The European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS)


In February this year, the Tourism Policy Unit of the EU Commission DG Enterprise and Industry launched the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) in Brussels with a conference attended by over 300 participants. In the following, we will provide you with some more information about ETIS and how it was developed.


In 2003, the European Commission firstly reported on basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism. In 2004, the Tourism Unit of the DG Enterprise and Industry established the Tourism Sustainability Group (TSG) which included representatives from industry, stakeholders and destinations. This was followed by 3 major milestones that lead to the development of the European Tourism Indicators System:

  • 2004-2007: development of ‘Sustainable and Competitive Tourism Report’
  • 2007: adoption at ‘Algarve European Tourism Forum’
  • 2009: Working Groups – Sustainable tourism indicators

The aim of the TSG was to address the importance of tourism as such as well as to identify aims to make tourism more sustainable along with the challenges to achieve this. Furthermore, the TSG should recommend processes to overcome those challenges and create a framework for action and initiatives to be taken. The European Tourism Indicator system was one of those.

Since 2007, the TSG together with the University of Surrey, Sustainable Travel International and Intasave put a considerable amount of work into the development of the indicators, including a testing phase in NECSTouR and EDEN destinations. This was followed by evaluation reports of NECSTouR and EDEN that led to an improvement of the indicator system.

ETIS – Scope and Application

The European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) consists of 27 core and 40 optional indicators for sustainable destinations in order to monitor, manage and enhance sustainability of EU tourist destinations. The indicators are based on the criteria of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). They follow an action-based approach as well as a participatory process. The system is presented in a toolkit that comes with a guideline, an Excel spreadsheet and several sample questionnaires for data collection.The sources of data are official statistics/source, visitor surveys, business surveys, host community surveys and new techniques.

The guideline describes 7 steps to using the system:

ETIS - process

As mentioned earlier the indicator system is based on the criteria of the GSTC and is therefore also divided into four categories:

  • A  – Destination management
  • B  – Economic value
  • C  – Social and cultural impacts
  • D  – Environmental impacts

Within each category, there can be found a varying number of criteria – 22 in total – which are then linked to different core and optional indicators. The criteria from category A are:

  1. Sustainable Tourism Public Policy (A)
  2. Sustainable Tourism Management in Tourism Enterprise (A)
  3. Customer Satisfaction (A)
  4. Information and Communication (A)

Criteria A. 1 Destination Management is then linked to the following indicators:

  • Core indicator A.1.1 Percentage of the destination with a sustainable tourism strategy/action plan, with agreed monitoring, development control and evaluation arrangement
  • Optional indicator A.1.1.1 Percentage of residents satisfied with their involvement and their influence in the planning and development of tourism
  • Optional indicator A.1.1.2 Percentage of the destination represented by a destination management organisation

ETIS – Aims and Benefits

The overall aim of the European Tourism Indicator System is to set destination level targets that are used by regional/national bodies and to provide a benchmarking system for destinations all over Europe. It should enable destinations to measure their progress over time and to establish trend analysis. Furthermore, ETIS should assist in the justification of future public investment in tourism development and management.

The general benefits to destinations are that it creates a vision and guidelines for sustainable tourism development of the destination and a framework for benchmarking, communications & good practices learning exchange. Further benefits are:

Economic benefits

  • Identifies resource and financial savings (e.g. energy, waste, water, etc.)
  • Identifies data supported resource reallocation needs based on destination goals
  • Protects destination as a tourist attraction
  • Develops opportunities for funding
  • Enhances branding, marketing and communications

Social benefits

  • Improves quality of life for locals; improves relations between residents and tourists
  • Supports long-term well-being of residents by informing policy / management decisions (e.g. resource reallocation for bringing tourists from resort to rural areas)

Environmental benefits

  • Preserves ecological integrity of destinations;
  • Emphasises value and conservation of natural and cultural resources

ETIS – Status Quo

In June, the Tourism Policy Unit called for destinations all over Europe to participate in one of the three pilot phases. The aim of the pilot phases is to provide the Tourism Policy Unit with valuable feedback about the operability of the system.

The first pilot phase started in July, each pilot phase is supposed to go over nine month. The Tourism Unit already received applications from over 100 destinations for the first pilot phase. The second pilot phase will begin on 1 December 2013. The third pilot phase will begin on 1 February 2014. All destinations participating in the pilot phases will commit to contribute actively to the testing of the ETIS. The feedback of destinations will be gathered through a questionnaire after the end of each pilot phase.

The feedback collected from the destinations through the questionnaires will be analysed and assessed. This analysis aims at providing information on the daily workability, positive and negative experiences and achievements as well as difficulties encountered during the pilot phases. Moreover, it will lead to a possible improvement of the indicators and decision making on the operational tools and procedures (toolkit, IT tool, communication, dissemination etc.).

Based on the findings of the first two pilot phases, the Tourism Policy Unit plans to carry out the first revision of the ETIS. The third pilot phase should then serve as a test of the revised system. An additional assessment will be done following the completion of all the three pilot phases, which will contribute to the fine-tuning of the ETIS approximately at the end of 2015.

We will keep you updated about the progress of ETIS as well as interesting events and outcomes. If you are interested in participating in one of the pilot testing you may do so by contacting the Tourism Unit directly via mail, or you may also get in contact with me if you need guidance on the ETIS system or support in carrying out the testing participation.

More information about ETIS as well as pdf version of the toolkit


Author: Henriette Stieger

I hold a Masters degree MSc. in Public Policy and Human Development, major: Sustainable Development (Maastricht University). Furthermore, I am a certified Project Manager for European Sustainable Development 'PM4ESD' (APMG certified july 2013) and I am a certified Innovation Trainer (july 2014 by motiv® Gesellschaft für Innovation/ Society for Innovation). I hold a B.A. (august 2008) in International Business, major: Tourism Management (CBS Cologne) as well as a certificate in hotel management from the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (july 2005). My consulting focus lies in marketing, training and sustainable tourism as well as in integrated regional development. Contact:, tel. +49 (0)221 9499201


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