Example of an existing early warning system and its benefits to the society

By Abhinash on December 22, 2011

A survey of practitioners in tourist destinations gives some indications about variables recognized by local managers as decline indicators. These decline signals can be summarized and interpreted as follows:

  • Most destination managers are aware of the risk of decline: they perceive the threat but they have difficulties in effectively measuring it;
  • They base their analysis mainly on visitor flow trends Category A, i.e. the most direct decline indicators;
  • They also stress primarily the strategic role of endogenous factors (categories B plus C), but they fail to achieve a truly integrated use of the indicators;
  • Exogenous factors are viewed as less of a direct risk indicator since they are beyond of the control of the managers and are sometimes unpredictable (MFD, terrorism); however, market analysis of competitors (which means destination positioning and market policies) is considered important[1].

The macro categories within which the main strategic options implemented by most destinations have been summarized:

  • Regular survey on tourism: Surveys are carried out in most destinations, either on a regular basis or occasionally. As for the other destinations, data are often available on a broader geographical basis (regional or provincial).The surveys are mostly focused on the collection of information on tourists’ characteristics and in some cases about tourists’ expenditure, while excursionists are often neglected.
  • Investments in public transport: Accessibility and mobility are crucial for a tourist destination. Nevertheless, only a minority of destinations have indicated that they have taken actions on this note.
  • Innovation and organisation (Human resources training): The human resources training is essential to the improvement of services addressed to tourists. It is mentioned by a minority of destinations, especially the ones which are implementing tourist plans (in which human resources training plays a crucial role).
  • Partnerships with other destinations: Some destinations mention the possibility to create synergies with other destinations by the creation of special itineraries and packages and/or joint promotional actions.
  • Co-operation between different actors (public/private, private/public): The creation of partnerships between different categories of actors is very important for the success of a destination. All the destinations under investigation state that a certain degree of co-operation exists among shareholders.
  • Destination promotion (information campaigns, communication policies etc.): This kind of strategy is probably the most obvious in order to face potential or actual decline, therefor it is very common also among the destinations. Basically, all of them carry out promoting actions to current targets or potential ones.
  • Clustering of functions: This strategy, especially mentioned by Scheveneningen, translates into a spatial clustering to achieve agglomeration effects.
  • Investment in new technologies: Most destinations have introduced new technologies for the management of services addressed to visitors. This is a necessary measure for the modernization of the tourist supply and the improvement in service delivery[1].

A first warning system prototype is proposed by means of an Interactive Destination Evaluation System (IDES), a holistic diagnostic system which can also be used to simulate different scenarios[1].

IDES: It is a Virtual Warning Machine which, once strategic variables have been selected(in this example, a seven-variable model is proposed) and appropriate decline thresholds have been adopted, helps  to anticipate decline and gives an input for the implementation of partial measures to face it.

A threshold value, in fact, is a theoretical maximum value that must not be exceeded. The identification of a threshold is necessary in order to provide a benchmark against which the overall trend for a given variable can be assessed. IDES is an internal and external benchmarking tool as it allows monitoring specific destinations dynamics over time as well as a horizontal comparison between different destinations[2].

Application of the IDES Warning System to a hypothetical tourist destination (Utopia) monitored in the last periods of its life cycle: maturity, decline, and rejuvenation.


  • This extract is taken from article has been prepared in the framework of a study contract by: TNO Inro – Department of Spatial Development and in co-operation with CISET Venezia, Italy, and the University of Innsbruck, Austria: European Communities, 2002; http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/services/tourism/index_en.htm
  • The Tourism Area Life Cycle: Conceptual and theoretical Issues by Richard Butler.
  • This is an extract from a publication in the framework of a study contract by TNO Inro – Department of Spatial Development, The Netherlands in co-operation with CISET Venezia, Italy, and the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
  • TNO-CISET(2001), DETOUR: An Early Warning System Identifying Declining Tourist Destination, Final Report.