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  • Research article
  • Open Access

How to use composite indicator and linear programming model for determine sustainable tourism

  • 1Email author,
  • 2,
  • 3,
  • 4 and
  • 5
Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering201715:9

  • Received: 18 June 2016
  • Accepted: 8 March 2017
  • Published:



The tourism industry which is one of the most dynamic economic activities in today’s world plays a significant role in the sustainable development. Therefore, in addition to paying attention to tourism, sustainable tourism must be taken into huge account; otherwise, the environment and its health will be damaged irreparably.


To determine the level of sustainability in this study, indicators of sustainable tourism were first presented in three environmental health, economic and social aspects. Then, the levels of sustainable tourism and environmental sustainability were practically measured in different cities of Kerman Province using a composite indicator, a linear programming model, Delphi method and the questionnaire technique. Finally, the study cities (tourist attractions) were ranked.


Result of this study showed that unfortunately the tourism opportunities were not used appropriately in these cities and tourist destinations, and that environmental aspect (health and environmental sustainability) had very bad situations compared to social and economic aspects. In other words, environmental health had the lowest levels of sustainability.


The environment is a place for all human activities like tourism, social and economic issues; therefore, its stability and health is of great importance. Thus, it is necessary to pay more attention to sustainability of activities, management and environmental health in planning sustainable development in regional and national policy.


  • Sustainable development
  • Environmental health
  • Sustainable indicators
  • Linear programming model
  • Tourism


Sustainable tourism is one of the criteria of sustainable development. The tourism industry is considered the biggest and the most diverse industry in the world [1]. Total number of international tourists increased from 25 million in 1950 to 903 million in 2007; the income resulted from this activity reached 865 billion dollars. It is predicted that the total number of tourists will be 1.6 billion people in 2020 [2]. Tourism is a nice experience for visitors and causes employment, income and other benefits for the host community. However, if it is planned or managed inappropriately, it could be a disaster for visitors, the tourism destination and the host community. If the natural or culture environment is damaged or if tourism acts poorly, people lose their positive energy to stabilize and enrich the environment [3, 4]. Sustainable tourism requires systematic attention to environmental, social- cultural and economic aspects so as to use tourist attractions proportional to today’s needs and preservation of future resources [5].

The aim of sustainable tourism is to improve the life quality of host societies, keep equality and justice between two generations and within a generation, maintain the quality of the environment by protecting the ecological system, maintain cultural integrity and social solidarity between communities and create facilities in a way that visitors can have valuable experiences because sustainable development means providing the needs of the existing generation without weakening the ability of future generations to meet their needs [1, 4, 6, 7].

The method of sustainable development is important in tourism planning because tourism is mainly based on attractions and activities that are related to natural environment, historical heritage and patterns of cultural regions. If these resources get harmed or destroyed, tourist resorts cannot attract tourists, and tourism will not be successful [8]. Moreover, poor health conditions decrease economic and social benefits of tourism.

The main objective in the development of sustainable tourism is to provide reasonable methods to utilize natural and human resources and prevent non-scientific use of these resources. The development of sustainable tourism has two aspects of “protection of environment and resources and cultural heritage of societies. Following the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro that asked the governments to minimize the loss and damage to the environment, they reached an agreement on the agenda of the meeting 21 (plans for 21th century). In fact, the agenda contained a set of detailed action plans that determined each country's role in achieving sustainable development. Therefore based on agenda 21, international organizations of tourism "Agenda 21 for Tourism" was released; it reminded the need to recognize the role of tourism in the appropriate development process and the necessity for practical plans for tourism organizations in order to activate the principles of sustainable tourism towards sustainable development [7, 911]. Following this conference, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) started some activities and defined development of sustainable tourism as “sustainable tourism development fulfills the needs of present tourists and host regions and maintains the opportunities of future generations.” Sustainable tourism development manages all resources in a way that it fulfills economic, social and aesthetic needs and maintains cultural interactions, ecological processes and biodiversity and supports systems of environment [1215]. Perez et al. in Cuban examined sustainable tourism in towards sustainable development [16]. Blancas et al. [9] and Lozano- Oyola et al. [17] in Spain, also, Blancas et al. [18] in coastal areas of Andalusian (Spain) determined level of sustainable tourism using sustainability indicators. Durovic and Loverentjev presented sustainable tourism indicators generally [19]. Xu and Fox in China and UK checked tourism and sustainable development [20]. It is necessary to achieve sustainable tourism by identifying indicators of sustainable tourism in its current status and analyzing the tourism situation and its consequences and effects on the environmental health, society and economy scientifically and carefully [9, 16]. Concerning the above mentioned issues, the sustainability or non-sustainability of tourism elements was examined according to principles and criteria for sustainable tourism and by adopting appropriate policies for it.

