Impact of tourism

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Impact of tourism

This section covers the effects of tourism on the environment, economy and culture of places in the developed and developing world. The case studies used are:

  1. Goa: West India, Tourism gone wrong
  2. Zimbabwe: Central Africa, a good example of sustainable tourism
  3. Bristol: On going tourism development aimed at regenerating areas of the city
  4. Snowdonia: Management in a national park

Of course you can use any Case Studies covered in your course.

Tourism will have an affect on the environment. The extent and nature of the affect will depend on the management of the scheme.

Positive effects of tourism on the environment

It is possible for tourism to be good for the environment. Sustainable tourism attempts to use the resources available whilst also conserving them for the future. If sustainable tourism can be developed, the money generated can be used to repair and improve the natural or built environment. An example could be the regeneration of a derelict yet historic building for the purposes of tourism.


Tourism can also be used to educate people and raise awareness of the importance of environments - hopefully securing their future.

One of the biggest growth areas in tourism is eco-tourism. This is where the package has a definite environmental focus. Their recent growth has been as a response to the negative effects tourism can have on a natural environment. It attempts to give people a unique experience by immersing them into a new environment. Group sizes are small and local guides are employed, local produce is cooked and local materials used. The aim is minimise the effects of the tourists whilst educating them about its special nature.

Note: You need to be able to discuss the positive and negative effects of tourism on your environments using case studies.

Negative effects of tourism on the environment

If miss-managed, tourism can have negative effects on the built or natural environment. This occurs when the volume of tourists exceed the environment's carrying capacity. The carrying capacity of an environment is the number of visitors that environment can receive without causing damage to that environment.

The carrying capacity is difficult to define, as it is dependant on value judgement.

Carrying capacity

Who decides when the number of tourists has a direct link to the annihilation of the very thing that they have come to visit?

Negative effects of tourism on the environment include footpath erosion - the Pennine way in places is now 1km wide. In Snowdonia, footpaths are up to six feet deep! Tourism can also have more serious effects on the environment. In Goa, the arrival of package tourism has destroyed local water supplies, led to the removal of Mangrove swamps and polluted the seas. (See Case Study link.)

Test your knowledge by completing a summary table similar to this...

Effects of tourism on the environment:
Case Study: Positive effects: Negative effects:
Operation campfire Wildlife populations controlled. Tourism across the country has increased. Some of it is not so well managed. For example, White water rafting is eroding the banks of the Zambezi.
Migratory routes re-opened. Other safaris can get to close to animals in order to get the best photograph. Effects of this have included disruption of the breeding season.
Money spent on local projects. For example, Hospitals. Jeeps can lead to erosion of soil.
Goa Hotel management courses set up by government. Destruction of Mangrove swamps.
Provides jobs. Introduction of drugs, prostitution and AIDS.
Less polluting than other options. Untreated sewage pumped into the sea.
Bristol harbour-side Listed buildings renovated. Increased traffic levels.
Thousands of jobs created. Possible problems in times of recession.
Provides a new of thriving mixed commercial area with residential, services and leisure facilities. Money could have been targeted at residential areas in need of improving.
Snowdonia national park Provides an alternative income for farmers in times of recession. Footpath erosion.
Raise public awareness of importance of natural environments. Conflict can arise between tourists and locals.
Reducing migration out of area. House prices can be pushed up as there is a demand for holiday homes.

Positive effects of tourism on the economy

One of the main reasons for the huge growth in tourism is the positive effect it can have on the economy of an area. The nature of the industry means that it provides many jobs and generates substantial revenue. This can be particularly important for less developing countries as it provides a valuable source of foreign revenue.

To evaluate the success of tourism you need to look at where the money generated goes. If it is invested locally on new services such as infrastructure, schools and local projects, then any money generated by tourism is having a positive effect on the local economy and society. The jobs generated should also go to the locals so that the economy will benefit from the multiplier effect. (See Operation Campfire.)

