Social And Cultural Impacts On The Environment Tourism Essay

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The Tourism Industry is regarded as one of the most important and fastest growing industry around the world. Travel has been of great interest to people since the beginning of the civilization. Recently, it has been noted that there has been an increase in tourist’s arrivals, especially in small island states. According to UNWTO, tourism will continue to grow in 2011. Tourism sector has suffered from the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, but thanks to the improved economic conditions worldwide, international tourism has been able to recover from the decline brought in the financial crisis. (United Nations, 2010). The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest and most dynamic industries in the world and this industry is expected to generate about 9% of global GDP and provide for more than 235 million jobs representing 8 % of global employment (Merco Press, 2010).The WTO has set up the long-term forecast of the assessment of the development of tourism up to the first 20 years of the new millennium known as the Tourism 2020 vision.UNWTO’s Tourism 2020 vision predicts that international arrivals are expected to reach over 1.56 billion by the year 2020. Of these worldwide arrivals in 2020, 1.2 will be intraregional and 0.4 will be long-haul travelers’. The top three receiving regions will be Europe with 717 million tourists, East Asia and the Pacific around 397 million and the Americas with 282 million, followed by the Africa, Middle East and South Asia (UNWTO, 2011). As such, the tourist will continue to be a flourishing industry in the coming years. Tourism has been described as the smokeless industry that can bring that can bring maximum benefit to a community as compared to other economic activities. Tourism has been viewed as a means of improving a community as a better place to live and generating economic benefits.

2.1 Tourism impacts

There are many academic researchers that have been done on the impacts of tourism. Many local communities believe that tourism can stimulate change in social, cultural, environmental and economic dimensions where tourism activities have had a close connection with the local communities (Beeton, 2006;Richards & Hall, 2000).It is important to understand and assess tourism impacts so as to maintain sustainability and the long-term success of the tourism industry (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008). Tourism is also regarded to as the world’s largest industry and regarded as a means of achieving community development (Sharpley, 2002). As such, it becomes imperative to understand tourism impacts towards the community. Below is a diagram illustrating tourism impacts on the community.

Perceived Negative Impacts of Tourism

Personal Benefit from Tourism

Resident Characteristics

Support for Additional Tourism

Community Tourism Dependence

Perceived Positive Impacts of Tourism

Support for Tourism Planning

Source: Adapted from Perdue, Long and Allen 1990, p.589

In the twenty-first century, researchers on tourism points out a range of both positive and negative impacts on the host community as a result of tourism development. (Fredline and Faulkner, 2000; Upchurch and Teivane, 2000). Several studies have been conducted that explain the impacts of tourism on the environment, economy, society and culture. Researches done on the impacts of tourism on the society are wide and varied. For example, as Ryan (1991) states that the greatest impacts of tourism will occur when there is a greater gap between the culture and income level of both host and tourist.

Local’s perceptions towards the tourism impacts can vary significantly. According to Sharma (2004), if residents have more positive attititudes towards tourism impacts, tourism development will be more successful in a community. If resident’s benefit from tourism development they support additional tourism planning and development in a community. By understanding the resident’s perceptions, can help to access support for continued tourism development through community capacity building. Gursoy & Rutherford (2004) outlines that tourism developers need to consider the perceptions and attitudes of residents before investing in scarce resources. In addition, understanding of residents perceptions towards tourism impacts can also help in identifying the types of tourism which have the potential for building community capacity (Moscardo, 2008, p.86). On the other hand, various studies show that people who have an economic benefit from tourism perceive more positive impact from it (Chon, 2000).