The first purpose of this study was to achieve the appropriate set of indicators for sustainable tourism (especially considering the importance of the environmental health and sustainable development). Moreover, the second goal of this study was to make composite indicator of assessment of sustainable tourism in selected tourist cities of Kerman Province (Fig. 1). This way increased the users' ability to analyze and interpret it practically.
Fig. 1
Fig. 1

Geographical position of study area

The innovative aspect of this study was to determine the combined indicator in social, economic and environmental aspects; in addition to providing a stable compound index, this indicator was analyzed using linear programming models. Using the Delphi method, which is dependent on field studies, was another aspect of innovation in this research.


This cross-sectional study was conducted in 2015 at selected tourist cities of Kerman Province (Kerman, Bam, Jiroft, Rafsanjan, Sirjan and Zarand); these cities were selected due to their historical context, their abundance of natural resources and their more touristic areas compared to other cities. In addition, based on the criteria presented by WTO and other experts, evaluation criteria for operating indicators were 1- being relevant to the subject, 2- data access (collecting and processing capacity) 3-information validity, 4- clearness and understandability for users, and 5- the comparability over time and across jurisdictions or regions [9, 15, 18, 21]. The quantitative data collected through documentary-library methods and statistical yearbooks of Kerman in 2013 required qualitative information by Delphi method and a questionnaire. To design a questionnaire, a large number of sustainable tourism indicators were collected in environmental health, environmental sustainability and social and economic issues by reviewing previous studies. Then, these indicators were localized by experts and professionals opinions and Delphi method through 90 university professors, managers, researchers in the field of tourism and environmental health in cities of Kerman province in three environmental health, social and economic domains (Tables 1, 2, 3) and were scored from 0 to 10 (0, the minimum and 10, the maximum score and significance, for qualitative indicators) [16]. Validity was determined by experts, and stability was analyzed using Cronbach's alpha coefficient [22]. In the first stage (after completing the questionnaires and data collection), composite indicator of sustainable tourism was measured.
Table 1

Environmental and environmental health indicators of sustainable tourism

Main factor


I ij (sign)

Environmental health

Access to clean water

The percent of the local people who have access to clean and healthy water


Water quality of tourism regions

Quality evaluation of water of tourism regions (water pollution) (0–10)


Waste produced by the tourism sector

Waste per capita (daily)


Noise pollution

Noise pollution


Producing of greenhouse gases (air pollution)

Annual emissions of greenhouse gases per capita


Environmental health (other factors)

Tourists evaluation of environmental health (0–10)


Environmental damages

People imagination from tourism environmental damages (0–10)


protected natural regions

The percentage of protected natural regions/total natural regions


Ecological assessment of natural resources

Biodiversity and species diversity of flora and fauna (per unit area)


Energy consumption in tourism sector

Energy consumption daily (per capita)


Water consumption in tourism sector

Water consumption daily (per capita)


Construction in region

Construction density in area unit



The rate of region erosion


Natural landscapes

The percentage of the region's natural landscapes


Diversity of natural attractions

The number of natural attractions to region area


Agricultural level of region

The percentage of agricultural land to total region area


Intensity of tourism use

The number of tourists in region unit area


Disserted villages of region

Disserted villages/total number of villages


Intensity of natural resources use

The number of tourists in protected region unit area


Planning and environmental management

An environmental administrative unit

(+) Ii20

environmental awareness level

Assessment of promoting environmental awareness (0–10)


