Social Carrying Capacity of Mass Tourist Sites: Theoretical and Practical Issues about its Measurement
Congestion is an important management problem at mass tourist sites. This essay focuses on the social carrying capacity (SCC) of a tourist site as indicator of residents’ and visitors’ perception of crowding, intended as the maximum number of visitors (MNV) tolerated. In case of conflict between the residents’ MNV tolerated and the visitors’ MNV tolerated, the policy-maker has to mediate. We consider the case in which the residents’ SCC is lower than the visitors’ SCC, and the site SCC is the result of a compromise between these two aspects of the SCC. This can be measured by making reference to two criteria of choice: the utility maximisation criterion and the voting rule. The use of one method rather than the other depends on the data available about the individual preferences on crowding. Assuming that individual preferences are known, a maximisation model for the computation of the site SCC is conceived. It represents the case in which the residents’ SCC is the limiting factor. The site SCC is intended as the number of visitors which maximises the social welfare function. Because a local policy-maker maximises the welfare of residents, in this model visitors are represented by those residents whose welfare wholly depends on the tourism sector, while the social costs due to crowding are borne by those residents who are partially or totally independent from tourism. Nevertheless, in practice, the individual preferences about crowding are not always known. In this case, the MNV tolerated can be computed by applying the majority voting rule. It is shown that, under certain conditions, the optimum number of visitors, obtained through a maximisation model, is equal to the MNV tolerated by the majority of voters.
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