From a Drone's Eye View: Indicators of Overtourism in a Sea, Sun, and Sand Destination

Brian Szuster, Mark D. Needham, Laura Lesar, Qi Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines overtourism indicators at Kailua Beach Park in Hawaiʻi, and demonstrates a systematic approach to assessing carrying capacity by pairing descriptive indicators with more commonly used evaluative indicators. Data were obtained from an onsite survey of 452 visitors. Questionnaires with embedded photographs measured visitors’ perceived encounters, norms, and crowding (evaluative indicators), while an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was used to collect actual use levels at the site (descriptive indicator). In total, 63% of respondents felt crowded at this site, suggesting that it is nearing over-capacity. Respondent norms showed that no more than approximately 950 peo- ple should be allowed. Use levels exceeding 700 people caused respondents to feel moderately or extremely crowded, yet use levels commonly exceeded this threshold. Standards representing these numeric thresholds should be set at this site, and management action is critical (e.g., quotas, reservations, fees, encourage alternative sites). This research contributes to the literature by demonstrating the importance of all four indicators (use levels, encounters, norms, crowding) when investigating overtourism issues, and the potential of UAVs to support the measurement of descriptive indicators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1538-1555
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number7
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • beach tourism
  • crowding
  • Indicators
  • overtourism
  • UAV
  • use level


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