Research Data Gaps in Mountain Tourism
article written by MRI
29.08.23 | 12:08

Data on the size and impact of tourism in mountain regions remains scarce, and quantifying its volume is still a challenge. A new report, conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the largest provider of tourism data, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), highlights the importance of understanding and quantifying mountain tourism.

Mountains, home to about 1.1 billion people, attract people from all over the world for many reasons, including natural beauty, climate, biodiversity, local cultures, resource accessibility, and transportation options, to name a few. This year, it has been estimated that the mountain and snow tourism market will reach around $4.9 billion. By 2033, it is predicted to grow to $8 billion. If data suggests there will be an increase in visitor numbers to mountain regions in the future, without the vital information, local communities and policymakers may be unable to adapt and implement effective tourism development policies.

According to the FAO report, there is a “lack of comparable, updated, and standardised data on mountain tourism at [the] national or local level.” To understand and estimate the share of mountain tourism in international and domestic tourism worldwide, a methodological approach was developed for the purpose of the report. However, due to limited data on domestic tourism, only a representative assessment could be conducted on international tourism. So, if the issue is that the data that is available is not standardised, it might not be able to be used for research purposes. Whilst available data can serve research purposes, its absence could hinder local communities and policymakers in adapting to an anticipated increase in visitor numbers to mountain regions.

Why Mountain Tourism Research is Important

Public and private tourism service providers can use tourist data for planning and development. Financial institutions, insurance companies, and banks can also track spending on travel and tourism. Tourism organisations and tour operators use the data for planning and pricing, and can use insights from the data to anticipate demand, which could be used to counter overtourism. Data on tourists’ travel intentions can also be used to forecast future tourist numbers and expenditures. Furthermore, government institutions use tourism data for funding, tourism development initiatives, and infrastructure planning.

Pursuing Enhanced Data Collection and Recommendations

At the Third Caucasus Mountain Forum in Georgia, some recommendations to stakeholders were put forward by the UNWTO in their presentation on building a new future for mountains, such as:

  • Advancing data and evidence-based tourism policies in order to maximise the impact of tourism on employment and to ensure social sustainability;
  • Invest in statistical systems that are in line with the International Recommendations of Tourism Statistics;
  • Explore the use of mobile positioning data to enhance measurement
  • Enhance market intelligence in order to attract new segments, and to better understand consumer trends, as well as embrace the digitalisation of the sector;
  • Identify the most important mountain destinations and support the creation of specific mountain observatories.

There are also calls for joint work to help raise awareness of the socio-economic importance of mountain tourism. These recommendations include public and private stakeholders across the tourism value chain to improve data collection, standardisation, and delivery to gain a much more comprehensive assessment of mountain tourism volume and impacts. Other recommendations include the advancement of data and evidence-based tourism policies and strategies; the exploration of mobile positioning data; and raising more awareness of the importance of mountain tourism.

Looking Toward a Resilient Future

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “With the right data, we can better control the dispersal of visitor flows, support adequate planning, improve knowledge on visitor patterns, build sustainable products [that are] in line with consumer needs, and create suitable policies that will foster sustainable development and make sure tourism activities benefit local communities”. The UNWTO hopes that the report will enhance understanding of tourism in the mountains and encompass its full economic, social, and environmental impacts.

With sufficient standardised data, this could ensure even more efficient, resilient, and sustainable development of tourism in mountain regions. It’s important to address data gaps, as having data available is important for sustainable tourism development and the wellbeing of local communities.


Data Missing in Mountain Tourism – Indian Flash News

Tourism’s potential for mountain ecosystems and communities outlined (

Tourism’s Potential for Mountain Ecosystems and Communities Outlined in New Report (

Understanding and Quantifying Mountain Tourism | World Tourism Organization (

Tourism Data Definition & FAQs – Explorium

Understanding and Quantifying Mountain Tourism (

Missing Data in Research | Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management

Mountain and Snow Tourism Market Size, Forecast & Trends| FMI (

Vulnerable giants: Mountain tourism at a turning point – Foresight (

Cover image by Hasmik Ghazaryan Olson.