UNWTO secretary General Taleb Rifai stated in 2017 that, “Tourism is a major
economic engine and employment generator, contributing to the improvement of
livelihoods of millions of people around the world” (UNWTO, International
Tourism on a track for a record year, 2017).
The numbers support this statement,
in 2016 the international tourist arrivals reached the number of 1235 million
people, in 2017 there is an expected increase of 7%, in the period between
January and August already 901 million international tourists stayed overnight
in foreign destinations all over the world. The generated income due to tourism
in 2016 was in total 1220 billion US Dollar (UNWTO, 2017). Furthermore, it is
the eights year in a row of continued growth for international tourism,
consequently more and more new destinations arise and new forms and sub forms
of tourism arises as well. These numbers indicate the big impact of tourism and
the positive points of it.
But is this statement really the
complete truth or is it just part of a whole complex picture?
This assignment is dealing with question
“Is Tourism a blessing or a curse?”, and is therefore going to indicate
economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts, which arises due to tourism
and can be either positive or negative for the destination and its local
community. In the following, I will provide a deeper insight in two particular
dilemmas, which come along with this tourism. These specific forms of tourism
are Cruise tourism and Wildlife tourism. Finally, in the conclusion I will
state if tourism is rather a blessing or curse in my point of view and reflect
on the statement, “My personal contribution as a tourist, student and
future professional to develop responsible tourism practices”.
According to Page and Connell (2004)
impacts of tourism on the host community in regard to their scope, effect and
extent are a multifaceted issue. These elements vary in their effect and
intensity based on their location and environment.
Starting up with economic impacts,
often mainly the benefits of tourism comes in mind. As stated by Ryan (2003),
the benefits are earning of foreign exchange, as a result of the spending of
foreign visitors. Furthermore, taxation revenue that is generated by the
expenditure of tourists and also the direct tax on visitors is beneficial and
generates income for the government of the country. Besides a distribution and
supply chain can get established, due to the spending of the tourists the local
businesses need to buy new goods and supplies, as for instance food which the
businesses can buy from local suppliers. Another positive impact is called
´externalities´, externalities are for example, transportation services, port
expenditure or airports, which would not generate income without tourism. Moreover,
as stated by Ryan (2003) the currency rate can get positively influenced by
incoming tourists. Lastly, employment is one of the biggest positive impacts of
tourism (Ryan, 2003). In addition, Page and Connell (2014), mentioned three
different types of employment, which can be either:
Direct employment – Jobs established as an
outcome of the tourist’s expenditure and directly support the tourism businesses
Indirect employment – Jobs developed within the
tourism supply, as a result of the growing importance of tourism, but, not
directly as an outcome of tourism.
Induced employment – Jobs developed as a result
of the tourist’s expenditure, which is used by the local community to purchase
goods and services from local suppliers.
According to Ryan (2003), in both,
developed and lesser developed countries, governments and authorities as a
significant influence of generating employment and income. Furthermore,
Mitchell and Ashley (2010) state that tourism have a significant effect on the
economic enhancement of less developed countries, but more meaning in terms of
poverty reduction, when tourism enterprises and supply chains are set up by
However even though tourism can
affect a destination and the local population economically in a very positive
way, it could also have negative impacts. One big issue in tourism is
seasonality, even though the income within the high season might be very high,
the generated income must guarantee living for the whole year. Moreover, a lot of
employees that work in the tourism industry have jobs only for a fixed period
in the year and some tourism facilities, as for instance shops or hotels might
close completely during the low season. This leads to the next point, the
dependency of tourism, it is always a dangerous strategy to count on only on
one industry. The reliance on tourism is especially visible in less developed
countries (LDC). Furthermore, economic leakage is a big problem, the settlement
of large, international operating companies, as for instance hotel chains and franchise
businesses, in LDC, lead to, that most of the generated revenues often do not stay
in the national economy. Due to such leakages, it prevents nations from
prospering economically and does not benefit local entrepreneurs or the residents
of a destination. Another leakage arises with the importation of goods from outside
the country, rather than purchasing local goods, it brakes the financial prospering
and chance for local entrepreneurs to generate an acceptable income in other
non-tourism related industries. Lastly one more negative impact could be
inflation, increasing interest of tourists in the destination and the higher
demand for land, goods and property lead to higher prices, which is a negative
financial impact for locals and especially those who are not involved in
tourism (Page & Connell, 2014).
