The life cycle approach (LCA) is considered as a useful descriptive and normative tool for analysing the development of destinations and the evolution of markets. A case study of the Island of Sardinia (Italy) highlights the utility of the LC A approach because this region provides a long run indicator, in terms of nights of stay, number of beds and accommodation for approximately fifty years of tourist activity and, through out this span of time, the Island has experienced several stages of the life cycle. One of the aims of this paper is to verify the lag between tourist cons umption and tourist supply. An econometric and descriptive approach has detected heterogeneities between the domestic and international tourist life cycle. The main result is th at in recent years Sardinian tourism is experiencing a declining stage of domestic demand and a maturity stage for international demand. Supply denotes a stable growth in terms of number of accommodation, whereas since the Seventies capacity has increased more than demand. Moreover, the paper shows th at the dynamics of tourist demand are strictly dependent on the local public policy maker’s actions and socio-economic changes. Furthermore, the development of the accommodation sector is triggered by several factors. In the last few years numerous changes have occurred in Sardinia in terms of transportation (e.g. low cost airlines), information technology advancements and public policy implemen tation that have influenced the preferences of tourists; nevertheless, the divergence between de mand and supply within the life cycle framework introduces the critical question: what is the importance of a long run economic planning and the sustainability of tourism production?
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