Protection of natural resources and destinationcultural heritage

Budget of cultural heritage-historical (per capita)



Percentage of the region vegetation


Rare plant species

The number of rare plant species (per unit area)



The diversity of plant species (per unit area)


Rare animal species

Rare animal species (per unit area)


Diversity of animal species

The diversity of animal species (per unit area)


Table 2

Social indicators of sustainable tourism

Main factor


I ij (sign)

Sport services

Sport gym per capita

(+) I i28

Health and hygiene services

Hospitals and clinic per capita

(+) I i29

Transportation services

Transportation vehicle per capita

(+) I i30

Financial services

Bank per capita

(+) I i31

Pharmaceutical Services

Pharmacy per capita

(+) I i32

Tourism benefits

Distribution of tourism benefits for locals (0–10)

(+) I i33

Tourism benefits

Distribution of tourism benefits for tourists (0–10)

(+) I i34

Tourism benefits

Distribution of tourism benefits for environment (0–10)

(+) I i35

Tourism attention to

Number of agencies and tour centers in area (per capita)

(+) I i36

Participation and cooperation of people for tourism activities

People motivation for participation and cooperation with local tourism organization (0–10)

(+) I i37

Participation and cooperation of non-governmental organization for tourism activities

The motivation of non-governmental organization for participation in local tourism activities (0–10)

(+) I i38

Management of tourism activities

Assessment Management of cultural tourism activities in the region (0–10)

(+) I i39

Management of tourism activities

Assessment Management of ecotourism activities in the region (0–10)

(+) I i40

Management of tourism activities

Assessment Management of agricultural tourism activities in the region (0–10)

(+) I i41

Management of tourism activities

Tourism activities share in different economic sectors

I i42(+)

Tourism share in destination economy

Safety assessment of destination by tourists (0–10)

(+) I i43

Tourists satisfaction from region safety

The per capita of region safety equipment (ambulance, road emergency)

I i44(+)

Tourists satisfaction from region safety

Assessment the tension rate between tourists and residents (0–10)

I i45(‐)

Tourists satisfaction from region safety

The number of recorded crimes in the region (per capita)

I i46(‐)

The role of t law enforcement in providing security for tourists

Evaluation of military cooperation and local or governmental law enforcement agencies to provide security for tourists (0–10)

I i47(+)

National and regional advertising

Awareness and positive publicity in the tourism region (0–10)

I i48(+)

National and regional advertising

Negative publicity for southern regions of the country (southern cities of province) (0–10)

I i49(‐)

Protecting cultural heritage

Budget of region cultural heritage (per capita)

I i50(+)

The rate of using cultural heritage

The number of tourists to Antiquities area and cultural heritage

I i51(‐)

Holding cultural festivals to keep and introduce customs

The number of cultural exhibitions (per capita)

(+) I i52

Attention to sustainable tourism

Increasing attention of agencies to sustainable tourism (balanced) (0–10)

I i53(+)

Attention to sustainable tourism

Increasing attention level of policy makers to sustainable tourism (0–10)

I i54(+)

Attention to sustainable tourism

Tourists motivation for sustainable tourism (0–10)

I i55(+)

Attention to sustainable tourism

Innovation for sustainable tourism (0–10)

I i56(+)

Attention to sustainable tourism

Changing attitudes toward environment and the importance of protecting attractions (0–10)

I i57(+)

Stability of population level

Instability level of the region's population

I i58(‐)

Young population

The percentage of young population of the region

I i59(+)

old population

The percentage of old population of the region

I i60(‐)

The population density

The number of people per unit area

I i61(‐)

Stability of population level

The net rate of region migration

I i62(‐)

Stability of population level

Natural rate of population increase

I i63(‐)

The imposition of a foreign culture

The percentage of foreign population like Afghans in the region

I i64(‐)

Social tolerance capacity

tourists rate to the region's population (host community)

I i65(‐)

The impact of social conditions on longevity population

Life expectancy

I i66(+)

The region income level

The income per capita

I i67(+)