Economic impacts

In the beginning, tourism was encouraged because of its economic impacts. It is highly accepted that tourism provides economic benefits to the community. The economic impacts of tourism are the most widely researched impacts of tourism on community (Mason, 2003).Economic impacts are easier to research in a local community because it is small and generally it is more accessible. Moreover, tourism can have positive benefits on local economies and a visible impact on national GDP growth which can be an essential component for community development and poverty reduction. (Ashe, 2005). For instance, tourism creates employment for locals, investment opportunities, business opportunities, tax revenues for government and it also help small and medium enterprises for countries, regions and communities to expand (Ryan ,1998; Choi & Sirakaya, 2005; Dyer,2007) but on the other hand tourism can have negative economic impacts on the society such as : too much dependency on foreign capital, inflation , leakages and a low education trap for locals (Giannoni & Maupertus, 2007). Yet, more important is the benefits spread to the residents of local communities (Scheyvens, 2001).The economic impacts of tourism are therefore, generally perceived positively by the residents (Tatoglu et al; 2000).For the development of tourism to occur, environment, societies and cultures at the destination has paid a heavy price. The main concern is not only the development but to tackle the challenges posed by the development (Chaudhary, 2007).

Social and cultural impacts

According to law (1993,pp.135-164), culture and society are in a state of constant change because of many factors, notably the rapid progress in communications and social interactions that can extend rapidly over vast distances. Social impacts refer to changes in the lives of people who live in destination communities and these impacts are mostly associated with residents and tourists. On the hand, cultural impacts refer to changes in the arts, artifacts, customs, rituals and architecture of a people and are longer term changes resulting from tourism development than other types of development. Social and cultural impacts refer to changes to resident’s everyday experiences as well as to their values, way of life and intellectual and artistic products. Social and cultural impacts are strongly interrelated and not limited only to the host area population (Glasson, 1995, p.34).In many destinations, the nature and traditional meanings of culture may be substantially changed when culture is redefined as market share (Earrington and Gewertz, 1996). Because of this, a host community may face cultural problems of the commercialization of culture, religion and the arts together with the misuse of indigeneous culture as attractions and be forced to adopt cultural habits of the tourists, such as their language, dress and manner to satisfy visitors (Cohen, 1979).Another downside of tourism development is seen in many parts of the world where tourism developments threaten the displacement of local people. On the other hand, Glasson (1995, p.35-36) argues that along with the downside of development, there are cultural benefits and intercultural communication between hosts and visitors that increase good understanding between them. Without tourists, local culture and tradition may have been lost completely, as there is no market for traditional products.

Environmental impacts

Environmental impacts occur as a result of tourism development in many regions of the world as communities struggle to find an optimal balance between optimal and conservation. Recently,it has been found that tourism activities are highly dependent on the environment. Research has shown the impacts that tourism has on natural resources (Green, Hunter and Moore, 2000).Most of the researchers have been conducted on natural or semi-natural areas, with very little research done on urban settings (Green, 1990).Specific sites have been examined such as Alpine areas (Goodman, 1987;Rodriguez, 1987), islands (Wilkinson, 1989), coastal areas (Martinez-Taberner, Moya and Forteza, 1990). In addition, most research has been focused around the negative impacts that tourism has on natural resources after the damage has taken place.As such, tourism is always blamed to be responsible for resource degradation (Farell and McLellan, 1987).On the other hand, there are also positive impacts of tourism associated with the environment.

2.2 The Environmental Impacts of Tourism

“The environment is probably one of the most important contributors to the desirability and attractiveness of a destination. Scenic sites, amenable climates and unique landscape features have an important influence in tourism development and the spatial distribution of tourism movement.” (Coccossis and Nijkamp, 1995, p.4)

Tourism and the environment are interrelated as tourism is dependent on natural resources to survive. There are studies that have identified both the positive and negative environmental impacts of tourism (Burns & Holden, 1995; Puckzo & Ratz, 2000). Table 1 can better illustrate both the positive and negative impacts of tourism in a destination area.

Table 1 ‘Balance sheet’ of environmental impacts of tourism

Area of effect

Negative impacts

Positive impacts


Disruption of breeding/feeding patterns

Killing of animals for leisure (hunting) or to supply souvenir trade. Loss of habitats and change in species composition Destruction of vegetation

Encouragement to conserve animals as attractions.

