DU Wiki > Ă„mnen - Subjects > Tourism studies > Introduction to Tourism and Destination Development (TR1015) > Wiki - Article 2 > Environment and its relationship to tourism - Group 1

Environment and its relationship to tourism - Group 1

    Table of contents
    No headers

                                     Environmental studies and Tourism

                    Zinnia Guittin, Fia Wahlbäck, Nastassia Yaramchuk, Vjaceslav Alekseev




    In many cases, natural resources generate the motivation for tourists to visit a destination. These exactly same natural resources can also function as attractions, their quality and quantity having a crucial influence on how the tourist experiences the destination (Cooper, 2012). This leads to the conclusion that the combination of environmental studies with the aspects of tourism offers an extensive field for future research, since both of these topics are closely linked to each other and may have important effects on one another in a positive but also in a negative manner (Holden, 2006). The term ‘environmental studies’ deals with the analysis of the connection between social structures, natural environment and mankind, regarding how these three subjects are influencing and affecting each other, but also which problems are caused as a consequence of the interrelationship of these differing fields (Holden, 2006 referring to Nelissen et al., 1997).



    History of environmental studies

    The disposal of chemical waste into the sea from a factory in the town of Minamata, Japan, in the 1950s led to a contamination of water and fish in the nearby bay causing severe health problems for people living in the area and is seen by Hodgson (1996) and Holden (2006) as the first event that caused environmental concerns among the public. In the 1960s, researchers started to realize how mankind is influencing and changing the environment of our planet, leading to the creation of academic studies about environmental concerns due to human influence. At that time tourism was regarded as an industry which does not contribute to environmental changes (Holden, 2006). With the spread of mass tourism in the Mediterranean area in the 1970s, especially in Spain, southern France and Italy, the tourism industry became suspect to have negative environmental impacts on these destinations (Goldsmith, 1974, cited in Holden, 2008). The rise of public concerns about ecological issues took place in the same decade leading to the establishment of several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like ‘Greenpeace’ or ‘Friends of the Earth’ which influenced the media and political structures to drew their attention towards problems in the environment (Holden, 2006).  During the 1980s the tourism industry reached from the ‘Western countries’ into areas as the Caribbean, South East Asia and the African Continent, broadening awareness about consequences for the environment due to economic development in developing nations (Holden, 2006). The connection between tourism and environmental problems started to appear in the media more frequently causing increased concerns that the tourism sector, which was former regarded as an environmental friendly industry, could not continue exploiting natural resources at such a pace (Holden, 2008). As Holden (2008) points out that research about local and global impacts on the Environment throughout the decade of the 1990s increased, causing debates and serious protests about various ethical concerns: “An ethical dimension was increasingly introduced into environmental campaigning over rights of non-human life, with high-profile and sometimes violent actions being taken for the liberation of animals from experimentation.” (Holden, 2008: 69), led to a change of attitude towards environmental issues from a political perspective. In various European nations, political parties which were fighting for green influence, gained enough votes to get into parliaments and even ministries (Holden, 2006 referring to Bowcott et al., 1999) which then started addressing environmental problems, funding research and looking for methods for sustainable destinations on a political scale.


    How tourism and environment are affecting each other

    Tourism and environment are closely linked to one another: on one hand tourism destinations are relying on natural resources, so called ‘common pool resources’ (CPRs) in academic circles, as mountainous regions, coral reefs, any kind of natural waters and others which function in form of attractions; and on the other side, environment can change in a positive as well as in a negative way due to tourism influence (Holden, 2006). The rise of sea the level, the meltdown of glaciers and the polar ice, the change in temperatures all over the globe are not just bringing transformation from an environmental point of view, but they are also impacting numerous other fields of society like in this case, tourism. By remarking Goudie and Viles (1997) explanation of coral reefs, Holden (2006) uses the example to explain how the handling of ‘common pool resources’ is affecting the environment, tourism and other sectors: the ecosystems of coral reefs are highly sensitive to any shift in temperatures or the chemical composition of the surrounding water, therefore it is essential that all actors like accommodation providers, tour guides and tourists do not damage the reef in any possible way otherwise future tourist arrivals will decline due to a loss in quality of the attraction resulting in reduced income for the entrepreneurs of the local community, which means decreased revenues generated from taxes for the local, regional or national government of the destination leading to a loss of potential investment (Holden, 2006). The effects of global climate change upon the environment resulting from human behavior are undeniable and have to be minimized by future research.





