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Environmental Studies and Tourism - Group 7

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    1. 1. References

    Aurore Gallin-Martel, Jordi Balbin Vila, Erik Linares Ponsbach & Vickie Hafsjold Lund Andersen


    This article is based on the relations between tourism and the environment. The environment is threatened by changes brought by humans. The amount of waste caused by tourists at tourism destinations is huge, and is polluting the nature and environment in general. Also it will focus on the types of pollution and how they affect the nature and the human beings, and how it has affected the nature in the past. Also we will remark between the positive and negative impacts tourism has on the environment. Is it possible for tourism to be a key factor in decreasing the environmental pollution or at least maintain it as it is in this moment?


    Environmental studies and concerns

    In the 1960s, human activity was noticed as harmful to the environment. As a consequence, there was the birth of environmental studies, in an attempt to control the disequilibrium in the environment. It attempts to give awareness in terms of global warming, ozone depletion or pollution. Given that human behaviour is seen as one of the major factors of environmental issues, an understanding of social sciences is required in order to find solutions to combat it.

    Some of the human impacts on the environmental were considered since the 1950s. For instance, levels of carbon dioxide increased by 30% and 50% of the rainforest has been destroyed since the 1950s. Thus, the 1990s had the highest record regarding to warm temperature (Holden,2005).

    By the 1980s, environmental concerns due to human behaviour were exposed by the media items. Furthermore, in the next decade an appearance of a “new” consumer culture challenged environmental action, also accompanied with international cooperation within governments. From this cooperation, Agenda 21 or the “Kyoto Protocol” were established as an intent to redirect environmental impacts.

    During the 1970s, the number of visitors increased and tourists themselves started questioning their environmental impacts. However, not until the 1990s it was also cared about by tourism industry (Holden, 2005).


    Relationship between tourism and environment

    There is a major dependency of tourism upon natural resources. As a result, positive or negative consequences will occur for the environment, with a reciprocal relationship. In other words, while tourism has an impact on the environment, changes in that destination are likely to happen, influencing future tourism. Furthermore, disciplines such as society or economics within tourism could also be affected by environmental variations. Environmental impacts are a controversial point, as positive and negative repercussions can be found.

    Negative impacts, relates to an excessive usage of natural resources and pressures on ecosystems. Some of those resources used by tourism are named common pool resources. These are resources which its exploitation is costly because of public usage. Thus, its usages reduce the benefit from someone, making it difficult to commercialize. Harvest and secure the benefits of the resource before everyone else is the main purpose of “finders-keepers” (Holden, 2005).

    Ocean, sea, mountains or coral reefs, which a further explanation will be written above, are likely to be touristic resources. Regarding to coral reefs, are colonies of animals which form’s one of the biggest diverse ecosystems in the entire globe. It has been proved that they are extremely sensitive to environmental variations, requiring a constant temperature and high amounts of oxygen in the water (Holden, 2005). Within that case, from a tourism point of view, different groups might expect benefits in all scales, such as tour operators, tourists and entrepreneurs. Expectations might interfere with coral’s ecosystem, and destroy them. Another factor of coral reefs destruction is the release of untreated sewage in the water. As a consequence, high level of algae is suffocating the vast majority of coral reefs fauna, such as sponges, crustaceans, fishes and sea turtles.

    Another ecosystem where environmental impacts are likely to occur is the mountains, as an interest on the activities that they provide has grown for the past decades. In that case, both positive and negative impacts can be found. As for positive impacts, economic benefits such as employment opportunities are the major one. On the other hand, multiple negative impacts are likely to appear, amongst which aesthetic pollution, global warming or the loss of wildlife habitat.

    As far as the reciprocal relationship goes, climate change is affecting tourism through unusual weather situations, such as warmer winters or colder summers.

    Going back to tourism, pressure on the land could benefit destination amenities whilst it damages soil, reducing agriculture opportunities. Working hand in hand, freshwater it is a scarce resource, which also can affect land treatment or similarly can affect tourism in case destination demand cannot be fully provided.

    An important element of the interactions between tourism and the environment are the stakeholders, counting tourists, tourism business, local communities and governments. We can distinct between two expansive approaches based on our interaction within ecosystem and the value it has for the people, ‘shallow ecology’ and ‘deep ecology’. The first is based on an ‘anthropocentric’ view of the nature, which means that nature is seen as detached from humans. The other approach ‘deep ecology’ refuses any separation between human and nature, all being are equal.


