Tourism is recognized as one of the most important commercial activities today. In 2019 it generated 10% of the total employment and represented a share of 10.4% of global GDP. Following the lead of cities, a growing number of towns and villages in rural areas are seeking to benefit from tourism, based on their local cultural and natural assets. This trend can be observed in the transboundary Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve of Romania and Ukraine where many formerly remote settlements have started to host increasing numbers of visitors. However, tourism can also impose a number of negative economic, social and environmental impacts on the destination and its region that could undermine the very attractiveness of the destinations concerned.
A particular problem for authorities charged with developing regional rural tourism strategies and regulations is to have a standard method for assessing and comparing the visitor capacity and sustainability of different destinations. Emerging Tourism 4.0 technologies such as High-Performance Data Analytics (HPDA) can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of strategic planning and environmental sustainability. The general objective of the research reported here was to compare the current situation of two similar settlements in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve: Vylkove in Ukraine and Sfântu Gheorghe in Romania. In collaboration with the municipal councils, local businesses and civic organisations, we applied the Tourism Impact Model (TIM) developed by the Slovene company Arctur to data collected using the same methodology between August 2020 and May 2021. Overall, 295 questions were addressed. The data could be quantitative (amount of electricity or water used per day), or more subjective expert opinion (whether and when the settlement suffered from traffic congestion or satisfaction of residents with levels of incoming tourists). The data were also quality controlled and labelled according to their accuracy, type (digital or analogue) and frequency of collection.
With respect to Vylkove and Sfântu Gheorghe, in both cases the tourism data collected were not sufficient to produce a full analysis for an overall DCC assessment. However, it was possible to examine the data for each of the main TIM pillars individually (Environment, Economy, Social / Cultural and Collaboration) and make a comparison between the destinations. From these data, it is clear that while both destinations are generally managing tourism poorly (as Sleepers), Sfântu Gheorghe has a better overall condition than Vylkove across the four pillars since it scores higher in the Champion character. Vylkove suffers from having a large amount of missing data, probably because the town council derives little direct benefit from tourism (it is a receiver of impacts but most of the revenue goes to external parties) so it does not collect information. On the other hand, compared with Sfântu Gheorghe, it does not misuse or exploit its environment. Both destinations have a good level of collaboration between the tourism sector and the local community.
The results from the first application of the Tourism Impact Model in Vylkove and Sfântu Gheorghe show that both destinations have considerable potential for improving their performance and the sustainability of their tourism offers. At present, the lead is mostly taken by private initiative and investment, with little involvement of the local authorities. In particular, environmental, social and economic data are largely unavailable for planning sustainable tourism development, gaining benefits or mitigating impacts. These aspects merit further action and research as a matter of urgency.
Authors: P.D. GORIUP, A. SCHVAB, H. RATKAJEC, U. STARC-PECENY, T. ILIJAŠ
Take a look: Economic innovations, Vol 24 No 1(82) (2022)