The family percentage using social utilities in region

The family percentage using social utilities in region (electricity)

I i68(+)

Understanding and cooperation

Mutual understanding and cooperation of local people with tourists (0–10)

I i69(+)

Elderly care

Assessment of elderly care facilities in tourism regions (0–10)

I i70(+)

Children care

Assessment of children care facilities in tourism regions (0–10)

I i71(+)

Unemployment rate

Unemployment rate of region

I i72(‐)

Tourism impact on residents

Local people imagination from services improvement because of tourism (0–10)

I i73(+)

Tourism impact on residents

Local people imagination from the adverse effects of tourism on local people's lifestyle (0–10)

I i74(‐)

Tourism impact on residents

Local people imagination from tourism impact on avoiding local people exit from region (0–10)

I i75(+)

Tourism impact on residents

Local people imagination from life quality improvement because of tourism increase in region (0–10)

I i76(+)

Tourists impression of quality of public services

Tourists impression of quality of public services (accommodation and transport facilities) (0–10)

I i77(+)

Hospitality and willingness to receive tourists

Hospitality assessment and willingness to receive tourists in the local community (0–10)

I i78(+)

Conservation, reconstruction and restoration of monuments and cultural heritage

Conservation budget, reconstruction and restoration of monuments and cultural heritage (per capita) (0–10)

I i79(+)

Environment improvement

Green space per capita

I i80(+)

Women's rights

Evaluation of improving women's rights (0–10)

I i81(+)

Labor rights and social security

Evaluation of improving labor rights and social security (0–10)

I i82(+)

Education level

Universities and higher education centers

I i83(+)

Education level

Population literacy rate

I i84(+)

Variety of handicrafts

Evaluation of the number and variety of handicrafts to attract tourists (0–10)

I i85(+)

Cultural-historic background

The number of cultural-historic sites (per unit area)

I i86(+)

Cultural-historic background

Local-traditional cultures

I i87(+)

Table 3

Economic indicators for sustainable tourism

Main factor


I ij (sign)

Tourism demand of region

Number of tourist

I i88(+)

Tourist length of stay

Average of length of stay

I i89(+)

Tourism income

The expense of one night stand of tourists

I i90(+)

Income distribution

ini coefficient

I i91(+)

Tourism satisfaction

The satisfaction of domestic tourists from the region (0–10)

I i92(+)

Tourism satisfaction

The satisfaction of foreigner tourists from the region (0–10)

I i93(+)

Tourism satisfaction

Positive imagination of tourists from the relationship between quality and services price in the region (0–10)

I i94(+)

Tourism satisfaction

The imagination of tourists from the relationship between quality and accommodation price (0–10)

I i95(+)

Tourism satisfaction

The imagination of tourists from the relationship between quality and restaurant price (0–10)

I i96(+)

Tourism satisfaction

Assessment work quality of staff in the tourism sector (hotels, restaurants, etc.) (0–10)

I i97(+)

Tourism satisfaction

Tourist's satisfaction from protected collections and regional cultural collection (0–10)

I i98(+)

Tourism information transparency

Tourists assessment of transparency of tourism information (0–10)

I i99(+)

Currency rate

he percentage of currency rate changes (foreigner tourists)

I i100(+)

Communication conditions

Telecommunication and post facilities (per capita)

I i101(+)

Communication conditions

Online communication (ADSL) (per capita)

I i102(+)

Tourism planning

Evaluation of tourism planning in region (0–10)

I i103(+)

Government participation with non-governmental organization

Evaluation of government participation with non-governmental organization about local tourism activities (0–10)

I i104(+)

People participation rate and local organization

Evaluation of people participation rate and local organization for providing and executing tourism plans (0–10)

I i105(+)

Providing official residence of tourism such as hotels and inns

Hotel and motel per capita

I i106(+)

Providing tourism official residence with high quality

Three, four and five star hotels per capita

I i107(+)

Providing restaurants with high quality food and services

Restaurant per capita

I i108(+)

Information access

Information centers for tourists (per capita)

I i109(+)

Information access

Regional tourism websites

I i110(+)

