Destination Benchmarking as an Effective Tool for Sustainable Tourism Development

This Articles written by Putu Indah Rahmawati

Published in Jurnal Kepariwisataan, Vol 9 no 1 March 2009, pages 59-64, Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata Bali. ISSN 1412 5498.


Sustainable tourism which can help destinations in order to increase the benefit and minimize the risk of tourism industry is still becoming the challenge for tourism authorities in some countries.  Destination benchmarking is one of the programmes that give further knowledge and skill about how to develop sustainable tourism. Therefore, this essay will discuss the benefits of destination benchmarking as an effective tool for sustainable tourism in terms of; chance to learn from other, maintain competitive performances and increase tourist destination profitability. Hence, it is suggested that destination authorities in Indonesia joined destination benchmarking program in order to improve tourist destination performances and also to develop sustainable tourism in Indonesia.

key words: Destination, Benchmarking, Sustainable Tourism

The tourism industry is one of the worthwhile industries which can support country’s income. To begin with, based on data of International Labour Organization & the World Tourism Organization, tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry which attracted 1.6 billion of tourists in 1999, produced around US$ 455 billion and involved 200 million workers. (, cited on 5th July 2006). Tourism industry brings many advantages for many people such as; local communities, workers, government, private company owners, tourist. However, it is crucial to manage the natural resources and preserve environment for future generation. So, in order to maintain the resources for the tourism purposes, the concept of sustainable tourism was created. According to World Tourism Organization (WTO:2005) in Herremans (2006:3) the definition of sustainable tourism is effective balance between profit, environment, social, cultural aspect for long term advantages to local people.

However, implementation of this concept is not an easy job. As pointed out by Kozak (2004:41) the development of sustainable tourism destinations in recent years seem more complex because destination cope many aspects such as hotel, airline, transport system, tourist object, tourist facilities, sanitation, environment and social aspects. It means that all of those elements must work together to develop sustainable tourism in their destination. They need more knowledge and skill about the implementation of sustainable tourism. And this is where destination benchmarking becomes the answer to above issues. It was established to give opportunity for destination authorities to learn how to develop sustainable tourism in their area.  Based on Kozak definition (2004:41) destination benchmarking is a regular measurement of a destination’s performance by its operators compared with other destinations in order to win the competition.

Furthermore, destination authorities need periodic evaluation to give overview about their performances and to decide what aspects needs to learn from other countries. There are many evaluations and measurements need to be done by destination authorities before joined benchmarking programme, such as; SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threat), guest satisfaction index, guest loyalty profile, analysis of complaining behaviour and complaint handling, environment performances analysis (Pyo, 2001). Whole of the findings give destination profile about their position in global market compared with other destination. This also gives information about who is the best destination in what aspect and which destination has sustainable tourism development. So that, destination authorities can decide from whom they should learn in order to develop sustainable tourism.

Next important point in destination benchmarking is the learning method that destination authorities have to choose depend on their conditions. There are many types of destination benchmarking, such as; competitive benchmarking (learning from the competitor), cooperative benchmarking (learning from best destination) and collaborative benchmarking (learning from the third party as coordinator) (Kozak, 2004). Each type of destination benchmarking has advantages and disadvantages, destination authorities can select one type which is suitable with their recent situations based on the evaluation findings.

The type of destination benchmarking influenced by the aspects that destination authorities want to focus on. According to Lislie in Pyo (2001;4) there are three aspects of sustainable tourism as a learning focus during destination benchmarking programme, such as: local economy, environment, and the community. It means that they can learn about how to earn profit from tourism and preserve natural resources at the same time. They also can learn about how to educate human resources to respect social system and cultural heritage.

Green Globe 21 organization is third party who is organizes destination benchmarking to develop sustainable tourism all over the world. This organization established by The World Travel and Tourism Council in 1993. It measures the destination performances, organizes training, seminar, and consortium. It has 500 members from all over the world. It also gives certification of sustainable tourism to destination and tourist organization which is already success developed sustainable tourism through benchmarking. This program focussed on nine key areas, such as;(1) waste minimisation, recycle and reuse, (2) management of conservation and energy efficiency, (3) the protection of ambient air quality, (4) the management of freshwater resources, (5) the management of waste water (6) the management of social and culture issue, (6) greenhouse gas emissions, (7) economic, social and cultural impact, in particular respecting local culture and generating maximum local employment, (8) the management of ecosystem conservation (including biodiversity impact, particularly on habitats), (9)Environmental and land use planning, particularly in areas of high social and environmental value (www. on 5 July 2006).

