3.12 Leveraging Data & Measuring Impact: The International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO)

Through this case study, you'll be able to understand how, by becoming a member of the INSTO network, destinations commit to continuous measurement efforts at the destination level, embracing the context-sensitive and dynamic nature of the concept of "sustainability" itself.

Destination Networks in Monitoring Sustainable Tourism Development

The case study will introduce you to what the INSTO is, the objectives of this network of destinations, and the framework that the INSTO has built in order to aid the achievement of sustainability in destinations across the world.

Destination Networks in Monitoring Sustainable Tourism Development

The case study will introduce you to what the INSTO is, the objectives of this network of destinations, and the framework that the INSTO has built in order to aid the achievement of sustainability in destinations across the world.

Main Takeaways:

  • Establishing issue areas that require attention and allowing stakeholders to develop the indicators that they can best establish to monitor their impact will allow for more impactful results.
  • Monitoring can empower stakeholders to effectively prioritise efforts and allocate resources.
  • Reporting can help us share learnings amongst the different stakeholders in the destination.

The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) is a network of 31 tourism observatories monitoring the economic, environmental and social impact of tourism at the destination level. The observatories are located across China, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Croatia, United States, Italy, Panama, Guatemala, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Portugal and Spain. The initiative is based on UNWTO’s long-standing commitment to the sustainable and resilient growth of the sector through measurement and monitoring, supporting the evidence-based management of tourism.

INSTO's mission is to support and connect destinations that are committed to regular monitoring of economic, environmental and social impacts of tourism, to unlock the power of evidence-based decision making at the destination level, fostering sustainable tourism practices locally and globally. At the same time, its vision is to foster a dynamic network of partners that strives towards creating healthy places for both visitors and the host communities while leaving resilient destinations to future generations.

While traditional data sources play a crucial role in the measurement activities, partners in the network are increasingly applying, and are encouraged to use, new and innovative data sources that allow for stronger evidence helping to create more resilient destinations.

Objectives

The INSTO has established six objectives:

  1. Integrated approach. To provide a framework for the systematic, timely and regular monitoring of resource use and a better understanding of the impact of tourism
  2. Evidence. To establish a strong foundation of tangible and structured data for well-informed decision making.
  3. Stakeholder empowerment. To actively engage local stakeholders in the measurement of risks, costs, impacts, limits and opportunities through an inclusive and participatory approach.
  4. Network and Learn. To exchange information for improved knowledge, collaboration, communication and greater public accountability.
  5. Performance Measurement. To monitor and advise on the implementation of sustainable development plans, policies and management actions.
  6. Continuity. To foster long-term commitment for regular monitoring.

The Framework

Participatory Approaches

INSTO recognises the importance of building participatory approaches, as they understand these to be fundamental for successful sustainability initiatives which are continuously strengthened during all phases of development. When establishing an observatory, destinations are asked to put special emphasis on 3 key elements:

  • Building awareness among local stakeholders. This will help build and strengthen common values and understanding, as well as ensure inclusiveness and transparency.
  • Establishing and fostering a strong support system of facilitators. This will help build an efficient backup system of relevant stakeholders and allow for an extended promotion of the initiative, resource mobilisation, etc.
  • Forming and engagement of a local working group. This will allow ensuring continuous commitment to regular monitoring, as well as help to establish continuous exchange and a leading body for reviews, discussions and decisions.

Annual Workshop

Another vital element for INSTO observatories is the regular stakeholders’ workshops that strengthen the participatory approach even further. These workshops are important because members:

  • Discuss and make a roadmap for creating and agreeing on specific indicators.
  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and the frequency of stakeholder meetings.
  • Agree on the implementation plan for the observatory.
  • Reflect and agree on the mandatory and optional issue areas.
  • Discuss the findings of the preliminary study/report.
  • Identify the most important data needs, gaps and resources.