Schools in developing countries

Other positive effects can be seen in the Bristol Harbour-side regeneration. If you do not have a Case Study of tourism as a tool of regeneration then it is recommended that you study the Case Study link.

Negative effects of tourism on the economy

The negative effects of tourism for an economy are determined by the distribution of the money generated and the allocation of jobs. We use the term 'leakage' to help explain this. Leakage is the amount of money that escapes (whether directly or indirectly) from the local economy. For example, if a British tour company owns an overseas hotel it is possible that:

  1. The management of the resort are British so a percentage of their wages will be leakage - especially if they are on a fixed contract for maybe a year or two.
  2. British staff are employed to run the hotel on a seasonal basis. Therefore a large percentage of their income will eventually be spent in the British economy.
  3. Some tour operators export food to their hotels so suppliers in the UK benefit instead of the local suppliers.

There is a situation in Goa where one company owns the hotel, coach and airline. So the holiday is booked in Germany (travel agent takes a cut), the tourists fly on a German airline, are met by that company's employee, taken on the company's bus to the company's hotel. It is clear to see how little of the money spent by the tourists will get into the Goan economy!

For more Case Study details see Goa.

Positive effects of tourism on culture

It is inevitable that tourism will have a major effect on the culture and society of an area. By promoting tourism you are encouraging contact between different cultures. Indeed many people deliberately choose to experience a culture very different to their own.

Here follows a list of five positive effects of tourism. For Case Study examples then check out Operation Campfire for the positive examples and Goa for the negative examples.

1. For many, the experience of different cultures is seen as an enriching and educating one. The benefits can be felt by the hosts and the visitors.

2. The breaking down of prejudices as people experience other cultures and societies. This is directly linked to the fact that most prejudice is a consequence of ignorance.

3. The strengthening of a culture as that culture becomes supported by tourism - (see Operation Campfire).

4. Reduction in the dilution of culture as locals don't have to migrate to find work.

Positive effects

5. The emancipation of women in the receiving culture as they witness the lives of women from western society.

Negative effects of tourism on culture

Unfortunately, tourism can have a very negative effect on culture and society. Check out the Goa Case Study. This occurs as one culture fails to treat the other with the respect it deserves. Five negative effects are:

  1. Cultural erosion as traditional ceremonies are performed for tourists their cultural or religious importance is diminished.
  2. Traditional industry that is very important to the culture can be forced to close as they are seen as detrimental to the tourist industry.
  3. Traditional cultures are abandoned as young people look to foreign cultures for their role models.
  4. Cultures are destroyed as drugs, child prostitution, HIV are introduced as a side effect of tourism.
  5. Locals can resent the tourists as they fail to pay local culture the necessary respect.

Note: It is important that you can discuss the effects of tourism both positive and negative on environment, economy and culture. You should also be able to refer to specific case studies in the developed and developing world. In the exam you may just have a few marks allocated to this section but it is also possible that you will have a discussive essay. See the questions section for further information.

You can link this section very easily to the positive effects of tourism discussed earlier.


Following de-industrialisation, many regions of the developed world found areas of their economies in terminal decline. Unemployment was running at all time highs, there was social unrest in many cities and vast areas of land were left derelict.

Tourism has the potential to breathe life into an otherwise declining economy.

The advantages are that it is a labour intensive industry so will provide a large number of jobs. It will also provide jobs indirectly through the building industry or maybe catering industry. In addition to this if an area is going to invest in tourism then a lot of that investment will go into the local environment improving an otherwise rundown area, into the infrastructure, into services for the tourists and locals. The jobs provided will need a variety of skills from managers to waiters, guides to cleaners. There is therefore great potential for a positive multiplier throughout the economy.

Within this section you will need to be able to:

  1. Identify a region that has been regenerated through tourism.
  2. Explain why that region needed regeneration.
  3. Discuss what has been done, for example, the various projects.
  4. Evaluate the successes and failures of the regeneration.

If you do not have a Case Study for this, use Bristol's harbour-side.