A Balance Needed Between Economy and Environment #Tourism

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Too much of anything is bad” the adage came to my mind as I tried to respond to this week’s Indispire prompt asking “if too much tourism creates environmental problems?”  I certainly feel as more and more people take to travel, they inadvertently bring about damage to environment.

Those who manage government, probably looks at tourism industry as a hen that lays golden egg. There is no doubt that tourism industry contributes to local economy. Tourists bring in money. Money is pumped in the local economy. Infrastructure like hotel, road, hospitals come up, where locals get employment. As an intangible benefit of tourism industry, culturebarrier falls apart. People from distant lands and distinct cultures meet.

Data further support arguments made in favor of a robust tourism industry in India and abroad. In 2018, tourism generated US$240 billion (9.2% of India’s GDP) in India and supported 42.7 million jobs (8.1% of total employment). Other countries have seen good revenue generation as a result of tourist footfall. For example, Thailand had seen 35 million tourists generating 45 billion dollars in revenue.The US had seen as many as 74 million travellers in 2017 and a revenue generation of around 200 billion US dollars. In Europe, collectively, in 2017 France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain had seen 300 million plus tourists that generated a revenue fo USD 229 billion dollars.

Despite many positive benefits, perceived and real, of tourism industry, in many places local population have shown their displeasure at increased influx of tourists, despite benefits accruing to their life and livelihoods. For example, in Ibiza, Spain and in Venice, Italy posters had come up against tourists that urged

  • “Tourists, go home”
  • “Tourists, you terrorists!”
  • “Tourists leave! You destroy this city”

We must ask why people are not welcoming tourists anymore. There may not be easy answers. But there is no doubt increased influx of tourists definitely causes depletion of precious resources, overwhelming of local infrastructure, and damage to fragile eco systems.

Damage environment : To understand the effect on environment one must understand that lifestyle we pursue contributes to global warming and depletes local resources. For example,

Global Warming

  • Trees are chopped or a forest cover is depleted to erect a hotel or a resort or to built road and rail infrastructure.
  • Burning of fossil fuel as a result of travel by road or by air depeletes a precious resource and contributes to global warming and environment pollution.
  • Dairy, poultry and meat industry gets a boost as a result of tourism. At the same time raising cows and cattles increases emission of methane.

Depletion and/or pollution of water resource

  • Golf resorts in countries such as Cyprus consume water that could be enough for 60 thousand villagers.
  • According to the tourism department of Ibiza, Spain, tourist tend to consume more water and deplete existing resource.
  • Closer to home in Nepal, despite a positive economic impact Everest climbing brings to Nepal, there is a catastrophe looming on the horizon. Over the years, a huge quantity of human waste is left on the mountain to slowly decay. At the base camp, shallow excavated areas, alongside a riverine outlet, is used to dump waste. During monsoon season, water flowing into the watershed system has the potential of risking downstream drinking water.

Tourists overwhelming city infrastructure : No city can accommodate more visitor than the number of hotel rooms. But due to Airbnb, local households can rent out their homes to guests. According to estimates, Spain with a population of 47 million received 67 million tourists. And around 60000 tourists per day visiting Venice exceeded the local population. Shown below is a picture of climbers queuing up to climb Mount Everest. So many people, leaving their waste and damaging fragile ecology. How much can a mountain take?

NINTCHDBPICT000492231819

Clash of cultures: Though promoted as great mixer of different cultural identities, it is emerging that in many places locals may find behavior of a tourist odd, if not irritating. Sometimes this may lead to conflict

  • A man and woman kissing openly in public may appear odd in rural India.
  • A scantily clad woman walking down road of Goa, India, is not always appreciated.
  • A tourist swimming in the Grand Canal of Venice, a prohibited activity, may be resented.
  • Change of local culture and identity due to influx of tourists is a cause of resentment among community elders and conservatives.