First of all, destination benchmarking is a chance to learn from the best practices in the same field. The best destination must have high score of the nine aspects of sustainable tourism and also have good results in their regular evaluation. So that, destination authorities (government or private company) can learn from other destination which has sustainable tourism and better performances.

Furthermore, in term of environmental aspects, destination benchmarking can open the destination authority’s insight about the implementation of nine key aspects in the best destination. This can be done by learning directly to other destination but also can be done by joined third party who organize destination benchmarking programme. Through this programme, destination authorities observe other destination strategic, plan and application of sustainable tourism. After observing other destination, the destination authorities find out the gap between their performances and other destination performances in term of environment. And then, they discuss new formula to improve their environmental performances.

For example, the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) has undertaken collaborative environmental activities with Green Globe 21 Benchmarking programme. CAST learn from Green Globe 21 organization about how to manage their natural resources in their destination in order to gain more benefit and preserve natural resources. In this case, Green Globe 21 help CAST to evaluate their environment performances based on nine criteria. After that, CAST and Green Globe 21 discuss the results and find out the solution of each problem. Green Globe 21 organization help CAST implement the strategies that they already made before until CAST achieve high score in the final evaluation. (Pyo, 2001:152-157). Another example, Kaikoura Destination in New Zealandalso joined destination benchmarking held by Green Globe 21 organization. These attempts also succeed in helping Kaikoura Destination in New Zealandevaluate and improve their environmental performances by the same method with CAST.( Cited on 13 July 2006).

The second benefit of destination benchmarking is it helps destination authorities improve their competitive performances. Competitiveness is crucial for destination in order to win the competition. Kozak (2004:53) emphasized that it is essential for tourist destinations analyse their potency and powerlessness in order improve and maintain destination performances. The regular analysis (seasonal reports and annual report) gives chance to destination authorities to monitor the performances of their tourist products and services with what of the previous years. It is also the way to learn how to control and coordinate a variety of activities in tourist destinations to achieve high standards. Destination benchmarking teaches the destination authorities the way to research their policy applications and review their positioning in global market.

Improving competitive performances has close relationship with respecting social and cultural values. Due to destination performances profile determined by guest satisfaction index and guest loyalty profile and influenced by seven aspects (safety, friendliness, cleanliness, orderliness, comfort, beauty, hospitality and enchanting memories). By respecting social and cultural value, destination authorities would be able to inspire and motivate local communities to act as good hosts and increase tourist satisfaction index at the same time. From benchmarking, destination authorities can learn how to build cross culture understanding between  local people and foreigners as well as  learning how manage human resources to improve destination performances.

The following example gives an overview about how destination benchmarking helps destination authorities improve their performances by cooperative benchmarking (learning directly to other destination). Irelandbecame one of the best examples of tourist destination which was success in implementing destination benchmarking concept. At first, the number of tourism in Irelanddeclined from 1992-1997 caused by many factors such as: politic, market image, low tourist satisfaction index, etc. In order to increase tourist satisfaction index and reach it goals to be a leader of responsible tourism, Irelandbuild mutual collaboration with German. Then, Irelandcompared their performances with German. The performances analysis result found that the image of Irelandas expensive destination made many tourist moves to other destination. After that, Irelanddesigned new campaign programme to change their image and improve their positioning in the global market. Finally, after worked hard implementing destination benchmarking concepts, the number of tourist who visited Irelandhas increased significantly in 2000. And this performances remain stable since the Irelandauthorities maintain their destination performances (, cited 12July 2006).

Another good example of destination benchmarking is fromTurkeytourist destination. There are several factors caused destination authorities inTurkeyjoined benchmarking programme, such as; tourism industry growth slowly, low tourist satisfaction index, inconvenient airport regulation. Those evaluations stimulate them to learn from Mallorca tourist destination inSpainthrough cooperative benchmarking programme. From this programme,Turkey’s destination authorities became aware that they should revise the law related to tourism industry and airport regulations in order to improve their destination performances. Those efforts have stimulated the tourism industry growth faster through increasing tourist satisfaction. After thatTurkeykeep maintain their destination performances in order to be a competitive destination in global market (Kozak, 2004)

Last but not least, another advantage of destination benchmarking that it is increases destination profitability by encouraging organizations to be efficient. According to Godfrey in Herremans (2006:138) “economically and socially sustainable tourism depends on the sustainability of its surrounding ecology”. It means that destination which is managing their resources efficiently; preserve the ecosystem can get more profit that who does not apply it. Awareness of efficiency programme must be spread out by seminars, symposiums, trainings, workshops. So that everyone who involves in tourism industry can apply the efficiency concept as their daily habit. There are two ways to be efficient, (1) minimize the waste by reuse and recycle (2) manage the natural resources

 In term of destination profitability can be increased by minimize the waste in tourist destination. Benchmarking programme can give an opportunity for destination authorities broaden their insight about how to minimize waste. It also gives information about what things can be reuse and recycle how to process the waste become new things that useful for human and environment. Moreover, in terms of managing natural resources, destination authorities can learn about how to manage fresh water, energy, and electricity. From the environmental evaluation tools, destination authorities can get the review of their previous cost. Then, destination authorities can find out the new way to be more efficient or they can copy from other organization about how to cut operational cost.

