Harmful Impacts of Tourism

Although tourism can be very beneficial, especially economically, to the host destination, there are many strings attached.  Tourism inevitably brings with it environmental and cultural degradation.  Though these impacts are closely enter twined, here they will be addressed separately.

Environmental Impacts of Tourism

Tourism has vastly different faces, as different people enjoy different types of vacations.  An allocentric traveler would enjoy backpacking through a distant jungle with little more than the bare necessities while some people prefer a beach front luxury hotel with all the comforts andconveniences of  home.

Figure 1.1. Clay Butler illustration of tourism replacing nature instead of protecting it. (McLaren, 1998).

The introduction of the "mega resort" has been one of the most economically successful and environmentally destructive additions to the tourism industry.  Large corporate owned resorts, which are usually based in countries other than those in which they exist, rarely give back to the local communities on which they depend and thrive.  More often than not, lower level positions such as maids, cooks, waiters, and bellhops are available to the local residents while upper level and management positions arereserved for corporate immigrants.
These resorts take away from smaller scale, locally owned establishments and do not contribute to the local communities in a positive manner.  Large resorts are very rarely environmentally friendly, and in turn do not normally attract an environmentally conscious clientele.
Not only does heavy construction aid erosion (especially in tropical climates) but essentially, construction and development equals pollution.  Tourist generated pollution comes from things such as rental car exhaust and oil leaks, machinery used to build hotels, commercial airplanes, and airport construction just to name a few (McLaren, 1998).
To a greater extent, after the completion of construction, tourists as a group consume a tremendous amount of natural resources and produce an equally tremendous amount of waste.  The influx of tourists into a community creates a transient but permanent population increase (McLaren, 1998).  Two major problems arise from a sudden population increase:  an over consumption of resources, and an over production of waste.  Over consumption causes problems such as water shortages, frequent loss of electricity, and over fishing of local waters.  The over production of waste is an ever-present threat to tourist communities.  this shows itself in the form of water and air pollution, liter, and the frequent overflow of sewage systems.  As a result of these types of waste many places experience loss of potable water, loss of local animal populations, and the spread of disease and infection.
The degradation of local infrastructure results from the heavy traffic of cars and tour buses.  This is especially a problem in developing nations where cars are not a household item and roads and bridges were not designed to withstand heavy traffic.  In situations involving tourist oriented corporations that return most of their profits to their own countries, the host communities are left to foot the bill for repairing the damages.

Cultural Impacts of Tourism
In addition to tourism's environmental impacts on host destinations, there are also many important cultural issues to consider.  Some of these issues result from the environmental impacts that carry over into the community.  For instance, the inability of local business owners to compete with large corporations.  Development of land also causes land prices to rise so that local residents cannot afford to buy.  Most tourists are oblivious as to the extent of the impact they have on their host community.
Even a very conscientious traveler can bring infection and disease to a host destination.  An estimated 90% of indigenous peoples in the Americas died due to exposure to disease brought over by Europeans (McLaren, 1998).  Although that was a very long time ago, many "exotic" travel destinations are not as medically advanced as the more developed countries still today.
The tourism industry has a tendency to view local people as either a pool of waiters, bellhops, laundresses, and gardeners; or performers and spectacles for the tourists to see.  This is evident even in our own Native American reservations.

    Figure 1.2. A sign in Bali advertises tour to a cremation ceremony.  Tickets are sold, and van loads are of tourists are taken to the sight by a tour company without the consent of the ceremony participants. (McLaren,1998).

Things as simple and thoughtless as a tourist walking through a local market in little more than a bathing suit, not only offend, but contribute to the undermining of social standards.  This type of tourist behavior demonstrates a lack of respect for the local culture.  As local residents witness this lack of respect, they also witness the fact that many of the tourists are enjoying luxuries (i.e. heated water for bathing) that are not available to them.  The combination of these things can cause tension between the local residents and the tourist population.  And often to a further extent there is an increase in crime, mostly in the way of petty theft and pick pocketing, but sometimes sexual assault.

Figure 1.3.  McDonald's is a good representation of "monoculture."  Yet another goes up here in Guam (McLaren, 1998).

Yet another cultural impact of international tourism is the substitution of a "monoculture" as westernized goods, services, and ideas are imported into the host destination.  According to NGO Third World Network president, Martin Khor, globalization is the leading threat to local communities especially in the global, (McLaren, 1998).