Evaluate the Nature and Extent of Tourism Impacts at a Range of Tourist Destinations
The tourism and travel patterns of past decades, combined with the challenging market conditions, especially given the impacts that recent terrorist activity and natural disasters have had on the tourism market, have tended to result in short-term approaches from many organisations in travel and at destination resorts, where commercial activity has thus impacted negatively on natural or cultural environments. In historic terms, leisure travel is relatively new phenomenon, starting in the UK with the ‘Grand Tour’ journeys of the eighteenth century, when wealthy individuals chose to visit neighbouring lands to learn about politics, culture and art. By the nineteenth century, leisure travel within Britain increased, with the growing popularity and royal patronage of spa and seaside towns, and the corresponding availability of transport, which became faster and easier during the industrial revolution, with improved roads and the introduction of trains and rail travel. The wealthier and aspiring middle classes popularised travel destinations that developed into resorts offering entertainment and serviced accommodation. (Global Market Information Database, May 2005) However, this rapid growth of tourism has resulted in several unforeseen impacts on destinations, which have been observed to be either beneficial or detrimental to the locality.
The twentieth century inventions of the motor car and coach transport accelerated the popularity of domestic holidays, leading to the seaside holiday becoming firmly established as integral to British culture, with corresponding impacts on town such as Brighton and Blackpool, which have become strongly geared towards holidaymakers Sea travel improved and developed with the leisure traveller in mind, bringing ferry routes, luxury liners and vessels for hobbyists. The two World Wars also brought about the accelerated development of air transport, which resulted in a demand for civilian passenger planes, and thus fast overseas travel by plane opened up the world to international leisure journeys. As a result of this massive explosion in tourism, over the past three hundred years, tourism has brought prosperity to many regions of the world that would otherwise exist in abject poverty, such as the island of Bali, where living standards are considerably higher than the neighbouring islands in the Indonesian peninsula. (Friedheim, 1996) However, frequently tourism grew to suit human interests, particularly those of the tourists and businesses, and by no particular long-term plan with regards to sustainability at the local destinations. As a result, today the detrimental effects of global tourism are evident in the form of pollution, the erosion of local culture, the widening of the gap between rich and poor, a threat to survival for local economies and the spoiling of natural habitats and landscape. (Cooper et al, 2004)
Indeed, whilst Friedheim (1996) mentions the strong positive impact of the tourist trade in Indonesia’s Bali Island, with the island frequently being described primarily as a popular tourist destination, Friedheim also comments on tourism’s impact on the island’s economic and social conditions for those locals not actively engaged in the trade. He also comments on how traditional skills and employments are increasingly being suborned to appeal to the tourist masses and their money, and thus the island’s culture is being eroded. Similar comments are made on the developments related to the tourist trade in Eastern Europe, following on from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ‘Iron Curtain’, when the area’s potential as a tourist destination first began to be explored. However, in this case, there was widespread cooperation amongst the Eastern European countries for the promotion of the region’s tourist trade, and tourism generally had a positive impact on the area’s re-building efforts (Friedheim, 1996) due to its focus on the culture of the cities, rather than beach holidays. Lori (1998) takes a similar view, but focuses on the second annual Sustainable Tourism Conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organization in Trinidad, Spain. In the Caribbean, tourism had previously followed a quite unsustainable model; however the aim of the conference was to address this, based on the tourism strategy initiatives followed by the Dominican Republic: a model ecotourism destination in the Caribbean.
Although it is wise to aim for sustainable tourism wherever possible, to reduce the negative impacts on regions wherever possible, there are often factors that work against this desire. One of these is seasonality: an integral quality of the landscape which greatly affects, informs and interweaves with many tourism factors, such as the tourism-based economies of Greek island communities, currently almost entirely dependent upon summer holiday tourism for their survival. (Terkenli, 2005) The multiple facets and impacts of seasonality produced and inscribed by tourism on the landscape, and specifically on the landscape of northern Crete, can, as with many other impacts and destinations, be both problematic and beneficial. In the case of Crete, the three different stages of the tourism destination lifecycle model used by Terkenli (2005) are roughly represented by three different zones of tourism impact in the broader region of Hersonissos in northern Crete. Here, tourism-induced changes roughly attenuate with distance from the coast, acquiring distinctive geographical patterns that follow those of spatial tourist concentration, scale of development, and incorporation of tourism into Cretan society and space, thus giving the island a seasonal economy and demography, in common with many similar regions dependent on seasonal tourism.