Moreover, tourism has also a huge socio-cultural
impact, it is linked to changes in societal value systems, social relationships,
behavior and patterns of an individual, lifestyles, styles of expression and structures
of the community. Besides the extent of the impact is influenced, according to
Page and Connell (2014), to various factors. The first factor is the types and
numbers of tourists, that means if the number of incoming tourists is
proportionally really high in comparison to the number of local inhabitants,
the impact is bigger. In addition, those visitors who engage with locals and
local services have also a higher impact in comparison to tourists who making
use of mass tourism resorts. Moreover, the importance or respectively
dependency on tourism in the region is a significant indicator of the
socio-cultural impact, if the dependency is higher the impact is also higher.
Furthermore, the development stage of the tourism at the destination shows the
impact, regarding the destination lifecycle of Butler (1980), within the
development stage the impact is bigger, due to the growing and enlargement of
already existing facilities and changes that take place (BBC, n.d.). Finally, the last big factor that determines
the extent of a socio-cultural impact is the pace of the tourism development,
at some destinations the growth of tourism facilities has been extremely fast,
and uncontrolled. Consequently, the socio-cultural impact is higher.
Besides another significant
socio-cultural impact is called acculturalization, it means that interaction
between different cultures results in sharing and adoption of one another’s
values and attitudes (Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010). However, a big concern is
that when a culturally weak society, as for instance one society from a
developing country interacts with a culturally strong society from the Western
world, the standards and values are shifted to the weaker nation.
According to Raymond and Hall
(2008), tourism can unite people across the outlines of nationalities and
cultural backgrounds and might positively adjust the relationships between
members of communities from different origins, enables both sides a better
understanding of the differences and similarities, which results in a decrease
of conflicts. Furthermore, as claimed by Page and Connell (2014) a positive way
of acculturalization results into conservation and regeneration of traditional
culture practices, this process can get supported by providing financial aid
and stimulating community pride.
However as stated by Caton (2013),
the acculturalization can also take place in a negative way, on the basis of
empirical research it was demonstrated that stereotyping is a big problem of
western visitors that interact with locals from a less developed country.
Tourists from western countries contribute to the creation of an image of
non-western people and cultures, which are regarded as exotic, morally inferior,
primitive, submissive and sensual and lastly dependent on the western world.
This makes a social interaction on a same level and with a positive outcome
more difficult and can result in the transformation of cultural rituals or events
into commercialized products or shows, that become meaningless. Culture might be
played down or on the other hand extremely exaggerated, due to tourism in order
to make it an attractive product for tourists to consume.
Coming to now the last big pillar, the impact of tourism on the
The environment gets regarded as a
main resource and attraction for tourism. According to Mason (2016), the tourism-environment-relationship
is a multifaceted issue. Furthermore, Williams (1988), (as cited in Mason 2016),
claim that this relationship should be beneficial for both sites, the tourist
profit from an environment that is in good shape and quality and the
environment is supposed to benefit from measures and financial support that
help the protection and conservation to maintain its value. However, in the
1960s, with the beginning of mass tourism it became clearly evident that the
relationship between those two elements gets unbalanced. Besides as stated by
Mason (2015), the extent of the impact is dependent from different factors. The
first factor is where the tourism take place, some destinations are more
vulnerable to interference in comparison to others. The second factor is the
type of tourism activity, for instance a sightseeing bus in an urban
destination has not such a big impact, in comparison to an off-road hiking tour
in the mountains or for instance tourism that involves hunting or fishing. Moreover,
the nature of tourist infrastructure is also an important factor. Big mass
tourism facilities for example at the Mediterranean coast have a higher impact
compared to small, guided trekking tours in the mountains (Mason, 2016).
So according to Mason (2016), there
are positive impacts of tourism as well as negative ones.
First of all, tourism generates
money at the destinations, due to entry fees for example. Moreover, tourism can
promote measures to protect the environment/ landscape and wildlife and support
the establishments of national parks and protected wildlife reserves. Furthermore,
it can stimulate the conservation of monuments and buildings, e.g. UNESCO’s
World Heritage Sites.
Nonetheless, the environmental
impacts of tourism can also be negative. Tourism produces a lot of waste, as
for example on cruise ships, in addition tourists are likely to drop their
garbage anywhere and this pollutes the environment. In regard to pollution,
tourism may cause pollution of beaches and can lead to an overuse on water as
for example at the Mediterranean cost during the high season. Furthermore,
tourism can interfere in protected nature areas and disturb the wildlife there
(Robinson, 2009). Besides, tourism does not only negatively impact the
ecosystem, it could also overcrowd destinations and their transport system. In
addition, if there is a high interest in a specific destination, it can lead to
(uncontrolled) building of tourism facilities, such as big hotel resorts, that
do not fit in the existent or sometimes even historic structure (Mason, 2016).