Information access

The number of newspapers and local magazines

I i111(+)

Information access

Assessment tourism pace in national and regional region (0–10)

I i112(+)

Tourism seasonal demand

The ratio of low season tourists to high season

I i113(+)

Number of employed staff in tourism sector

Number of hotel employed staff

I i114(+)

Relative share of tourism employment to total employment in destination

Hotel employment to total employment

I i115(+)

Tourism employment

The percentage of employed women in tourism sector

I i116(+)

Tourism employment

Local employment people in tourism sector

I i117(+)

Generated employment in services sector

Service sector employed/total employment

I i118(+)

Transportation services

Transportation equipment per capita

(+) I i119

Airport access

Having or not having airport

I i120(+)

Highway access

Highway length/total area of region

I i121(+)

Road access

Road length/total area of region

(+)I i122

Railroad access

Having or not having railroad

I i123(+)

The occupation rate of residential places

Average of occupation rate

(+)I i124

Regional tourist attractions

The number of natural and historical attractions/region area

I i125(+)

Constructed roads in region

Total road length network/region area

I i126(+)

Protecting cultural heritage

Budget of renovation and restoration of cultural heritage (per capita)

I i127(+)

Access to required credit for tourism agencies

Evaluation of access to required credit for tourism agencies (0–10)

I i128(+)

The impact of tourism on booming regional crafts

Evaluation of local people's views from the impact of tourism on booming regional crafts (0–10)

I i129(+)

Composite indicator of sustainable tourism

Composite indicator of sustainable tourism was calculated using the principal component analysis (PCA) defined as follows; N is the destination and J is the main factor that had indicator with I ij value. At first step, indicators were presented and in the second step the value of each indicator was calculated (quantitative indicators by existing information and data and qualitative indicators using experts' opinions). In the third step, indicators were normalized using Eq. 1 [9, 16]:
$$ I{N}_{ij}=\frac{I_{ij}- min}{max- min} $$
It caused all values to be between 0 and 1 and did not affect the results. When the system became normal, finally Eq. 2 was used to make the composite indicator:
$$ D P{C}_i={\displaystyle \sum_{j=1}^q}\left[ V{E}_j\left({\displaystyle \sum_{i=1}^p} I{N}_{i j}\left| Cor{r}_{j i}\right|\right)\right] $$

i = 1,…, n, where n is the number of observations, p is the number of main indicators, q is the number factors and main selected component, VEj is the explained variance by jth component, corrij is correlation between ith indicator and jth component. INij is the value of normal indicator and finally calculating DPCi (distance-principal component) that the value more than DPCi shows the higher sustainability in each dimension. The composite indicator of sustainable tourism is easily interpretable so it did not need to understand the complex computing relationship.

Using made DPC indicator, the general sustainability indicator was analyzed in the next step by maximizing the target function for each destination by linear programming [16]:
$$ L P D P{C}_i= M a{x}_w{\displaystyle {\sum}_{j=1}^d{w}_j^i} D P{C}_{i j} $$
Subject to:
$$ \begin{array}{l}\begin{array}{cc}\hfill {\displaystyle \sum_{j=1}^d}{w}_j^i DP{C}_{i j}\le 1\hfill & \hfill\ i=1,\dots, n\hfill \end{array}\hfill \\ {}\begin{array}{ccc}\hfill {w}_j^i DP{C}_{i j}\ge {\omega}_i\hfill & \hfill\ i=1,\dots, n\hfill & \hfill j=1,\dots, d\hfill \end{array}\hfill \\ {}\begin{array}{cc}\hfill {w}_j^i\ge 0\hfill & \hfill j=1,\dots, d\hfill \end{array}\hfill \end{array} $$

Where w j i are the weights for the observations i, d is the number of tourism dimension in this study: social, economic and environmental aspect environmental health, DPC ij is the sustainable indicator in tourism dimension (calculated by Eq. 2. represents the jth dimension indicator for the ith observation) in tourism destination. \( {\omega}_i \) is a real number (the minimum allowed weight provided by experts). This restriction caused all aspects (dimensions) of sustainable tourism to be considered. The advantage of this method was that the weights were determined by programming model and their views were not involved. LPDPC i (Linear programming distance-principal component). The indicator value (LPDPC i ) was between zero and one [16]. Number one represented the best and the most stable situation and zero represented the worst stable situation. LPDPC i was calculated with the aim of maximizing the stability at each destination by using DPCij indicator, accordingly, destinations could be ranked and the highest and lowest sustainable places could be identified.