Establishment of protected or conserved areas to meet tourist demands

Erosion and physical damage

Soil erosion

Damage to sites through trampling Overloading of key infrastructure (e.g. water supply networks)

Tourism revenue to finance ground repair and site restoration

Improvement to infrastructure prompted by tourist demand


Water pollution through sewage or fuel spillage and rubbish from pleasure boats Air pollution (e.g. vehicle emissions) Noise pollution (e.g. from vehicles or tourist attractions: bars, discos, etc.) Littering

Cleaning programmes to protect the attractiveness of location to tourists

Resource base

Depletion of ground and surface water

Diversion of water supply to meet tourist needs (e.g. golf courses or pools) Depletion of local fuel sources Depletion of local building-material sources

Development of new/improved sources of supply

Visual/structural change

Land transfers to tourism (e.g. from farming)

Detrimental visual impact on natural and non-natural landscapes through tourism development

Introduction of new architectural styles

Changes in (urban) functions Physical expansion of built-up areas

Regeneration and/or modernisation of built environment

Reuse of disused buildings

Source: Adapted from Hunter and Green (1990)

For the negative impacts of tourism, Puckzo and Ratz (2000) observed that tourism development that are not well-planned often leads to increased stress on destinations and in negative changes in the destination’s physical and socio cultural attributes. According to Wood (1991), it is possible to identify broad categories of impacts that may affect all destinations. Water pollution is believed to be one of the environmental impacts caused by tourism. It can affect surfaces such as rivers, lakes and oceans. Chemical and oils spills from boats can cause devastating water pollution that kills water birds, shellfish and other wildlife. Tourists can also contribute to the degradation of the marine life also through:snorkelling,scuba diving and sport fishing can threaten fisheries and other marine resources. For example, tourism is known to have contributed to inappropriate development around Lake Tahoe in the United States (Iverson, Sheppard & Strain, 1993) and at Pattaya in Thailand (Mieczkowski, 1995); oil pollution in water at King George island (Harris, 1991); habitat loss, fragmentation and erosion in Nepal (Croall, 1995); destruction of wildlife at Zakynthos in Greece (Prunier, Sweeney & Gree, 1993); disturbance of animals and loss of area for production in Kenya (Sindiga & Kannunah, 1999).

Apart from the consumption of large amounts of natural resources, the tourism industry also produces considerable waste and pollution. In fact, disposal of liquid and solid waste generated by the tourism industry has posed a problem for many developing countries and some countries are incapable of treating these waste materials. This has led to reducing the availability of natural resources such as fresh water. For example, in Kerala state the tourist industry collapses after two decades of fast growth because there was inadequate disposal of solid waste.

Tourists also contribute to land pollution from solid waste and the contamination of marine waters and coastal areas from pollution generated by marinas, hotels and cruise ships. Moreover, the tourist industry uses high level of energy consumption in hotels including: air-conditioning, heating and cooking as well as transportation which can cause air pollution in many host countries. Air and noise pollution as well congestions are likely to result from tourist development.

Tourism activities which are not properly controlled can also cause severe disruption of wildlife habitats and increased pressure on endangered species. For example, in Africa’s national parks tourists vehicles approach wild animals and very often distract them from hunting and breeding, in the carribean sea there are even boat crews that pursue whales and dolphins and as such discourage petting which tends to disturb the animal’s feeding and behaviour (Masny,2001).

In addition, tourism also leads to the clearance of native vegetation for the development of new facilities, new infrastructure and tourist development. There is an increase in demand for fuelwood and even forest fires. This results not only in the destruction of local habitats and ecosystems but also in the processes of erosion and landslide. Fragile areas such as: forests, wet lands and mangroves are also threatened by tourism activities.