There is good example fromFairmontdestination inCanadawhich conduct collaborative benchmarking and success in its implementation. In this case,Fairmontdestination authorities hired Green Globe 21 Organization as third party who became consultant of destination benchmarking programme. This collaboration found thatFairmontdestination authorities need to work hard with their stakeholder (supplier, staff, and partners) to reserve energy and minimize the effect greenhouse emission on the ecosystem. This effort brings positive impact to the environment as well as brings more profit for destination. Green Globe 21 organization gives two advices for  Fairmont destination authorities such as;(1) switch the old form lighting to the new one (light emitting diodes). This can upgrade lighting quality, reduces the bill and minimize the replacement cost. This action  reduced power consumption by 90%, each bulb will long lasting until 10 years and saving money annually $11.04 each bulb. (2) change the types of energy power which is usually they use with the new one and as a result, greenhouse emissions between 1999 and 2004 were reduced by approximately 10,000 tonnes per year. This also reduced energy consumption 10% from 1998 to 2000 and resulted in $ 1 million annual savings. (quoted from Dawn Ringrose and Associates inc, 2005)

In conclusion, tourism industry is multi-billion dollar industry which brings prosperity for the local communities. Developing sustainable tourism is very pivotal to raise the profit and minimize the risk of tourism industry. Due to managing tourism destination seem more complex; destination authorities need more knowledge and skill to develop sustainable tourism. Therefore, destination benchmarking becomes an answer of the above issue. It was established to give opportunity for destination authorities to learn how to develop sustainable tourism in their area. There are three advantages of destination benchmarking discuss in this essay.

 Firstly, destination benchmarking gives an opportunity for destination authorities to learn from other destination which is has better performances. It also can open the destination authority’s insight about the implementation of nine key aspects of environmental management. Moreover, destination benchmarking can be done by learning directly to other destination but also can be done by joined third party who organize destination benchmarking programme. Secondly, it can improve destination performances. Destination benchmarking stimulates destination authorities to evaluate their performances regularly and improve their performances to achieve high standard.  Finally, destination benchmarking can increase destination profitability. Through benchmarking, destination authorities can learn how to manage natural resources and minimize waste. This effort can cut operational cost and increase destination ability to earn more profit.

Overall, in my opinion destination benchmarking is an effective tool to develop sustainable tourism. There are many success stories about the implementation of destination benchmarking concepts, such as;Irelandtourist destination,Turkeytourist destination, CAST that inspire other destination to conduct the same programme. And I am strongly believe that implementation of this concept will give positive impact to the tourism development inIndonesia. Destination authorities inIndonesianeed to learn about how to measure their former performances, how to increase tourist satisfaction index and how to achieve better market share. Lastly, destination authorities inIndonesiacan learn from other tourist destinations how to preserve environment and earn more profit at the same time. All in all, I suggest destination authorities inIndonesiajoined destination benchmarking to improve tourist destination performances inIndonesiaand also to develop sustainable tourism inIndonesia.


 Boxwell. Robert J. (1994), Benchmarking for competitive advantage, Mc.Graw-Hill.Inc,USA.

 Cano, et al. (2001), Learning from others: Benchmarking in diverse tourism enterprises, Total quality management. Vol 12 no 7 & 8, 2001, 974-980, Taylor & Francis Ltd.UK.

 Catty Parsons, no date, Green Globe 21, available online:

 Kozak, Metin. (2004), Destination Benchmarking concepts, practices &operations, CABI pub,New York.

 Pyo, Sungsoo. (2001), Benchmarks in hospitality and tourism, The Haworth Hospitality Press,New York.

 United Nations Environement Programme, 2005, Integrating Sustainability into business, a management guide for responsible tour operations, UNEP organization,France.

 Anonymous, 2001, available online: ( (cited on 5 July 2006)

 Anonymous,  2003, available online: (cited on 5 July 2006)

 Anonymous,  no date, available online: ( on 13 July 2006)



About sustainabletourismforbali

I am the lecturer in Hotel Department , Social Science faculty, Ganesha Education University, Bali
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