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Supporting tourism development

Supporting tourism development

Sport tourism, slow tourism, itinerant tourism and heritage tourism are all new forms of tourism that are on the rise.

To make the right decisions in support of these new trends, it is essential to understand them.

This article shows the importance of managing peak visitor numbers, adapting resources, calculating economic spin-offs and justifying investments in the tourism sector, with a range of tools and methods for doing so.

New and growing tourism practices

Sports tourism

Whether it’s for sports fans who travel to cheer on their favorite team, spectators at major competitions, or those who like to play sports on vacation, sports tourism is gaining in popularity, whether it involves water activities (sailing, surfing, diving), mountain hiking, mountain biking, skiing, kayaking and so on.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UN Tourism), “Sports tourism is a fundamental axis, generating around 10% of the world’s expenditure on tourism. Sports tourism can promote social, economic and environmental action, it accelerates development and can leave a long-lasting positive legacy.”

Discover our latest blog article on the subject: “Urban & sports tourism: what can the Olympic Games bring to Paris?

Slow tourism & itinerant tourism

Two other fast-growing practices: slow tourism and itinerant tourism. These two forms of tourism focus on experience and discovery rather than traditional tourist destinations.

Slow tourism encourages travelers to take their time and immerse themselves in the local culture. The aim is to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

Itinerant tourism, on the other hand, refers to a type of travel that involves constantly moving from one place to another, often on foot or by bicycle. This form of tourism allows travelers to discover new places and experience new things at their own pace.

This notion of itinerant tourism is gaining ground, with 10% of French people indicating that they would like to try this type of vacation, whether on foot, by bike or on horseback in a study made by “Union Sport & Cycle”. The Union also notes that this practice is a “growth driver for tourism in France”.


Heritage tourism

Another strong and growing tourism practice, heritage tourism involves visits to historical, cultural or artistic sites. It has three main aims:

  • Preserving and promoting heritage, which involves conservation and awareness-raising.
  • To play a social and educational role, enabling visitors to connect with history and culture.
  • Act as an economic lever for territories, generating employment and economic spin-offs through tourist spending (accommodation, catering, activities, etc.).



Better understanding tourism practices: tools and methods

In order to better understand tourists and visitors, and depending on the constraints posed by each type of tourism, different tools and methods are applicable:

  • Manual counts
  • Field surveys or interviews
  • Visitor data from automatic pedestrian, bicycle or multi-user counters
  • Analysis of floating data (GPS tracks, mobile telephony, etc.)

Of course, each data source has its own advantages and disadvantages. Among the challenges: measuring and making decisions based on reliable trends, and correctly integrating different uses (hikers, mountain bikers, kayakers, etc.).

We have been convinced of this ever since Eco-Counter began tracking visitor numbers for local authorities over 20 years ago: real, quantitative field data is the key to any extrapolation or calibration of qualitative data.

Here, for example, is a graph showing weekly visitor numbers on a cycle-touring route, demonstrating the high degree of variability in visitor numbers over the year (seasonal effect, weather effect, etc.). It shows how difficult it is to predict, on the basis of one-off manual counts, what the actual ridership will be over the year.


In this context, only a permanent automatic count will provide a long-term view, and a reliable basis for decision-making.

But raw data isn’t everything! Based on our experience, we have developed a software-based data analysis platform that integrates business expertise to analyze tourist traffic data simply and easily.

Découvrir Eco-Visio ses tableaux de bord, ses analyses. L'analyse de données simple.


Manage tourist flows, communicate data, justify investments

Managing tourist peaks

Data can be used to manage peaks in tourist numbers, a topical issue that is all the more important now that the post-sanitary crisis context has led to increased tourist pressure on natural areas and historic sites.

To meet this challenge, it’s vital to obtain accurate, reliable and highly responsive data.

Find out, for example, how measuring tourist numbers around volcanic tourism in Iceland enables the right decisions to be taken to manage peak visitor numbers.

Eruption (picture credits: Ferðamálastofa – UST)

Adapting resources and justifying investments

Another topic surrounding the use of data for tourism management concerns the adaptation of resources. For the Association Internationale des Forêts Méditerranéennes (AIFM), in charge of managing the emblematic Côte Bleue in France, data have helped to objectify visitor numbers, and may have surprised most stakeholders. As Alain Chaudron, vice-president of the IAMF, points out, “no one expected a figure of 500,000 visits per year! Even if we’re a long way from the 3 million visitors to the Calanques, it’s double what was generally estimated“.

For the Châteaux d’Alsace in France, day-to-day visitor numbers are used to guide maintenance and organize the layout of the various châteaux: signage, furniture and amenities, choice of events, opening hours, on-site presence, maintenance tasks, etc.

As Guillaume Maciel, “Châteaux” project manager for ADT, points out:

“Having figures is essential, it’s strategic, for developing a project, because figures are a powerful argument for justifying investments linked to the enhancement of our heritage”.


Calculating economic benefits

Visitor numbers are also a prerequisite for calculating economic benefits.

The EVA-Velo method, designed by Vélo & Territoires, is now the benchmark in this field for cycle tourism. It is based on four complementary tools: automatic counts, manual counts, short interviews and in-depth surveys.

Here’s a schematic representation of the method (credit: Vélo & Territoires)


Among the routes analyzed that have reliable economic impact figures, a study carried out in 2018 for the Brittany Region estimated the economic impact of cycle tourism at €46.4M in direct benefits. To find out more, read the article on preparing for a tourist season and calculating economic benefits.


Want to find out more about the economic impact of visitor data?


Targeted, effective communication campaigns

Last but not least: data can be used to understand usage and create targeted, effective communication campaigns.

For example, by cross-referencing several data sources, including count data, the Metropole du Grand Lyon has been able to gain a better understanding of the visitors who use its sensitive natural areas.

The Metropole’s understanding of visitor profiles has enabled it to reduce and readapt its signage, reducing the number of information panels, but including more regularly updated information, in line with the information highlighting frequent visits by visitors (1.4 visits per week on average).

When analyzing visitor numbers, the natural area managers also noted an under-representation of young people and families among trail visitors. A specific project in the form of a treasure hunt (“La Vallée des 7 pierres sacrées” (Valley of the 7 sacred stones) on the “sentier des galets voyageurs” (travelling pebbles trail)) was developed to introduce the trails to a population that was previously far removed from them. In the form of kits to be purchased from tourist offices and other sales outlets in the area concerned, families can now discover the trails in a fun way.


Notable examples of communication campaigns using data include the famous “demarketing” campaign for Marseille’s Calanques, or the one on the dangers of Mont Blanc for mountaineers attempting the ascent via the so-called “Goûter” route.

Would you like to understand how data can help you address your tourism challenges?



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