    Tourism impacts on the environment


    Pollution is often regarded as one of the biggest negative impacts of tourism on the environment like the infection of water due to vessels while transporting tourists or the disposal of sewage water into rivers, lakes and oceans. The emissions released from tourism transportation methods (e.g.: cars and airplanes) contribute highly to air pollution and result in global climate change and the damaging of the earth’s ozone layer (Holden, 2008). This list of issues can be continued by mentioning the problem of waste disposal in tourism destinations due to high numbers of tourists, noise pollution resulting from traffic or tourist behavior and aesthetic pollution which takes place when areas in tourism destinations are being modified to increase its attractiveness or its efficiency to fulfill tourists needs (Holden, 2006 citing Burac, 1996).

    A further negative impact of tourism on the environment is the overuse of natural resources which can result in conflicts when the same resources are used by the tourism industry and other sectors, for example agriculture or if the tourism industry is developing too fast in certain destinations to maximize its profits which will result in a decline in the long run.

    The environment of planet Earth consists of various ecosystem, some of which are unique and very fragile, providing destinations with important attractions for tourists to visit and experience nature in a way they have never done before. Being heavily exposed to tourists, these ecosystems can suffer significant damage due to tourism activities (e.g.: skiing, water sports), development of infrastructure (e.g.: roads, power lines, marinas), construction of facilities (e.g.: accommodation, theme parks) and a general destabilization of the biodiversity (UNEP).


    The formulation of positive impacts resulting from tourism on the environment is questionable because as Holden (2006) argues, by using such an expression, it is meant that the environment is being protected from further negative impacts caused by human influence worse than tourism like deforestation or mining. So called ecotourism or nature based tourism can lead to beneficial outcomes for the environment when financial benefits, earned from tourism, are being channeled into preserving wildlife, by doing so the tourism industry helps to sustain ecosystems while still using these ecosystems as a form of tourist attraction (USA Today). Wildlife tourism has changed from exotic animals being hunted down by rich European colonialists for their pleasure, to tourists spending a significant amount of money to get the opportunity to observe rare animals in their natural surroundings without destabilizing the sensitive ecosystem they live in (Holden, 2006). This change allows sensitive ecosystems to stabilize its biodiversity, provides tourists with the possibility to experience unique nature and creates a new, sustainable source of income for local communities, especially in low-developed regions where this form of tourism can be utilized to reduce the consequences of agriculture, deforestation and the overuse of natural resources (USA Today). Therefore a rise of environmental awareness among tourists can lead to an increase of wildlife conservation because the tourism industry is going to realize how people base their decision making on the sustainability aspect of a destination.



    How can tourism contribute to environmental conservation?

    Rising awareness

    Tourists are getting aware of their travel behavior, advances in technology and transportation take place, infrastructure and facilities reach new levels, all these factors are shaping and changing the tourism industry and future research is necessary to reduce the negative impacts of tourism upon the environment. Therefore a rise of environmental awareness among tourists can lead to an increase of wildlife conservation because the tourism industry is going to realize how people base their decision making on the sustainability aspect of a destination which will lead to an increased demand of nature based or green tourism (Hunter and Green, 1995).

    Sustainability and tourism

    First of all, it is necessary to differentiate between sustainable development, which is a vague expression and can be described in various contexts regarding the authors point of view, but is nevertheless in most cases referred to as a process fulfilling needs and wants of people without exploiting nature (Holden, 2008), (Butler, 1993); and sustainable tourism. In this case it is utterly important to clarify what it takes to call a destination or process involved in tourism as ‘sustainable’ although it is hardly possible to give a single definition of this term. 

    The World Tourism Organization (1994) describes sustainable tourism as a complex process during which present and future economic, social, cultural and aesthetical goals for both, tourists and the local community are trying to be achieved while preserving the environment involving determined long term planning and establishing responsible arrangements. Sustainable tourism “contributes to regional, national and global resource conservation and preservation measures in order to advance intra- and inter-generational equity of access to wealth-generating natural resources.” (Hunter and Green, 1995: 70).





    Cooper, C. (2012). Essentials of tourism. Harlow, England ; New York: Pearson Financial Times/Prentice Hall.

    Hodgson, G. (1996). People’s century: from the start of the nuclear age to the end of the century. London: BBC Books.

    Holden, A. (2005). Tourism studies and the social sciences. London ; New York, NY: Routledge.

    Holden, A. (2008). Environment and tourism (2nd ed). London ; New York: Routledge.

    Hunter, C., & Green, H. (1995). Tourism and the environment: a sustainable relationship?. London ; New York: Routledge.

    Simm, C. (n.d.). Positive & Negative Effects of Tourism [Commercial]. Retrieved from

    UNEP. (n.d.-a). Environmental Impacts of Tourism - Global Level [Organisation]. Retrieved from

    UNEP. (n.d.-b). Tourism’s Three Main Impact Areas [Organisation]. Retrieved from

    Files (0)


    Comments (0)

    You must login to post a comment.