The impact of the pandemic on sustainability in tourism

Third Annual Progress Report on sustainable tourism in South Tyrol – International Mountain Day 2021 puts sustainable mountain tourism in the limelight

What lessons can the Corona pandemic teach us to make tourism better, more resilient and climate-friendly? The Observatory for Sustainable Tourism in South Tyrol STOST monitors, assesses and communicates developments regarding tourism in South Tyrol (Italy). In its Third Annual Progress Report it tries to answer this central question. On the occasion of the International Mountain Day, which is celebrated on 11 December and this year focuses on sustainable tourism in mountain areas, the Observatory, in cooperation with GLOMOS (Global Mountain Safeguard Research), has also published a short video with the most important findings of the past year.

Tourism in South Tyrol, as everywhere around the globe, has suffered a severe setback in 2020. After more than 50 years of growth, arrival rates dropped by 40 percent and overnight stays by 35 percent. This translates into 4.6 million arrivals and 21.7 million recorded overnight stays. The drop further extends to the number of employees in the industry, which decreased by 22.3 percent. However, the research team concluded that from an environmental perspective, the impact of tourism was also reduced. Lodging establishments cut their electricity consumption and waste production by an estimated 43 and 42 percent. At the same time, the number of sustainability certifications increased and more regional and organic products were used. “As difficult as they are, the pandemic years represent a vacuum in which destinations have been able to rethink their development, without having to deal with their daily businesses”, stresses Harald Pechlaner, Head of the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research.

Long-term monitoring

The Observatory, which is based at the Center for Advanced Studies of Eurac Research, has supported this process of repositioning in its third year of operation by introducing several monitoring tools. In order to measure how sustainable tourism in South Tyrol is and to make changes visible, a series of indicators were defined with the aim of monitoring them in the long term. Those indicators include the number of visitors, the distribution of tourists over the year, as well as energy consumption, waste generation, employment figures, and guest satisfaction. The analysis also considered how tourism impacts the society, environment, economy, health, and local culture. Secondary data for the analysis was provided by the Regional Institute for Statistics ASTAT and the Office for Regional Planning and Cartography, among others.

New issue area and surveys on Covid-19, culture and nature conservation

The research further aims at quickly evaluating the recovery phase in tourism and assessing the impact of Covid-19 in economic terms, but also in terms of product and process innovation in accommodation facilities. Besides the monitoring of thirteen issue areas, which since 2021 also include culture, five surveys were conducted. Three of them focus on the impact of Covid-19 on tourism. One survey was directed at village chroniclers, assessing the dynamics between local culture and tourism in South Tyrolean communities. Another survey focused on the consideration of nature conservation in South Tyrolean tourism organizations. As Anna Scuttari and Felix Windegger, Project Managers of the Observatory emphasize: “Tourism is changing and the main goal of STOST is to understand its new shape and to support smart policy decisions.” The involvement of all stakeholders, especially the local population, is crucial.

Annual Progress Report 2021

International Mountain Day 2021

On December 11, people around the world are celebrating International Mountain Day (IMD). This day draws attention to the special importance of mountain areas for life on earth. This year, the United Nations have chosen to place a particular emphasis on sustainability in mountain tourism. The Observatory for Sustainable Tourism in South Tyrol has teamed up with GLOMOS (Global Mountain Safeguard Research) to create a short video for this special occasion, which showcases the most important findings of the Observatory’s Third Annual Progress Report in a nutshell.