Financial Benefits not trickling down: Bulk of the money spent by tourists in developing countries eventually goes into the pocket of international companies – airlines, hotels, importers of beverages and food, not to local businesses. Many a time, jump in prices of commodities connected to tourism inflow may not be proportional to income of local population.

Misplaced Development Priorities: Funds for the development of airports, roads, but neglect more important areas and issues.

All the eggs in one basket: Over-reliance on tourism entails significant risks. For example, natural disasters, or a structural change in tourism can have a devastating impact on the local economy of the travel destinations and leave a large number of people unemployed.

Way Forward

In an open society it may be difficult to stop a tourist that wants to bring money and spend it on local economy. Yet given the potential consequences, people should be discouraged by making the visit more expensive. For example,

  • In Berlin residents are forbidden to offer their apartments on Airbnb. A high penalty awaits anyone who violates the measure – a thousand euros.
  • In Ibiza, as well as on other Balearic Islands (Mallorca and Menorca), a tourist tax of around 2 euros per day, has been introduced.
  • Greek authorities have imposed restrictions on the arrival of tourists to Santorini by water. So now the number of passengers arriving to the island is limited to 8 thousand per day from 10 thousand people per day.
  • In Nepal, a permit to climb Mount Everest costs between 25000 – 50000 USD, depending upon nationality.

In summary, despite a positive economic impact of tourism industry, too many tourists definitely have an effect on finite resources and contribute to warming of this planet. Definitely tourism industry and people’s desire to travel is not going to go away. Question is how does governments manage influx of tourists? In this era of open society it may be possible to discourage a tourist by increasing a tourists cost of travel?  We have seen in Greece number of tourists that can visit a city has been reduced. In India, the number of visitors to a reserve forest is restricted. May be days are not far when governments may have to put a limit to number of tourist visas they will grant.

Resource

  1. https://www.tourism-review.com/mass-tourism-hit-santorini-venice-and-ibiza-news5139
  2. https://driftermagazine.ca/the-negative-impacts-of-modern-mass-tourism-6a59b2a0921c
  3. https://earthbuddies.net/mass-tourism-bad/
  4. https://mteverestbiogasproject.org/the-problem/

Note : This post is written in response to Indispire prompt. More posts on the topic may be found here.

I am participating in #MyFriendAlexa program @blogchatter.

50 thoughts on “A Balance Needed Between Economy and Environment #Tourism

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  1. Responsible traveling needs to be a conscious effort. Loved the way Greece and Ibiza are looking at ways to reduce the damage. Had recently seen a video of Ladakh, talking about the same problem. Quite disappointing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Responsible traveling needs to be a conscious effort. Loved the way Greece and Ibiza are looking at ways to reduce the damage. Had recently seen a video of Ladakh, talking about the same problem. Quite disappointing!

    Like

    1. I think too many people have means to travel. Imposing tax curbing visa are probably not a deterrent. Despite 50000 dollar permit fee, climbers are queuing up Everest. I guess reducing population and education and awareness is the solution. Force people to bring down their bio waste from mountain.

      Like

  3. I am not sure how much levying taxes will help as people have the spending power today. In fact this is the main reason why people are travelling more and more. Awareness is needed so that people travel consciously and don’t harm the environment of these areas. Loved this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading. Genie is out of the bottle. I think even with the most aware tourists footfall of humans is likely to cause damage to places like Mt Everest. While we need to look at income of locals, desire of people to travel and balance it against protecting nature. If you make the system cost prohibitive, like current traffic rule violation penalty, people may think twice. At the same time people should be forced take their waste back from tourist sites, impose penalty on littering and strict implementation of rules should be followed.

      Like

  4. Tourism might boost the economy but it hurts the environment. Our popular tourist destinations are flooded with plastics from food packets, water bottles, diapers and more.
    We need conscious travelers and vigilant governing bodies and act fast.

    Like

    1. True. Make tourists take back their litter, pay penalty for littering and implement zero tolerance for litter like current traffic violation penalty. Thank you for reading.

