Tourism & Recreation Status

Calculation of Status for the Tourism & Recreation goal includes the product of the total number of international arrivals for leisure and recreation to a country and the average length of stay per tourist.

Which Goals Does This Affect?

International Arrivals

‘International arrivals’ refers to the number of people from foreign nations who visit a country for leisure, business, or other purposes.

The Ocean Health Index focused on the number of international arrivals who visit specifically for leisure and recreation (e.g. 51% of the 900+ million, or 446 million arrivals in 2009).

Over the past 60 years, international tourism has increased significantly from 25 million travelers in 1950 to 935 million in 2010. Travel destinations have also shifted over time, moving from traditional locales such as Western Europe and North America to emerging economies, including China and Turkey.

Although the global financial crisis diminished tourism revenue and activity – international arrivals suffered a loss of 4.2% in 2009 – the industry rebounded with a 6.7% increase in international arrivals in 2010, and an additional 4.4% rate of growth in 2011.

How Was It Measured?

The number of tourists per year for each country was estimated using data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) from 2005-2009 for tourism and leisure-specific international arrivals. For some countries these data were either unavailable or incomplete, so the ratio of tourism and leisure-specific international arrivals was estimated in two different ways (using total international arrivals data from the UNWTO). 

Where data on these sectors were unavailable for a country, it was estimated by multiplying the total international arrivals for each country by the global average ratio of tourism-specific international arrivals to total international arrivals. Where tourism-specific data were incomplete for a country, but at least one such year was available, the country’s own average ratio of tourism-specific international arrivals to total international arrivals was estimated for each year that these data were unavailable. Years when a country lacked data on total and tourism-specific international arrivals were not evaluated. Countries known to not allow tourism (e.g. North Korea) were given a value of zero.

The Ocean Health Index does not include domestic travel even though it is a major component of tourism and recreation within most countries. It was not possible to estimate domestic travel for leisure purposes given existing data. Domestic tourism could be included in future estimations if data become available.

Tourist Days per Stay (i.e. average length of stay per tourist)

Tourist days per stay, or average length of stay, is an indicator used to help determine the economic impact of the tourist trade in a country or regional destination.

Length of stay varies from country to country and can be influenced by several factors, including socio-economic conditions, distance traveled, and purpose of visit, although there has been a developing trend for people to make multiple, shorter length trips rather than the more traditional long holiday.

Tourists who stay for longer periods of time tend to visit more local and peripheral attractions and can have a greater impact upon the region, both economically and ecologically.

How Was It Measured?

Data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) were used to determine the average length of stay for tourism per country. Data from 2005-2009 were used whenever available.  When data were not available for a given year, the average values from previous years were used.  When no data for 2005-2009 were available, the most recent complete data set (from 1995) was used to provide interim data.

Tourist-days per stay were used as the measure for this goal due to the fact that certain locations, particularly remote ones, may have fewer tourists but they may stay for longer periods of time. The number of arrivals was multiplied by the average length of stay in order to incorporate this information.

Why Are These Factors Important?

International Tourism Arrivals
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In addition to any local impacts from tourism-related development or pollution,   
5.4% of global CO2 emissions can be attributed to the tourism industry; transport makes up the majority of these emissions.

•      53% of international arrivals travel by

•      Transport contributes up to 82-90% of
        CO2 emissions; Air travel makes up
        54-75% of the total transport

•      Only 2.2% of all trips are ‘long haul’
        (i.e. traveling outside a local
        geographic region); 16% of CO2
        emissions from the tourist industry can
        be attributed to long haul trips. 

No direct impacts known.
International travel can benefit economies through revenue and job production.

The U.S. Travel Association notes that the U.S. received 59.7 million international arrivals in 2010, supporting nearly one million jobs with wages totaling US $24.7 billion (numbers exclude domestic travel benefits) (U.S. Travel Association 2011).

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that export income generated by inbound tourism was greater than US $1 trillion in 2009.

Length of stay is an important measure for sustainable tourism as it can help predict stress on the local environment and resources caused by tourists, and can be used to help determine the consumption and expenditure of resources. 


PHOTO(S): © Keith A. Ellenbogen
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