On the other side, tourism contributes to the positive benefits of the environment. Doswell (1997) argues that tourism lays emphasis to conserve and protect the environment. Tourism also draws attention to subjects regarding biodiversity, endangered species and human impacts on the environment. Tourism is also used as a means to preserve natural areas rather than to develop them for alternative uses such as: agriculture, forestry and mining (Master, 1998). Tourism can contribute to the conservation of sensitive areas and habitat. For example, in Ghana tourism has helped in maintaining the natural reserves. Tourists can help towards environmental protection, conservation and biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources. In this way, natural areas become valuable and this can lead to creation of national parks and wildlife parks.Revenue received from park-entrance fees can be allocated to pay for the protection and management of sensitive areas. On the hand, in some places government collect money from tourists in indirect ways. For example: user tax, sales or recreation of rental equipment and license fees for hunting and fishing can provide government with the proper fund needed to manage natural resources and to finance infrastructure. Tourism encourages cleaning programmes , and this reduces the damaging

Another change that can affect tourism is climate change. Climate impact is considered as the consequences of climate change on natural and human systems (IPCC, 2001). Climate impacts can be for example: the primary productivity of an ecosystem, snow cover depth. For example, a Bigano (2006) stimulates the effects of development and climate change on tourism. Climate change could negatively affect countries and regions that depend heavily on tourism.

2.3 Resident’s perceptions towards tourism

For the long-term success of the tourism industry, it is imperative to understand and assess resident’s attitudes towards the impact of tourism development (Ap,1992; Ritchie and Inkari, 2006). Sustainable tourism development can be achieved normally when all stakeholders are involved in the process (Bryd, 2007). Sustainable tourism believes that the community is the focal point of tourism and planning process (Choi and Sirakaya, 2005).In addition, investigating the resident’s perceptions towards tourism is important because it influence their behaviour towards tourism (Andriotis and Vaughan, 2003). Studies show that the perceptions of residents towards tourism differ toward tourism development. Sustainable tourism development largely depends on the host’s acceptability of tourists and tourism-related programs, offerings and activities by locals (Musa, Hall, and Higham 2004). The active support of the local population is required for tourism development to occur in a community. One indicator that affect’s tourism development in a destination is the host attitude (Lepp, 2007). In a destination area, the attitudes of the tourists and residents are taken into account. Another factor that is likely to influence the negative and positive impacts of tourist’s destination is resident’s attachment to community. Some researchers, Canan and Hennessy (1989) states that the longer the residents live in a community, the more negative they are towards tourism development. The lengths of residency of locals have a direct impact on tourism development.

There are several studies that have been conducted to explain the resident’s perception’s towards tourism impacts and how far residents support tourism development in a community. Theories such as the attribution theory (Pearce, 1989); dependency theory (Preister, 2008), the social representation theory (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003), Butler’s (1980) tourist area life cycle, Doxey’s Irridex model, the intrinsic and extrinsic framework (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997) and the social exchange theory (SET) (Ap, 1982) have been developed in an attempt to better understand the host perceptions towards tourism.

However, it is the SET that have received the greatest attention by scholars attempting to study resident’s attitudes towards tourism and their support towards tourism development. (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004; Sirakaya, Teye , & Sonmez, 2002). However there are also other popular theories such as:Butler’s Area Life Cycle (1980, Doxey’s Irritation Index, the extrinsic/intrinsic model (Faulkner and Tideswell 1997) which describe the host-tourist relation.

2.3.1Social Exchange Theory

In a tourism context, social exchange theory would mean an exchange of resources between the tourists and the host population where each of the supply each other with valued resources (Ap, 1992, p.668). SET implies that residents who gain benefits from the tourism industry are likely to perceive the industry as positive and thus support tourist industry, while those who perceive themselves incurring costs because of tourism would display negative attitudes towards tourism thereby opposing such development. The SET theory is the most common type of theory used to assess tourism impacts in a particular destination. Social exchange theory firmly believes that a need exists to measure the level of active participation of residents in the planning and development process associated with tourism development (Wang & Pister, 2008). In the tourism literature, several studies have been conducted and which explained the theory of resident’s perceptions and assessments of the costs and benefits of tourism and their support for tourism development. In simpler words, social exchange theory supports that residents calculate the costs and benefits of tourism development, and their effort for tourism development (Ap, 1992; Yoon 2001). As such residents become aware of the positive and negative impacts of tourism and can decide whether to support or not to support tourism development.

