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Tourism Carrying Capacity

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What does "tourism carrying capacity" mean?


It is not the calculation of the capacity of a closed space nor the calculation of the weight that a structure supports


It is a management tool that, through an alert system, provides a diagnosis on those issues that can be improved so as not to saturate your destination or tourism resource

Can you further explain?

A tourism destination has different entry and exit points. Residents and visitors move from one point to another with freedom of movement and different variables must be studied to act and enhance the destination, to manage it with the aim of being sustainable and inclusive.

A tourism resource may or may not have defined entry points and even so friction or saturation points are generated. Different variables must be studied to act and enhance the resource, to manage it with the aim of being sustainable and inclusive.


Do you want to know how a carrying capacity diagnosis helps you out?

Knowing your current situation, knowing what is going well and what requires attention at your destination.
Receiving recommendations on what are the priorities, where to start and how.
Meeting several of the requirements you need to obtain sustainability certifications.
Laying the foundations of a tourism observatory of your destination and with sustainability as an across topic.
Facilitating the communication of the results in an attractive way to residents, the media and the sector.

Did you know that...?

Did you know that to obtain Biosphere certification as a sustainable tourism destination you must have a diagnosis of carrying capacity?

Did you know...

...that to obtain Biosphere certification as a sustainable tourism destination you must have a diagnosis of carrying capacity?


These are some of the tourism destinations for which we have carried out carrying capacity diagnoses

Antigua Guatemala guatemala

Jericó Colombia jerico

Basque Country euskadi

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Urdaibai urdaibai

Sitges, Catalonia sitges-1

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is a gem, a place highly desired by tourists. This has consequences, mostly if the management is not adequate. The challenge was: Gentrification, loss of identity.

The results were:

Diagnosis of sustainable tourism development, showing strengths, challenges and opportunities on which to act

Measurement of tourism carrying capacity that identified a series of priority alerts on which to act

Proposal of strategies to reduce the pressure and negative impacts of "mass tourism" in the department as a whole

Design of tourist itineraries that encourage decongesting certain points of the department and activate less visited ones with high potential, in line with the diagnosis and the carrying capacity

Identification of new tourism products that contribute to more sustainable development.


Jericó, Colombia

Jaricó, thanks to the importance of Mother Laura, receives relevant flows of excursionists, partly of tourists, in specific periods but these leave little expenditure in the destination and it generates congestion in the town.


Numerous indicators were evaluated which identified gaps in continuous measurement of the destination in general and in particular in a sustainable way, as well as alerts in governance, in private and public commitment with sustainability and inclusion and on desired and received demand.

Recommendations were issued for the destination to advance on measurement, on sustainable governance and management, as well as on sustainable practices by tourism businesses.


Basque Country

Basque Country - Euskadi: San Sebastián, Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Zarautz, Gernika, Laguardia


Provincial capitals, coastal and inland municipalities were analyzed, with different types of tourism developed and different types of visitors. The study took into account both tourism and excursionism and the five dimensions of sustainability.

By evaluating numerous indicators, alerts were identified on different issues and recommendations were issued for progress on the one hand in measurement, to have data continuously at the municipal level. On the other hand, different areas of improvement are identified, such as financing and training to advance sustainability, even if destinations are convinced of being sustainable, in some cases they needed support to implement initiatives or even draw a plan.


UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Urdaibai

The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve listed in UNESCO receives tourism and excursionims and is interested in developing it in a sustainable way. In its commitment to the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism, it developed an approximation research to tourism carrying capacity.


This study develops a diagnosis of tourism development in the Urdaibai reserve and region, where strengths, challenges and opportunities to act on were evidenced

The measurement of tourism carrying capacity that identified a series of priority alerts to act on. Likewise, a series of critical points were identified in which to deepen and recommendations were issued to advance in governance in particular, together with tourism development that implies greater spending in the region and reserve.


Sitges, Catalonia

Sitges, Catalonia, is in the process of obtainign the certification Biosphere as Sustainable Destination and a tourism carrying capacity study is required.

Diagnostic of the tourism carrying capacity that identifies a series of areas in which the destination has strengths, as well as yellow and red alerts in different areas on which progress must be made with lower and higher priority for the sustainable development of the destination.



Methodological approach

The methodological approach developed by in2destination is aimed at preparing actions focused on innovation, competitiveness and the sustainable, intelligent and inclusive construction of territories. Thus, we start from:

Theory of carrying capacity

Our methodology is first based on the theory of carrying capacity developed by Cifuentes and others (1992), O’Reilly (1986), Shelby & Heberlin (1986), Amador and others (1996), Cifuentes and others (1999), Dias & Cordeiro (2012)

Porter's Theory of Competitiveness

We also base our methodology on Michael E. Porter's Theory of Competitiveness (1990), with his diamond applied to tourism destinations.

The five dimensions of sustainability

We finally focus our methodology on the five dimensions of sustainability in tourism destinations: governance, environmental, social, territorial and economic (Fernandez Villarán, Espinosa, Abad & Goytia (2020), Espinosa Uresandi, Zapata Martidez & Bermúdez Cardona (2019), Espinosa Uresandi, Fernandez Villarán, Goytia Prat, Abad Galzacorta (2017), Fernandez, Espinosa, Abad & Goytia (2017), Abad Galzacorta, Espinosa Uresandi, Fernandez Villarán & Goytia Prat (2016).

With all this, we define a scoreboard and a visual alert system based on colours.

The Conceptual Framework embodies a scalable and modular methodology that can be adapted to the object of study requirements.

Thus, we study the tourism destination, or portions of it, or the tourism resource based on:

  • secondary sources: review of recent studies carried out in the area, official statistical data on employment, overnight stays, electricity consumption, and many more
  • primary sources: interviews, surveys, mobility studies, etc.

What are the types of questions you answer with a carrying capacity diagnosis?

What characteristics do the flows in your destination or tourism resource have according to its origin, expense and use of space?

What is the ratio between accommodation places to number of residents?

Are there environmental conditions linked to the tourism activity of your destination or resource?


Is there tension between residents and visitors? If there is, which are the reasons behind it? Volume, attitudes?

Which is the weight of same-day visitors, tourists and second residence in your destination?

Who is this in2destination methodology for?

This methodology has been applied by in2destination in open inhabited environments in different tourism destinations. Applying it in closed/delimited or uninhabited tourism destinations or tourism resources would be perfectly possible, much easier.


I want to meet the team that makes it possible

Many factors come into play in carrying capacity. We are a team that, due to its interdisciplinary profile, has the ability to analyse, interpret and reflect them into our projects.

Nagore Uresandi

Director & Founder
"Tourism development must be compatible with the well-being of the people living there."

Carlota Cazalla

"The design of tourism services must focus on people and their needs."

Lady Giraldo

Senior Consultant
"Tourism contributes to empowering enterprises as exponential, profitable and sustainable businesses."

Laura Taroncher

"Sustainable tourism must preserve the identity of destinations and enhance their heritage."


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