Issue Areas and Indicators

Destinations are required to monitor at least to some extent the eleven mandatory issue areas and are encouraged to go even beyond. For these common issue areas, respective indicators can then be specified according to the local needs. Therefore, as long as they are linked to these issue areas, indicators can be developed by each destination individually. Through the regular exchange of knowledge and experience with other destinations, they can be defined, adapted and compared as needed.

Over the past decade, many indicator systems have been developed in and outside of the tourism sector in an attempt to support destinations in measuring and managing their tourism development. While the ability to benchmark performances with other destinations is often a driving factor behind these initiatives, each destination is a complex eco-system with its own individual characteristics. With this in mind and knowing that sustainability is a continuous journey, INSTO was established, focusing particularly on the underlying processes and structures in order to ensure long-term viability and holistic, destination-specific approaches that are based on participatory processes.

Monitoring

INSTO members are committed to:

  • Measuring in a regular and timely manner.
  • Supporting sustainable tourism development and beyond.
  • Contributing to official INSTO events by sharing experiences, methodologies, new trends.
  • Better understanding the links of tourism with other sectors and the impacts on sustainable development.
  • Establishing measurement efforts in all eleven issue areas within the first three years (at least to some extent).
  • Empowering stakeholders to effectively prioritise efforts and allocate resources.

Reporting

When it comes to reporting, INSTO destinations have to commit to three types of reporting:

  • Regional Coordinator (RC). In case there are more than 5 observatories in one region, the Regional Coordinator serves as coordinator and direct contact between UNWTO and the observatories.
  • Annual Stakeholders' Workshop. During the annual stakeholders’ workshop, participants discuss all relevant aspects related to the advances in measurement, organizational and structural aspects amongst other things.
  • Annual Progress Report. All INSTO Observatories generate and share with UNWTO an annual report, highlighting their monitoring activities, results and lessons learned.

Communication

INSTO members also commit to actively sharing information about their efforts in a transparent manner to support the scalability of effective measures and processes at all levels and to therefore accelerate sustainable production patterns.

This is aimed to be achieved through a publicly accessible and up-to-date website, through the collection of success stories, and through actively sharing the lessons learned.

Destination Networks in Monitoring Sustainable Tourism Development

The case study will introduce you to what the INSTO is, the objectives of this network of destinations, and the framework that the INSTO has built in order to aid the achievement of sustainability in destinations across the world.

Destination Networks in Monitoring Sustainable Tourism Development

The case study will introduce you to what the INSTO is, the objectives of this network of destinations, and the framework that the INSTO has built in order to aid the achievement of sustainability in destinations across the world.

Main Takeaways:

  • Establishing issue areas that require attention and allowing stakeholders to develop the indicators that they can best establish to monitor their impact will allow for more impactful results.
  • Monitoring can empower stakeholders to effectively prioritise efforts and allocate resources.
  • Reporting can help us share learnings amongst the different stakeholders in the destination.

The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) is a network of 31 tourism observatories monitoring the economic, environmental and social impact of tourism at the destination level. The observatories are located across China, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, Croatia, United States, Italy, Panama, Guatemala, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Portugal and Spain. The initiative is based on UNWTO’s long-standing commitment to the sustainable and resilient growth of the sector through measurement and monitoring, supporting the evidence-based management of tourism.

INSTO's mission is to support and connect destinations that are committed to regular monitoring of economic, environmental and social impacts of tourism, to unlock the power of evidence-based decision making at the destination level, fostering sustainable tourism practices locally and globally. At the same time, its vision is to foster a dynamic network of partners that strives towards creating healthy places for both visitors and the host communities while leaving resilient destinations to future generations.

While traditional data sources play a crucial role in the measurement activities, partners in the network are increasingly applying, and are encouraged to use, new and innovative data sources that allow for stronger evidence helping to create more resilient destinations.