Gams, SPSS, Excel software and statistical methods were used to analyze data.


Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (stability) was calculated 0.9, so stability was acceptable and confirmed validity questionnaires.

Sustainable results in all tourism dimensions (environmental health, social and economic) were presented in Table 4 and Fig. 2; they showed all aspects of the low level of sustainability (0 was the worst situation and 1 was the best conditions) and environmental dimension (so environmental health) of sustainability was the most inappropriate situation. Using a linear programming model and experts’ survey, results of sustainability in tourism destinations (6 cities under study) were shown in Table 5. Moreover, Fig. 3; compared the sustainability of tourism destinations.
Table 4

Tourism dimensional (aspects) sustainability


Social DPC


Economic DPC


Environmental & Environmental health DPC












































Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Sustainability dimensions of sustainable tourism

Table 5

Tourism sustainability destinations


Weight average (level sustainability)

Sustainability ranking


Sustainability ranking































Fig. 3
Fig. 3

The sustainability of tourism destinations by weight average and linear programming method


Tourists travel to tourist destinations or regions that have both regional attractions and life, financial and health security. Although tourists travel with different purposes, they consider public health a very important issue and prefer to travel to areas with safer environment. Tourist regions that have air and water pollution cannot retain the tourists’ health and therefore cannot attract tourists and will be far away from the sustainable development goals. Water pollution is a major issue because contaminated water disrupts the balance of the ecosystem and brings irreparable damages to it. The quality of drinking water has a significant impact on public health. One of the major concerns of tourists is water pollution because of its toxic effects on humans, animals and plants (and subsequently food contamination). Water pollution contaminates the agricultural lands, crops and livestock, produces unhealthy food and threatens the public health. Improving water quality and reducing the pollution is important for two reasons both of which are essential in terms of tourism: 1. human health (residents and tourists) and 2. Environmental protection. Air pollution endangers human and animal health and even vegetation, causes erosion and threatens historic monuments and cultural heritage. In recent decades, air pollution and smog have become an environmental problem especially in big cities; nowadays, tiny dust particles have also worsened the situation. Therefore, it is necessary to consider air pollution seriously so as to boost sustainable tourism industry. It is obvious that areas with high pollution will not be chosen for tourism. Since tourists use fossil fuel (concerning high consumption of such fuels in Iran transportation system) for their transportation, the environment will be severely damaged. Noise pollution is also an important factor in tourism because increased noise can increase stress and cause severe crisis for people. Therefore, this indicator is considered an important factor influencing tourism because cities with high noise pollution cannot become target destinations for tourists who seek recreation and leisure. Municipal wastes and effluents, sewage and wastes destroy the appearance of cities and tourist regions and are the cause of increased air and water pollution. Thus, when the environmental management (such as wastewater management, waste water and waste disposal) is inefficient, the possibility of attracting tourists is low. It is a mutual relationship between tourism and pollution; if there is high contamination in the area, it will endanger the health of tourists and residents and therefore tourists lose their intentions to travel to these regions. On the other hand, the mass presence of tourists (untrained and unmanaged) will increase the production of waste and increase air and water pollution. Therefore, it is necessary to consider a proper wastewater treatment system and a garbage collection system as indicators of sustainability. Soil erosion by water and wind reduces the soil fertility and soil structure degradation and permeability, creates ugly scenes, increases the likelihood of flooding and sediment production, harms the nature, the environment and the economy and reduces tourist attractions. It must be noted that most cities of Kerman have desert attractions in which erosion is completely obvious; this reduces tourism in these areas. The maintenance of biodiversity and health of plant and animal species lead to equitable distribution of biological resources between generations, and its sustainability can increase the livelihood opportunities of people from different ways like the ecotourism in a healthy environment. Tourism and biodiversity are interconnected; if we only look at it from the economical point of view, developing tourism without proper management is a threat to biodiversity of region; when we lose the health of species and biodiversity, the region will lose its capability of attracting tourists and their economic value creation. Also, preserving rare and endangered plant and animal species could attract ecotourism in a good way. Therefore, it is necessary to consider these factors in sustainable tourism. Different urban areas require the development of green space to be able to maintain their stability. Green spaces have ecological and environmental functions, partly deal with air pollution and improve their standard of living and tourism in which the density construction must also be taken into consideration to preserve the balance of nature. The green space per capita is one of the most important indicators of development of the societies in which the index of green space per capita must be considered in sustainability issue. The administrative environmental systems and improved management are essential to reduce the negative impacts of tourism activities. In general, vitality of ecosystem is a competitive factor attracting tourists in different tourism destinations.