Figure1: Factors affecting resident’s attitudes towards tourists



Period of Residence

Mature State of Development

Early Stage of






High Tourist






Lifestyle Choice

Low Tourist


Perception of






















Source: Faulkner and Tideswell (1997)

2.3.2 Intrinsic and Extrinsic Model

Numerous studies have identified the factors that affect resident’s perceptions .Such factors have been used in the tourism literature to describe tourism impacts (Jurowski & Gursoy, 2004). These are intrinsic and extrinsic variables (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997, Fredline & Faulkner, 2000, p.765). The intrinsic variables refer to the characteristics of the host community that affect the impacts of tourism with the host community (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997, p.6) and includes factors such as:employment, length of residence, proximity to tourist zones and involvement within the tourism industry. Length of residency affect tourism development in a community, native born of the community have been found to have more negative perception of tourism development because they are attached to that place (Madrigal, 1995). On the other hand, Bisle and Hoy (1980) found a positive relationship between distance of residence from the tourist zone and perceptions. As regards to community attachment, studies showed that the longer a host has been a resident in the area; as such they become less attached to tourism (Weaver, 2001). Residents who are dependent and involved in the tourism sector are more likely to have positive attitudes towards tourism (Linderb, 1997). The intrinsic variable shows that the host community is not homogeneous but rather heterogeneous meaning that the perceptions of tourism differ among the residents (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003; Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997; Fredline & Faulkner, 2000).

The extrinsic factors are “the characteristics of a location with respect to its role as a tourist destination including the nature and stage of tourist activity and the types of tourists involved” (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997, p.6).The extrinsic factors that are likely to influence host attitudes towards tourism is the stage of tourism development occurring in a destination (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003) as argued by Butler (1980) and Doxey (1975). The extrinsic factors are:seasonality, type of tourists, particular stage of development, the tourist guest-ratio (Doxey, 1973; butler, 1980; Ap, 1983).Seasonality affect a destination, during peak seasons there is high flow of tourists resulting in economic inflation, traffic congestion and this affect the residents way of lives on the other hand, residents who are dependent on tourism are likely to tolerate these disruptive conditions. (Rothman, 1978; Beliste, 1980; Sheldon, 1984).The type of tourists is another factor that affects resident’s perceptions of tourism. Some tourists are independent travellers while others depend on locals, they try adjust with locals they accept the hosts local conditions (Amir, 1985; Page 2003). In understanding resident’s perceptions towards tourism, the stage of development is considered among the most important factors. To better illustrate this issue, it was important to investigate Butler’s Tourism Destination Lifecycle Model.

2.3.3 Butler’s Area Life Cycle

Another model in regard to the host-tourist destination is Butler’s Area Lifecycle Model. Although that this model dates three decades, it is still academically recognized. Butler (1980) believes that tourist areas evolve and change over time. According to this evolution, the stages that tourist areas experience are: exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, decline or rejuvenation. Using a life-cycle model, Butler describes the resident and tourist involvement in destination area. Unlike products, destinations have a lifecycle too. Figure 2 illustrates the lifecycle of a destination.


Figure 2 Hypothetical Evolution of a Tourist Area (Adapted from Miller and Gallucci, 2004)

Using a life-cycle model, Butler describes the resident and tourist involvement in destination area. Unlike products, destinations have a lifecycle too. Moreover, Butler has also explained why tourism leads to unsustainability. By using the example of the life-cycle model, he describes how a small group of tourists explore a natural attraction by involving local residents and making subsequent development of the area. With time, the number of tourists grows, eventually leading to mass tourism. And if the tourism products are not rejuvenated, stagnation occurs at the destination and there is a fall through over-consumption of tourism products which is beyond the carrying capacity of the destination. (including adverse effects on the environment)Butler also focuses that if there is no proper management and control, environment degradation is inevitable once carrying capacity has been reached and then exceeded making mass tourism unsustainable. As noted by Jamison (1999), at the stagnation stage, locals have begun to express some discontent with tourism and its effects. When a destination develops, unmet resident’s expectations and other negative impacts of development are also likely to result in changes and attitudes towards the industry. (Teye, Sonmez and Sirakaya , 2002). The TALC S-shaped curve has also been used to describe the host-guest dichotomy- from the excitement of the potential of tourism through to resentment of tourists, resulting from exceeding local social carrying capacity. However, certain limitations have been found in Butler’s model. It has been pointed out that the model “assumes a degree of homogeneity of community reactions” (Mason and Cheyne, 2000), but Butler denies by saying “a consistent evolution of tourist area can be conceptualized”.Tosun (2002) suggests that this model applies to specific areas and not all areasbecause the cycle varies from one tourist area to another.

