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Global impacts and sustainability

Tourism affects the local environment and culture of popular destinations both positively and negatively. The flow of people and ideas from around the world through any one area of the globe allows for either an increase in understanding of different cultures or a reinforcement of previous prejudices.

Local cultures in rural or developing communities may begin to change in order to better suit the desires of tourists. Local people may begin to modernise their culture in order to accommodate tourists. Tourism can often generate hostility between locals and tourists. Many communities, however, rely heavily upon tourism and their economy could collapse if tourism rates were to decline. Refer Image 1

The natural environment is also extremely vulnerable to the impact of tourism. Tourism development requires the use of land and resources. An increase in flow of people in one area can often put a lot of pressure on that environment. Water supplies may become depleted or contaminated. Natural plants and animals may lose their homes to construction or fragmentation. Towns and cities can become overcrowded and polluted.

There are, however, many positive benefits to tourism. Experiencing new and different cultures can often promote education and understanding of differences. The industry provides a lot of job opportunities and generates money for the local economy. Some forms of tourism, generally ecotourism, also promote environmentally friendly and educational tourism experiences. All tourism development needs to use resources sustainably in order to promote a long term positive experience.

Sustainable tourism development requires interactions between the visitor, the local community and the location that promote a long-term balance of sustainability. Sustainable tourism should follow three steps:

  • Use natural resources sustainably while maintaining biodiversity.
  • Understand and respect different cultures and cultural practices.
  • Ensure that long-term operations and developments are ecologically sustainable.

The socially just result

What would a fair and just outcome be?

A socially just outcome would be for tourism to result in better standards of living for locals by using a sustainable model. All sectors of the tourism, travel and leisure industries need to practise and promote sustainable tourism. This includes sustainable use of natural resources within the destination, or host, community. Water supply, land use and food resources all need to be used for tourism in a manner that does not adversely affect the local community or the local environment. Many tourist destinations are renowned for their natural environment. Tourism practices should strive towards maintaining that natural biodiversity. Refer Image 2

Sustainable tourism practices include friendly attitudes between visitors and locals. A socially just process would result in gaining the local peoples' perspectives on the issues of tourism and implementing these ideas in tourism development. It would also require that cultures and cultural practices are not exploited or modernised by any sector involved in the tourism industry.

A socially just outcome would require ecotourism and ecologically sustainable tourism practices to be implemented on some level by all tourism companies and destination locations. If tourism development and practices only strive to promote a site for the short-term, that site is vulnerable to exploitation and destruction. Tourism development and practices should be maintained for long-term enjoyment without jeopardising the natural environment. Not all tourist destinations have the ability to become ecotourism sites. The socially just result would, therefore, be for each tourist destination to be as eco-friendly as possible so that everyone can benefit from tourism without exploiting the natural or cultural environment.

An equitable process

What would an equitable process require?

An equitable process would require that companies and countries who have the most money and least vulnerability to change to start making changes towards sustainable tourism development and practices. Large companies within the global tourism industry should evaluate their current practices and strive towards sustainable and ecologically-friendly tourism development. Developed countries that have a large tourist economy should also start making changes. Governments of these countries have an obligation to protect their resources and economy for the long-term. They should implement laws regarding sustainable tourism practices.

Countries and businesses that can afford to make changes should lead the way towards sustainable tourism whilst protecting the natural and cultural environments. An equitable process would require that those who have the means should help developing countries build a more sustainable tourist economy. Some small communities and developing countries only have the means to focus on the short-term results. Those who are able to focus on the long-term results should help those who cannot. This would lead the way towards a socially just result of sustainable and beneficial tourism. Refer Image 3

An equitable process would also require those companies and countries who are purposely exploiting tourist destinations to stop. Foreign owned businesses that build resorts in developing countries should take into account how their actions are affecting the local people. International businesses should make changes so that everyone, including the poor local communities, can benefit from tourism.


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Question 1/5

1. Positive benefits of tourism include all of the following EXCEPT:

Tourism generates money for the local economy.

Tourism degrades land and lowers biodiversity.

Tourism provides a lot of job opportunities.

Tourism promotes an understanding of differences.

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