Licentiate thesis, monograph

A quantity-quality framework for measuring the regional socio-economic impact of tourism : The case of Jämtland Härjedalen


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Publication Details

Author list: Kronenberg, Kai

Publisher: Mid Sweden University

Place: Sundsvall

Publication year: 2019

Number of pages: 105

ISBN: 978-91-88947-23-9


Measuring the economic effects of tourism has always been a high priority for private and public actors in the regional economy (Stabler et al 2009). These estimates provide insights about the generation of sales, jobs, and income associated with tourism, but also support industry officials in the regional development agenda. Measuring tourism’s economic impact in a region typically involves economic impact models that capture both primary and secondary effects (Comerio and Strozzi 2019). However, results gained from these models are limited in regards to highly aggregated and growth-oriented indicators on the macro-level.

These economic impact models ‘fulfil’ their purpose in incorporating the assumptions of mainstream economics and in focusing on macro-level indicators related to economic growth (Elsner 2017). That involves the risk that important socio-economic aspects, such as the distribution of income, are less considered in regional tourism development agendas. Even so-called ‘advanced’ models neglect distributional dimensions in estimating the impact of tourism (Lee 2009). Accordingly, a growing body of literature starts criticizing mainstream economics’ modelling assumptions and its narrow view on economic growth (Söderbaum 2017). Instead, economic analyses should put more focus multi-dimensional perspectives, including the institutional (i.e. meso-level) perspective in addition to the traditional macro- and micro view (Dopfer et al. 2004). Furthermore, various forms of inequalities are identified to typically hamper regional development from a socio-economic point of view (Moulaert and Nussbaumer 2005a).

Against this background, the aim of this thesis is to propose a framework that extends traditional economic impact approaches and allows the measurement of tourism impact from a broader socio-economic perspective. The approach in this thesis comprises a macro as well as a meso level analysis and utilizes a mixed-method approach (Dopfer et al. 2004; Khoo-Lattimore et al. 2017). More concretely, the traditional economic impact methodology is further developed in order to estimate disaggregated employment and income effects for specific occupations, and to estimate the income distribution across occupations in major tourism sectors.

This analysis is conducted for the county of Jämtland and comprises the period + time (Daniels et al. 2004). A series of interviews with major regional industry- and policy representatives complements the impact analysis from the meso-level perspective. By doing so, the institutional perspectives helped identifying potential reasons for variations in occupation and income developments in tourism.

Findings show that the traditional way of analysing tourism’s impacts does not only provide the full picture of the impacts, but also even gives potentially misleading information. While, in general, the tourism industry benefits from annually growing arrival numbers in terms of sales, the income level of the tourism workforce remains among the lowest in the entire regional economy. In addition, the income inequality across occupations in the main tourism sector accommodation & food is increasing, indicating a negative trend in the industry. This can be partly attributed to decreasing union membership rates, short-term career perspectives, and increasing shares of occupations without requirements for higher education. Like in other branches, the role of education in the tourism industry is particularly important to overcome these trends.

This study shows that extending traditional ways of analysing the economic impact of tourism by incorporating additional socio-economic dimensions contributes to a better understanding the socio-economic sustainability of the regional tourism industry. By putting the focus away from pure growth-driven indicators, this approach proposes an alternative way for measuring tourism’s impacts, which can, hopefully, be implemented and institutionalized in the future.


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