Measuring and comparing the sustainability of coastal tourism destinations in Germany, Lithuania, and Indonesia


An important aim of the European Sustainable Development Strategy is to measure the state of sustainability in coastal communities. While numerous indicators have been developed to estimate a regions sustainability, they go largely unused, due to the difficulty in applying them over a broad region. In an effort to improve upon this situation, we have improved the indicator set developed within the SUSTAIN project and merged these indicators with the QualityCoast label for sustainable tourism destinations, creating a joint methodology and developing an applicable self-assessment spreadsheet tool. The tool includes six categories, subdivided into 117 single indicators. We then tested the tool by applying it to ten contrasting tourism destinations in Germany, Lithuania, and Indonesia. In total, 17 unique applications were run, with the objective being to test the tools applicability, reproducibility, and utility for coastal communities. The applications showed that results can be biased, stemming from an evaluators’ perception of a given site or ecosystem. Thus, results are not easily reproducible, which negatively affects comparability with other destinations. However, results indicate that the tool can be used to categorize the sustainability of a region, helping to raise community awareness and guide future planning. Furthermore, communities benefit from the fact that a positive assessment will easily enable them to apply for the QualityCoast label. With clear guidelines and reference values, repeated applications can help communities evaluate whether their efforts are contributing to a sustainable coastal development.

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The work was partly funded by the BONUS BALTCOAST project. BONUS BALTCOAST has received funding from BONUS (Art 185) funded jointly from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration and from Baltic Sea national funding institutions (BMBF 03F0717A). We would also like to express special thanks to Albert Salman (QualityCoast Programme) as well as Xenia Loizidou and Michalis Loizides (ISOTECH Ltd, Cyprus) for providing their knowledge and expertise. Furthermore, we would also like to thank all anonymous reviewers for their critical input to the manuscript and Râna Campbell and Mark Nepf for their English revisions. Finally, we extend our thanks to the students of the universities of Klaipeda and Rostock, who supported the indicator applications and to the experts that supported the data collections for the in-depth applications.

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Schumacher, J., Schernewski, G., Karnauskaitė, D. et al. Measuring and comparing the sustainability of coastal tourism destinations in Germany, Lithuania, and Indonesia. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 2451–2475 (2020).

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  • Indicators
  • ICM
  • QualityCoast
  • Sustainable development
  • Self-assessment tool
  • Coastal destinations