Decision support tool for strategic tourism planning

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What is it and what is it for?

One of the overarching objectives of the BCHT project was to conserve the natural and cultural sites in the Biosphere by strategically managing tourism flows and improving the experience of visitors. The end result was a decision-support tool which maps the opportunities and pressures for sustainable tourism (MOPST), designed to inform stakeholders and policy-makers.

MOPST integrates spatial data about tourism pressures and opportunities including a range of environmental, access, tourism and business clustering data (see below).

The intention was to make the tool transferable, so other local authorities, planners / planning authorities, Destination Management Organisations and site managers can use it, provided that GIS data sources for that area are available.

It is also an updateable tool – the component layers can be updated and the model rerun.
It is based on participatory stakeholder data – mainly from environmental stakeholders – and on local expert knowledge (e.g. local policy scoring) as well as statistical processes (including regression analysis).

What types of information does the model contain?

The model integrates a range of spatial data on human tourism factors (converted into scores using regression analysis). This includes information on:

  • Management (including environmental designations – SSSIs, local nature reserves etc);
  • Access (including transport infrastructure – roads, cycle paths etc, open access areas and paths / rights of way);
  • Businesses (including food & drink, cycle hire and water sports); and
  • Attractions & amenities (including heritage sites, archaeological sites and key tourism attractions).

It also includes information and scoring by stakeholders and local environmental managers / experts:

  • Scoring the environmental sensitivity of habitats – creating a Habitat Sensitivity Score
  • Seasonality scores for habitats (summer vs. winter)
  • Stakeholder identification of areas of tourism pressure and opportunity – digitised as GIS data
  • Local policy priority weightings
  • Tourism scenario weightings – for opportunity and pressure – see below.

The model outputs are based on three scenarios developed in conjunction with project partner – these show possible futures for tourism (but are not forecasts):

Scenario name
Business as Usual
  • Tourism centred on honey pot sites
  • Visitor pressure issues
  • Seasonal peaks in visitor numbers and tourism business income
  • Gradual decline in the quality of environmental assets
Less Regulation
  • Over-development
  • Increasing visitor numbers
  • Businesses making more
  • BUT visitor spend not contributing to the local economy
  • Rising visitor pressures erode natural environments
  • Rising Resident – Visitor tensions
Responsibility and Custodianship
  • Spreading the benefits of tourism across the region
  • More green infrastructure and travel options
  • More visitor spend staying in the local economy
  • Restoring the environment
  • Visitor giving, e.g. time, skills, payback schemes


An illustrated version of the local scenarios can be found here.

Download the PDF [7Mb]

How is the model implemented and what software does it use?

The model can be implemented using QGIS (and R), and the ArcMap Python toolkit is intended to be a more automated, easily transferable tool for ArcMap. It will shortly also be available for QGIS.

See the full report for more info on the method and implementation: 

The decision support tool for The Living Coast

The interactive map below shows the decision support tool for The Living Coast.

Once you have opened the map, click on the ‘layers button’ in the top right corner. 

Use the expanding drop down menu under each of the scenarios to explore the areas of pressure and opportunity for both summer and winter. Clicking on the eye icon is what switches the layers on and off.

There is also a ‘Legend’ tab to explain the shading further.

Who was involved in creating MOPST?

MOPST was created by Geospatial Training Solutions, the University of Exeter and Devon County Council (North Devon Biosphere Reserve) through the BioCultural Heritage Tourism (BCHT) Project, funded by the EU InterReg France (Channel) England Programme.

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