However, there can be major negative impacts on regions with economies of this type or, indeed, any economy based on tourism. For example, in the months immediately following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, there was a strong trend in many regions towards staying closer to home, with tourists being deterred from long-haul travel for several reasons, including lower incomes, the fear of further terrorist attacks, and delays at airports due to higher security. This benefited domestic travel, as well as regional travel such as travel between European destinations, travel between the US and Canada, and travel within Asia, thus helping some tourist destinations in these countries. However, it had an adverse impact on destinations such as Florida, which relies heavily on tourists from Europe, and many destinations that relied heavily on tourism from the US were particularly badly affected by the fall-off in American tourists immediately after the attacks of 11 September 2001. These included destinations such as the Caribbean and Latin America, and within these regions, notably Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. (Global Market Information Database, Sep 2005) In response to this, Latin American and Caribbean governments launched marketing campaigns and other measures to encourage tourism in the region. In Mexico, for example, which depends on the US for 85% of its tourist arrivals, measures included the elimination of sales taxes on conventions, and an increase in the promotional budget of 50% through a new public-private consortium. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) also launched an emergency joint marketing, promotion and public relations campaign at the end of 2001 to try and resurrect the failing tourism market which was pushing many of the region economies towards recession (Global Market Information Database, Sep 2005)
Indeed, increasingly governments and organisations across the world are realising that travel and tourism growth cannot be left to chance, as the potential impacts on regions, and also entire nations, are just too great. As a result, in 2003 over five hundred of the world’s most influential business leaders called on the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to form a new vision and strategy for travel and tourism. This project combined the forces of stakeholders from public and private organisations, resulting in the formation of “Blueprint for New Tourism” campaigns to influence behaviour and to introduce new legislation and best practice for the industry in its quest to help governments recognise travel and tourism as a top priority, to balance economics with people’s needs, culture and environments and to share the pursuit of long-term growth and prosperity, underpinned by corporate social responsibility. Global Market Information Database (May 2005) Organisations are now required to evidence the measures they take towards social responsibility in their annual reports, and consumers too are becoming more aware of the impact that tourism and development can have on the world, through television documentaries and media coverage of issues such as global warming, endangered species and fair trade practices. To help consumers make informed choices on their travel destinations, consumer advisory services such as the Centre for Environmentally Responsible Tourism and ecotourism.org were established, offering advice on the best destinations and most sustainable tour operators. Indeed, as with many regulatory bodies around the world, for tour operators, such an endorsement provides a promotional opportunity and can further benefit nations: for example, the dreadful and much publicised effects of the Asian tsunami awoke the UK public to the need to give and support nations in peril. Popular destinations for back-packers were literally wiped off the map, and to support the regeneration of the tourist industry in the affected countries, volunteer holidays were offered, which helped provide useful skills and manpower to local populations, as well as helping tourists get closer to the local culture.
A final impact of tourism is its tendency to skew the geographic distribution of wealth in countries that have particular tourist attractions. Egypt is a good example of this, as it is now looking into the possibilities for diversifying its tourism opportunities throughout the country, with the main target for expanding the tourism sector in nature-based tourism. The coral reefs and rich marine life in South Sinai and the Red Sea coast have made these two areas among the premier scuba diving destinations in the world, with many beach resorts are now in operation and still hundreds to be constructed. However, previous tourism development in Egypt has resulted in a series of negative environmental impacts, both to the reefs and marine life, and to the other areas of the country which have suffered a lack of funding and investment due to not being in proximity to well known tourist destinations. The ambitious development plans to receive 16 million tourists across the country by 2017 will thus take into consideration sustainability and demographic concepts, with the government and developers having significant roles to play in adopting and implementing environmentally sound policies and practices to avoid the degradation of the natural heritage of Egypt for the sake of the current as well as future generations. (Shaalan, 2005)
In conclusion, tourism offers some of the most impoverished regions of the globe the chance to develop their infrastructure and quality of life in ways that would otherwise be impossible in the modern world. However, frequently these developments are allowed to proceed without thought to maintaining a balanced distribution of income amongst the local inhabitants, and preserving the very attractions which bring tourists to the area. As a result, tourism can often have significant, wide ranging negative impacts as well as positive ones, such as in the case of Bali. However, with the new sustainable tourism developments helping to reduce the negative impacts, and distribute the positive ones equally across the local populations, there is evidence that tourism can, and in future increasingly will, provide beneficial and sustainable long term impacts to the communities and destinations it affects.
- Cooper, C. Fletcher, J. Fyall, A, Gilbert, D. and Wanhill, S. (2004). Tourism: Principles and Practice, 3rd Ed. Prentice Hall: London.
- Friedheim, E. (1996) Holding on to paradise. Travel Agent; Vol. 284, Issue 1, p. 22.
- Global Market Information Database (Sep 2005) The World Market for Travel and Tourism. Euromonitor International.
- Global Market Information Database (May 2005) Travel and Tourism in the United Kingdom Euromonitor International.
- Shaalan, I. M. (2005) Sustainable tourism development in the Red Sea of Egypt threats and opportunities. Journal of Cleaner Production; Vol. 13, Issue 2, p. 83.
- Tenny, L. (1998) Second CTO conservation confab explores tourism’s impacts. Travel Weekly; Vol. 57, Issue 38, p. C9.
- Terkenli, T. (2005) Human Activity in Landscape Seasonality: The Case of Tourism in Crete. Landscape Research; Vol. 30, Issue 2, p. 221.
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