The environmental impact of tourism and development was evaluated from socio-economic point of view and an optimum strategy evolved. It was important to take a holistic approach and to analyse and address as many elements as possible in designing methods for monitoring, planning and management. The first methodology considered was existing sources of data. It is usually possible to access published statistics for example on population statistics, employment rates and tourism trends. It was also important to check for any specialist studies which may have been carried out by government organisations, voluntary organisations and academics. The analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) is a common technique in socio-economic contexts. It was used as a preliminary tool to identify and assemble a range of positive and negative issues, including opinions from a range of different people. The technique is very simple, but provides a useful starting point for the socio-economic research. It enables an initial assessment of the constraints and potentialities of each site. The initial SWOT analyses can be used at later stages to prompt responses and clarify differences of opinions between stakeholders. Various types of data were collected through observational surveys conducted at each beach site. Firstly it was important to record the numbers of beach users over time and to distinguish between recreational users and any local people using the beach as part of their business or normal daily lives. Thus regular counts were taken of people on the beach during each day of survey. In addition to exact numbers, other data were collected such as the types of activities taking place, the types of visitors present and any conflicts or problems observed. Data were recorded on specially designed record sheets and photographic records were also taken each hour. In order to monitor the characteristics and views of visitors to beach environments one of the most commonly used methods is a visitor survey. Visitors were interviewed using a standard questionnaire. Examples of issues in each sector were identified in terms of the value of beach environments, the impacts of human activity, infrastructure, management regimes and how governance systems influence each sector. It is important to consider issues of scale when examining impacts. Some human activities will have localised impacts (such as litter), others will affect a much wider area (such as employment of people from the local area or the construction of a dam). Other aspects such as governance systems affect beach management at a national or even international scale. For a socio-economic analysis it was essential to identify all stakeholders or stakeholder groups, i.e. those who have an interest in the beach environment being studied, such as owners, local and national government, management agencies, local businesses e.g. fishing, tourism, recreation, local residents, visitors, conservation groups, voluntary organisations and the scientific community. A range of potential socio-economic indicators were identified to monitor changes.
During the MECO project we had difficulty sourcing economic information about the sites. We therefore undertook some basic estimates of the levels of employment and revenue generation in the close vicinity to each site. Finally the need for integrated and wide-ranging assessments of the environmental, social and economic sectors has been proposed. Complete integration was not possible but the aim has been to develop more integrated approaches and to improve integration in all aspects of monitoring and management.