 043
Version id: 1


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DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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