      Like

  5. Very well written and well researched article… we in Kerala are today pretty much suffering the after effects of the damage we wrecked on our own land in the need for tourism and more money inflow… and sadly, the floods are likely to be an annual affair unless urgent corrective steps are started

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Yes the beautiful state of Kerala has seen devastating flood. Sad when Kerala sees flood, Tamil Nadu sees drought. Could we have not channelised the excess water to a drought prone neighbouring state or at least stored the excess water by digging ponds and reservoirs?

      Like

  6. That’s a well thought through post capturing the impact of tourism. The data and the facts you have captured and mentioned in your post clearly indicate that we need to act before its too late. Ad-hoc and reactive measures may not be sufficient in the long-term. The issue needs to be strategically thought through. Stopping tourism or making it heavy on pocket may not be a sustainable solution. I think systematic sensitisation, culture awareness may induce more accountability among tourists. Thanks for detailing out the issue so well 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you for reading and giving a detailed comment. I agree knee jerk reaction may not help. I guess a slew of steps have to be taken which may include awareness, sensitisation, burden on the pocket and restricting visa among other things. The way things going, Mount Everest may not be there after another few decades. A registration fee of 50000 dollars (close to 5 lac rupees) have not deterred climbers. I think the great barrier reef of Australia is facing similar problem. At the same time no government will be willing to give up revenue coming due to tourism. More so when economic climate is down.

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    1. Thank you for reading. It is true unless we find a way to controlling tourist traffic there may be enormous damage. If nothing else, we should manage waste and resource judiciously.

      Like

  7. Nice and informative post.
    A tourist in us needs to be more aware and responsible.
    Even in remotest of places things are warming up, more and more hotels are coming up, water electricity needs to be provided and in that trees are cut, mountains are exploded, litter gets increased.
    I will share my experience recently when I visited Andamans, actually, I had been there 25 years ago also when I was small but this time I got the shock of my life. It has lost the charm which had in my mind years ago. everywhere, plastic bottles, use & throw plates and glasses. I was saddened and even told my kid’s that Andaman was far beautiful when so many vehicles had not crowded it in my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can feel your experience. There are too many people. Spoiling the environment. That is why I stopped going to mountains. I feel so sad. Thank you for leaving your comments.

      Like

  8. I think this is the first non-fiction post I have read on your website, and I must say I’m very impressed. Your thorough research and sound pointers are excellent.
    Looking forward to reading more informative, non-fiction articles from you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion on mass tourism/over-tourism. We have heard how Amsterdam and Bruges have decided not to promote these cities owing to the mass influx. Many feel travel blogging and social media are to be blamed for fueling tourism. I often wonder why don’t we explore places around our cities? This is one of the easiest things to do and reduces carbon footprints. Flights are a big contributor towards this end.

    Like

    1. True. As a starter tourists should be asked to pay for waste disposal, carry their waste back if needed, pay tax to visit a congested tourist spot, the number tourists per site should be restricted, eventually countries must regulate tourist visa. Given that a tourist is a cash cow, there is an uphill battle at hand.

      Like

    1. Thank you for reading. Travel, tourism, and vacation are age old instincts of humans. Problem is there are too many of us, many can afford going to exotic locales, technology has created products that outlast humans and damage environment. We need to give a thought how we minimize damage.

      Like

  10. Even you will see in Sikkim too, “Be like a Sikkimese, Keep city Clean”… “Do not Pollute, We are Indians..”

    So, I totallt=y agree with your words that “excess of anything is bad for everyone”.

    It was a good post. I have shared it too. 🙂

    #LovelyReads

    Like

  11. I couldnt agree more. I think the key here is awareness. There has to be information dissemination upon arrival of tourists on the possible effects on the local economy, environment, and culture. Thank you for sharing a well thought out article.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I always try to travel as a traveller not as a tourist. i know i need to visit a specific place and live at specific hotel. but it is not mandatory if i can manage to get some home stays i can change accordingly. I go and try to take local roads or local living as locals do. it helps in my economy and i assure that place remains clean as it was.

    Liked by 1 person

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