In Toulouse, Murmura fights the impact of tourism

Based in Toulouse for over three years, start-up Murmuration is developing a map to indicate the maximum number of tourists a natural site can accommodate without negatively impacting the environment.

Start-up Murmuration, based in Toulouse, is developing a solution to limit the environmental impact of tourism. CC0 Hippopx

A solution to limit the environmental impact of mass tourism. The start-up Murmuration, based in the La Cité de Toulouse incubator, is currently working on the design of an interactive map to indicate the maximum number of visitors a site can accommodate, without risk of destroying it. For this, the company crosses data provided by the telephone operator Orange, which makes it possible to assess population movements, with satellite data provided by the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes), to determine the environmental impact of tourist visits to a specific destination.

Specifically, if in July a large number of visitors arrive at a resort on the Mediterranean coast, such as Cap d’Agde, Murmuration could say at what point the quality of air, water and biodiversity deteriorates🇧🇷 “The objective is that, thanks to these results, the communities can define a limit of tourists not to be exceeded in the same place, during a certain period”, explains Cathy Sahuc, general manager of Murmuration.

The project is only in its infancy. The first data on a tourist spot in Occitania – which has not yet been chosen for the experiment – ​​should be published next spring.

Using satellite data to limit the environmental impact of tourism

Start-up Murmuration was created in March 2019 by Cathy Sahuc and Tarek Habib, two space engineers. “At that time, much was discussed about the environmental impact of mass tourism. And we realized that satellite data, which we were already using in our respective jobs, could be used to give more information on the environmental status of territories according to tourist flows🇧🇷 So we said to ourselves that it would be interesting to be able to transmit this data to institutions, communities and territorial structures, and in particular to tourism stakeholders, to help them to better anticipate risks degradation of the environment, already aware of the impact that the arrival of tourists to a certain place can have”, explains the co-founder of the company.

Particularly in Occitania, “tourist places play a a very important economic role🇧🇷 Therefore, it is essential to preserve them. If a site is completely destroyed by visitors and it closes, many people risk losing their jobs,” continues Cathy Sahuc, who works collaboratively with around twenty engineers, researchers and computer scientists within the start-up. 🇧🇷 Her name, “Murmurando”, refers to the union of birds in the sky, which join in flight to appear bigger, stronger. “We also want create a community around sustainable tourismto fight, in a bigger and stronger way, against climate change”, he adds.

Murmuration has developed a website that references sustainable tourism actors

Back in 2019, the first project Murmuration worked on to try and limit the environmental impact of tourism was called “Flockeo”. Accessible to the general public, the latter is a online platform that references sustainable tourism stakeholders In all world. “The idea is to offer tourists the possibility of spending their holidays in compromised accommodation, but also to use agencies or guides that pay special attention to preserving the environment”, stresses Cathy Sahuc. Each of these establishments pays a subscription, up to 60 euros per year, to be mentioned on the website.

An interactive map is also available on Flockeo. It tells Internet users which places are the most frequented, protected places, urbanized areas, air quality and the water resources of the territories🇧🇷 The intention is thus to encourage holidaymakers to favor holidays in Normandy during the summer period, to the detriment of the Atlantic coast, so as not to aggravate the environmental pressure exerted by tourists present in large numbers on the beaches during the summer.

Dashboards for communities

Toulouse Murmuration Environmental Impact Tourism
An example of a panel providing information about the environment and tourism infrastructure in Occitania © Murmuration

Murmuration also offers the design of custom panels for tourism players or local authorities who want to limit their environmental impact. Inside, maps and charts provide more information on: water quality (turbidity, algae) air quality (pollutants), the weather (temperatures, meteorological phenomena), the biodiversity (vegetation health, deforestation) and urbanization (artificialization of soils, cold islands).

“This information may, for example, allow measuring the environmental impact of local policies, such as the gradual implementation of the Low Emission Zone (ZFE) in Toulouse, the creation of islands of freshness in city centres, the construction of hotel complexes on the outskirts, etc.”, gives the example of the company’s co-founder. Furthermore, this satellite data provides an overview of the long-term evolution of a territory. They indicate, in particular, the progression of urbanization of a city over the last 30 years. And it can give climate predictions up to 2100.

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