In tourism and recreation management it is still common practice to apply traditional input–output (IO) economic impact models, despite their well-known limitations. In this study the authors analyse the usefulness of applying a non-linear input–output (NLIO) model, in which price-induced input substitution is accounted for. For large changes in final demand, a NLIO model is more useful than a traditional IO model, leading to higher or lower impacts. For small changes in final demand input substitution is less likely. In that case the application of the NLIO may lead to the same results as a traditional IO model. To analyse changes of subsidies, a traditional IO model is not an option. A more flexible model, such as the NLIO, is required. The NLIO model forces researchers to make choices about capacity constraints, factor mobility and the substitution elasticity, which can be difficult but create flexibility and allow for more realism.