The present study showed that unfortunately the opportunities for tourism were not used appropriately in the city and tourist destinations concerning sustainable development goals. Having multiple factors and tourist attractions, Kerman couldn’t attract many tourists, and these cities were not able to have a proper tourist attraction. Moreover, most indicators of these cities did not have appropriate levels (average sustainability 0.5). Therefore, these indicators were the tools to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of tourist attraction and the sustainable tourism levels in these cities. Thus, it could be concluded that the social dimension had the highest sustainability rank, while the environmental dimension had the lowest one; it showed low importance of the environmental dimension among these destinations. The results of this study were inconsistent (as expected) with the results of studies conducted by Blancas et al. [9], perez et al.[16] and Lozano-Oyola et al. [17] due to strong sustainable development, environmental protection and health issues in developed countries compared to the developing countries.


Based on the studies conducted in this area, sustainable tourism has various environmental health, social – cultural and economic aspects. Therefore, to assess sustainable tourism in intended cities according to the sustainable development goals, it is necessary to consider an inclusive and comprehensive system of parameters and use this analysis deeply in the sustainable tourism. The results indicated that none of the intended cities had acceptable sustainable levels, and that they were far from it. Moreover, they revealed that the environmental aspect was not considered seriously and was much worse than other aspects. One of the essential factors was giving free environmental services and nature to human beings that led to inappropriate overuse, destruction and reduction of the levels of environmental health and environmental sustainability. Having found the ranking of cities by these indicators, the sustainable tourism of cities can improve using good policies and plans made by policy-makers and managers. If the environmental health aspect is taken into more account, the sustainability level will increase significantly. The relationship between tourism and the environmental health should be organized toward sustainable development so that we can have stable environment in the long term and we should not let tourism destroy natural resources and damage job creation in future. Since most data was quantitative in making composite indicators, the reliability and comparability of destinations would increase. Therefore, this method is one of the most appropriate methods which can be used to analyzed sustainable tourism, sustainable health environment and environment of destinations and can be a way to achieve sustainable development.



Distance- principal component


Linear programming distance-principal component


Principal component analysis


World tourism organization



This research was part of a Ph.D dissertation of the first author and the authors would like to express their thanks to Tourism and environmentalists experts’ guidance.


Not applicable.

Availability of data and materials

The authors do not wish to share their data. All the necessary data have been mentioned in the paper. If other researchers need our data for their studies, they can contact with first Author via email.

Authors’ contributions

MZ was the main investigator and has participated in all stages of the study (design of the study, collected the data, analyzing of data and manuscript preparation). MM was an advisor of the study and participated in the intellectual helping in different stages of the study. MRZM supervised the study and performed data collection and carried out technical analysis. AMJ and HMB were advisors of the study and participated in the intellectual helping in different stages of the study. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

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Authors’ Affiliations

Economics of natural resources and Environment, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Kerman, Iran
Environmental Health Engineering Research Center and Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Kerman, Iran
Economics of Natural Resources and Environment, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Kerman, Iran
International Economics, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Kerman, Iran
Agricultural Economics-agricultural policy and development, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Kerman, Iran


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