There are many dilemmas when it
comes to tourism, I will explain the impact with the examples of cruise tourism
Starting up with the first dilemma,
that comes along with cruise tourism. It is the fastest growing tourism sector
around the world (Page and Connell, 2014). However, cruise tourism has negative impacts
that overweight the positive aspects. The capacity ratio rises and the
AIDAperla for instance can host 3300 people. If all the people leave the ship
at the same time and different cruise lines make their stop at the same time,
cities such as Barcelona or Venice gets really overcrowded, as well as their
public transportation system. In the economic point of view, the benefit for
the destinations is generated from the income of the externalities, such as the
port. Nonetheless the city itself is heavily impacted by the visitor pressure
and the spending of the visitors is relatively small, due to the fact that they
are only day trippers and return back on the ship in the evening. Consequently,
the local economy is not really benefiting from these tourists. Lastly the
environmental aspect, cruise ships are massive floating hotels and consume a
huge amount of energy, create waste on the scale of a small city and contribute
to air pollution. However, the waste is the biggest problem, it is a common
practice to dump the waste in the open ocean and interferes in a highly
sensitive ecosystem. Although some garbage is taken off from the ships for
recycling, the amount is beyond the capacity of many ports in the world (Mason,
2016). Moreover, the historic city of Venice is extremely suffering, from
cruise tourism since every incoming ship causes erosion of the mudflats, sediment
loss and damages the sensitive lagoon system in the long-term. As a
consequence, the status of a world heritage site is decreasing and UNESCO threatening
to put it on the heritage in danger list (The Guardian, 2017).
The second dilemma comes into
action, when tourists visit indigenous people, the film framing the others,
shows what an extreme negative impact tourism can have. The visitors exploit,
in this case the Mursi tribe, because they are not willing to pay the requested
amount of money. Although the visitors, generate income, the indigenous people
can not establish enterprises in this case and the economic benefit is only
short term. Furthermore, as already stated in the analysis and became visible
in the video, the culturally strong visitors want to impose their
socio-cultural values to the indigenous people and the interaction is not on an
equal level. Moreover, due to the stereotypes of the tourists and their desire
for an authentic experience, it actually leads completely in the other
direction, into the commodification of rituals. Additionally, to that a Mursi women, stated in
the video that they wear the traditional clothes and bodypainting’s only for
the tourists, but it normally does not belong to their tradition. Furthermore,
visitors sometimes even take pictures of the women with the lip plates, without
their permission and do not act socially responsible and contribute to a good
intercultural connection. So, in this case the tourism impacts the indigenous
people economically somehow in a positive way, due to the fact that they
generate money, due to this, but has higher negative impacts, regarding
To sum it up, Tourism is a complex
issue and as already mentioned above, the impact is enormous and works on all
three significant levels. Furthermore, by evaluating all positive as well as all
negative impacts and especially considering the dilemmas from above it becomes
evident that tourism is a curse without sustainable thinking. The main
challenge is to involve and consider the concerns of all stakeholders, which
range from the local community, to DMOs, the government and tour operators etc.
and to develop long-term strategies that guarantees that the positive impact overweight
the negative implications. Furthermore, tourism can only be a blessing, when
locals are not suffering from visitor pressure, but rather benefit and generate
an adequate income due to tourism, when nature and heritage gets conserved and
not damaged, because of tourism and lastly when people from less developed
countries are not going to be exploited, since of their unique cultural habits
and lifestyles and missing or weak state regulations.
To conclude this essay, I would
definitely say that it is my responsibility as a tourist, student and future
professional to develop responsible and sustainable tourism practices, so that
I do not contribute to a view of tourism as a curse, but rather a blessing. Besides,
I became even more aware of my own impact as a tourist (within this module) and
try to raise awareness in others, because tourists are often not aware of their
impact and might act irresponsible because of a lack of knowledge and not because
of mischief or ignorance. In addition, this is also represented by the
worldview test of Annick de Witt, the outcome shows that I have an integrative
worldview, that means that I am highly self-reflective and work on my own first
and aim to establish effective communication and innovative thinking.
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