    Negative impacts

    •     Pollution

    First of all, there are different types of pollution referring to tourism, such as water, air, noise and aesthetic pollution. The water pollution has devastated consequences in the marine life, but also in human health. This can be seen on the coral-reefs around the globe; 27% of the coral-reefs in the world are threatened (Holden, 2005). In the human aspect, we can use an example as the concern, in 1988, of a typhoid outbreak in Salou in Spain when polluted water caused a 70 per cent comedown in tourist bookings the following year. The failing of treating human waste can led to infection, gastro-intestinal disease, leptospirosis and cholera (Holden, 2005).

    Another cause to water pollution could be the use of fertilisers and herbicides on golf courses and gardens of hotels, since it will run to the underground due to rain, and eventually end up in rivers, lakes and seas. An important fact on this pollution is the hotels producing major amounts of ‘grey water’ from washing machines, sinks, showers and baths, and also the ‘black water’ caused by kitchen dishwashing and toilets, all of this can result in pollutants such as fecal coliform bacteria and other chemicals will run directly into the environment (Holden, 2005).

    Secondly, the transport of hundreds of millions of tourists is the principal cause to air pollution. The air traffic has expanded five to six per cent a year in the last 50 years, and is now responsible for three per cent of the world’s CO2 emission. Air transport supplies to the global warming and one of the consequences predicted for that is a rise in the sea level of between 20 cm and 100 cm in this century. It can have devastating consequences for some islands as The Maldives and Fiji, a huge part of the land mass could vanish, and salt water may mix with the freshwater in the aquifers and this could make these islands uninhabitable (Holden, 2005). The energy requirements of hotels and resorts add to the air pollution, by burning carbon fuels, as coal, oil and natural gas. Even though tourists traveling by airplanes play a big role in the air pollution, the transportation by car has the biggest impact on the environment.

    Referring to the noise pollution, it can be made by transport, neighbours and industry, such as building hotels and resorts. Consequences of noise pollution can be the disruption of sleep, the change of behaviour or causing irritation. As an example, nightclubs, which are open until the early morning, disturb the residents and the tourists in the tourism destinations.

    Finally, in the aesthetic pollution, which is the most obvious pollution caused by tourism. For example the ski lifts and pistes have been criticised as a form of aesthetic pollution.

    • Environmental quality

    To attract tourists, the tourism destinations have to have a great environmental quality. Tourists usually travel to areas of natural beauty, but a major number of visitors may destroy the image of the tourism attraction, since it simply ruins the beauty of the destination.


    However, in order to reduce human impact on the environment, several solutions can be implemented. One of these solutions is to give a better environmental education to visitors, in order to raise awareness on such sensitive topics. Using media as a global source is one option used by the governments. In many ways it can be found on public information or in new technologies, for instance: television programmes, documentaries, newspaper or internet (Cooper, 2012).

    In addition, NGOs also take part in the protection of the environment, so they have to pressure government in order to achieve international agreements that have been stated, such as Planet 21 or “Kyoto Protocol”. Thus, these organisations may try to motivate people in taking part in these actions, giving reasons to not be in silence while our planet is dying.


    Positive Impacts

    Positive environmental impacts of tourism is basically when tourism is used to protect the environment from other prejudicial forms of development actions, such as logging or mining.  It is in the hands of tourists to spend money for tourism services and visit attractions related to the wildlife and the environment. Often in East Africa, the tourists have mistaken the ‘viewing animals’ with shooting them in the safari-tourism. This has led to lots of species getting extinct. Governments have usually acted to preserve natural resources, because this type of tourism has a great impact in an economic way. In poor countries, national parks act as a key function to conserve the ecosystems and wildlife. For example, the first national park was created in Yosemite, USA, in 1890. Otherwise national parks are also created in habituated land, for example in Latin America (Holden, 2005).



    Thus, awareness on environmental issues should be part of education from the very first years of school in order to help children understand and take more care of ecosystems.

    Moreover, tourism does not only affect the environment, it also has a great impact on natural resources such as oil. Indeed, without the tourism industry, the amount of petrol consumption would be much lower and the issue of renewability of resources would not be so urgent. For instance, if we look at the case of Dubai, we can wonder how its tourism will survive once all its oil is gone.  

    To sum up, these topics are important for the future generations, so an appropriate research is necessary in order to get a good understanding of environmental issues.



    Holden, A., (2005). Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. New York: Routledge

    Cooper, C., (2012). Essentials of Tourism. Essex: Pearson Financial Times/Prestige Hall

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