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Investigating the impact of tourism and recreation


  • To investigate recreational provision in a community or area

  • To investigate the vulnerability (risk of closure) of a particular facility, and the feasibility of it remaining open

  • To survey the need for a particular type of facility or amenity

  • To compare the perceptions of recreational facilities amongst residents and visitors

  • To investigating diurnal and seasonal variations in the use of recreational facilities, for example high and low seasons in a tourist resort

  • To study the impact of new developments on the tourist industry in an area

  • To investigate the causes and effects of honey-pot sites

  • To investigate the provision and quality urban open spaces

  • To conduct cost and quality surveys of recreational facilities

  • To investigate the impact of a stadium on match days or a theme park on the local area

  • To investigate the benefits of tourism to the local area


  • Digital camera and sketching materials

  • Interview/questionnaire sheets

  • Base maps for recording land use and (tourist) facilities

  • Conflict matrix

  • User tally charts

  • Environmental quality and perception study sheets



  • Sketch or photograph the sites and annotate with the main features and additional information

  • Conduct land use surveys to record the location of facilities, colour coding them according to type. Label the main access routes and supporting infrastructure, for example car parks

  • Obtain secondary information on the site or facility that you are studying, for example historical photos showing changes in land-use, newspaper articles, tourist leaflets and price lists. Use this information to compare current and past provision

  • Comment on the quality of the provision and identify any ‘weak' or ‘lacking' areas. Outline the need for further provision. Completing perception surveys will support your comments


  • Carry out pedestrian counts (this can also be done by age or gender) at different times of the day or year (if you are comparing high and low season) and in different weather conditions

  • From a vantage point, observe the movements of people and plot these on a base map. For example, the movement of people from the car park at a honey pot site. Again, pedestrian movements can be classified according to age, gender or family group and the type of activity they are undertaking. Surveys can be carried out at different times of the day and under different weather conditions

  • Survey tax disks in the car park to estimate the distance people have travelled to the site. Bear in mind that many drivers now purchase their tax discs online so it's harder to trace where they come from, but as an alternative, the new style registration plates can be traced to the vehicle's point of sale

  • Conduct questionnaires with visitors to the site to more accurately establish the distance they have travelled, the frequency and reasons for their visit, and their opinions about the site


  • Develop and complete a conflict matrix for the site. Write all possible users of the site along both axes and complete by adding a tick if there is potential conflict between the users, and a cross if there is not

  • Support the findings of your conflict matrix with perception surveys, for example adjectival pairs or bi-polar analysis to gain user perceptions and compare the opinions of residents and tourists

  • Complete environmental quality surveys and collect data on noise pollution and footpath erosion

  • Use your results to identify issues and inform possible management suggestions for the future of the site

Considerations and possible limitations

  • A clear focus for the project should be established. The scale of the study should be large enough to be representative but not so large as to be unmanageable and lack focus

  • There is a time issue with comparing high and low seasons

  • Conflict matrices are subjective

  • It can be very difficult to organise interviews with site managers or to obtain information from attractions on their visitor numbers or profit margins

Investigating the impact of new tourism and recreation developments


  • To investigate derelict areas and possible uses for these areas

  • To study the impacts of local developments and projects and how these impacts are managed

  • To investigate conservation strategies in honey-pot sites and vulnerable areas, including the effectiveness of existing strategies and potential future methods

  • To assess the management of an open farm compared to a working farm

  • To compare visitor management at a range of major attractions


  • Base maps

  • Digital camera

  • Field sketching materials

  • Other primary data to support the study, for example environmental quality surveys, landscape evaluations, noise surveys, conflict matrices and questionnaires

  • Secondary data, for example interviews with site managers and planners, historical photographs and maps of the site, newspaper articles and visitor number statistics


  1. Make sketches or take photographs of the site and annotate with the main features and landmarks, existing management strategies and key issues or problems.

  2. Compare the current site with historical photographs and maps, statistics on visitor numbers over time and archive newspaper articles to:

  • Identify changes which have taken place in land use and the provision of services over time
  • Identify changes in the level of usage and number of people visiting the facility over time
  • Identify any past issues and determine the extent to which they have been addressed
  • Survey existing strategies to manage visitor impact, for example by interviewing with planners to find out when and why strategies were implemented, the costs involved with building and maintenance and any future plans
  1. Investigate people's perceptions of the management techniques being used and what they think should be done in the future - through questionnaires and bi-polar analysis and agreement surveys.

  2. Evaluate the overall success or effectiveness of existing strategies. It is possible, with sufficient data, to conduct a cost - benefit analysis (CBA) where the costs of building and maintenance over the lifetime of a project are compared with the costs of doing nothing. For example, the costs of doing nothing on a stretch of coastline can be investigated by finding out retreat rates and mapping the coastline in 20, 30, 50, 100 years and by considering the loss of land and amenities and infrastructure.

Considerations and possible limitations

  • When conducting a CBA it is very hard to accurately measure all costs, many are intangible and a figure cannot be placed on them. However, a simple CBA can be carried out if enough data is available to support it

  • It is important to get a balanced view when carrying out questionnaires. Many different parties may have a vested interest and need to be represented. Stratified sampling techniques will help to ensure that all views are represented

  • As much data as possible should be collected in order to properly and fairly evaluate the management strategies

  • Information should be used to inform your own suggestions and comments

  • Perception data is subjective