2.3.4 Doxey’s Irritation Index

Associated with Butler’s life cycle theory is Doxey’s Irritation Index or Irridex which describes the resident-tourist interaction and attitude. This model explains host community reaction to tourism development in a specific area. The model outlines that negative impacts of tourism development might make residents feel irritated as with time host and tourists become incompatible with each other. The model has four stages which vary from euphoria, apathy, annoyance and to antagonism. Although Doxey’s (1975) irridex is regarded as one of the most influential theory has been starting from Euphoria to Antagonism, where the resident irritation increases through the stages 1 to 4. (1=low irritation,4=high level of irritation). One limitation of this theory and that of Butler also, is the assumption a community is heterogeneous. The study implies that is the whole community that becomes hostile to tourism, but very often different sections of the community have different reactions. It can be concluded that the Doxey Irritation Index is simple but it does indicate a factor in tourism development and by these social changes some residents will develop antagonistic attitudes towards tourism.

2.4 Resident’s perceptions towards tourism environmental impacts

The environment is one of the main area in which residents assess the potential impacts of tourism before they decide to embrace or reject it. According to Kuvan and Akan (2005, p.703) residents are more sensitive and concerned for problems related to the environment than the other negative impacts of tourism. Following this, Liu, Sheldon, and Var (1987) reported that residents have high ratings for environmental impacts. According to Mieczkowski (1995, p.8) defines ” the natural environment as a combination of non-living things, that is, abiotic, physical components together with biological resources or the biosphere including flora and fauna.” Kuvan and Akan (2005) describes scholars interests in investigating into community attitudes towards tourism impact on the natural environment at a time when ecological problems such as: pollution, depletion of natural resources and deforestation are increasing. This means that mountaineous areas, savannahs, wetlands, deserts, islands and the artic have biophysical characteristics that cause damage to the natural environment. These fragile areas when disturbed, normally have relatively slow rates of recovery (Harrison & Price, 1996).

The focus on environmental impacts emerged from residents perceived impacts of the environmental impacts and other tourism impacts such as economic and social impacts of tourism has lagged behind. (Kuvan & Akan, 2005).Moreover, there is a lack of information on resident’s perceived environmental impacts of tourism in developing countries (Kuvan & Akan , 2005; Madrgal, 1993). It is an agreed fact that tourism is believed to have a far more visible effect in rural areas and developing contries than urban areas and perhaps tourism has a greater effect on rural residents (Madrigal, 1993, p.337), studies related to resident’s perceptions of the environment has focused more on destinations, communities and regions in developed countries rather than on developing countries. Apart from this, Schluter and Var (1988) observed that there are some issues that are special to developing countries. Furthermore, a proper analysis of the resident’s perceived environmental impacts of tourism could help planners and tourism practitioners to identify real concerns and also to develop appropriate policies and actions.

2.5 Tourism development in Mauritius

“Mauritius was made first, and then heaven was copied from it” (Mark Twain). Mauritius is among the top 20 beautiful islands of the world .Tourism is an important contributor to economic growth in Small Island developing States like Mauritius. The World Bank has mentioned Mauritius as an example for southern Africa of an economy that has attained remarkable success in its economic development (World Bank, 1992; Hwedi, 2001). This success as mentioned cannot be escaped from tourism development, given Mauritius as the choice of destination for European visitors (Prayag, 2009; Prayag & Ryan, 2010).Mauritius’s tourism industry success can be measured by the fact that it makes the highest gross domestic product contribution (30 per cent) and receives the second highest yearly total budget allocation(16.1 per cent) of countries in

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