Objectives

The INSTO has established six objectives:

  1. Integrated approach. To provide a framework for the systematic, timely and regular monitoring of resource use and a better understanding of the impact of tourism
  2. Evidence. To establish a strong foundation of tangible and structured data for well-informed decision making.
  3. Stakeholder empowerment. To actively engage local stakeholders in the measurement of risks, costs, impacts, limits and opportunities through an inclusive and participatory approach.
  4. Network and Learn. To exchange information for improved knowledge, collaboration, communication and greater public accountability.
  5. Performance Measurement. To monitor and advise on the implementation of sustainable development plans, policies and management actions.
  6. Continuity. To foster long-term commitment for regular monitoring.

The Framework

Participatory Approaches

INSTO recognises the importance of building participatory approaches, as they understand these to be fundamental for successful sustainability initiatives which are continuously strengthened during all phases of development. When establishing an observatory, destinations are asked to put special emphasis on 3 key elements:

  • Building awareness among local stakeholders. This will help build and strengthen common values and understanding, as well as ensure inclusiveness and transparency.
  • Establishing and fostering a strong support system of facilitators. This will help build an efficient backup system of relevant stakeholders and allow for an extended promotion of the initiative, resource mobilisation, etc.
  • Forming and engagement of a local working group. This will allow ensuring continuous commitment to regular monitoring, as well as help to establish continuous exchange and a leading body for reviews, discussions and decisions.

Annual Workshop

Another vital element for INSTO observatories is the regular stakeholders’ workshops that strengthen the participatory approach even further. These workshops are important because members:

  • Discuss and make a roadmap for creating and agreeing on specific indicators.
  • Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and the frequency of stakeholder meetings.
  • Agree on the implementation plan for the observatory.
  • Reflect and agree on the mandatory and optional issue areas.
  • Discuss the findings of the preliminary study/report.
  • Identify the most important data needs, gaps and resources.

Issue Areas and Indicators

Destinations are required to monitor at least to some extent the eleven mandatory issue areas and are encouraged to go even beyond. For these common issue areas, respective indicators can then be specified according to the local needs. Therefore, as long as they are linked to these issue areas, indicators can be developed by each destination individually. Through the regular exchange of knowledge and experience with other destinations, they can be defined, adapted and compared as needed.

Over the past decade, many indicator systems have been developed in and outside of the tourism sector in an attempt to support destinations in measuring and managing their tourism development. While the ability to benchmark performances with other destinations is often a driving factor behind these initiatives, each destination is a complex eco-system with its own individual characteristics. With this in mind and knowing that sustainability is a continuous journey, INSTO was established, focusing particularly on the underlying processes and structures in order to ensure long-term viability and holistic, destination-specific approaches that are based on participatory processes.

Monitoring

INSTO members are committed to:

  • Measuring in a regular and timely manner.
  • Supporting sustainable tourism development and beyond.
  • Contributing to official INSTO events by sharing experiences, methodologies, new trends.
  • Better understanding the links of tourism with other sectors and the impacts on sustainable development.
  • Establishing measurement efforts in all eleven issue areas within the first three years (at least to some extent).
  • Empowering stakeholders to effectively prioritise efforts and allocate resources.

Reporting

When it comes to reporting, INSTO destinations have to commit to three types of reporting:

  • Regional Coordinator (RC). In case there are more than 5 observatories in one region, the Regional Coordinator serves as coordinator and direct contact between UNWTO and the observatories.
  • Annual Stakeholders' Workshop. During the annual stakeholders’ workshop, participants discuss all relevant aspects related to the advances in measurement, organizational and structural aspects amongst other things.
  • Annual Progress Report. All INSTO Observatories generate and share with UNWTO an annual report, highlighting their monitoring activities, results and lessons learned.

Communication

INSTO members also commit to actively sharing information about their efforts in a transparent manner to support the scalability of effective measures and processes at all levels and to therefore accelerate sustainable production patterns.

This is aimed to be achieved through a publicly accessible and up-to-date website, through the collection of success stories, and through actively sharing the lessons learned.