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Running Head: Impact of Tourism on Environment | 3



Tourism is a major source of income for many nations across the world. The high numbers of tourism, which Stephen Gosling approximated at 700 million in the year 2000, are driven by the diversity in culture, climate, development, flora and fauna in different parts of the world (Gossling, 2002). Individual visit countries along the tropics to enjoy the sandy beaches and warm climate, others visit European and countries to witness historic structures while others are attracted to South American countries by the exotic cultures. In the modern day, other drivers for tourism, for instance, sports tourism, scientific adventures, religious pilgrimage and sex tourism among others have emerged further increasing the number of tourists across the globe. The increase in disposable income, especially among the ever expanding middle-class population is another key factor behind the rising number of both domestic and foreign tourists.

Therefore, it is important to manage the tourism industry properly to ensure that a nation maximizes on the positive benefits of tourism while minimizing the negative environmental impacts that emanate from tourism and related activities. The industry impacts the environment both directly and indirectly (Gosling, 2002).GhulamRabbany, 2013). Due to the surging numbers, the tourism industry has had a significant impact on the environment. While there are some positive impacts of tourism on the environment, the industry has contributed largely to environmental degradation as this paper will seek to explain. The negative impacts of the tourism industry can slowly cause environmental degradation and eventually destroy the environment on which it thrives. On the other hand, tourism can also contribute positively towards environmental conservation and awareness (

Negative Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

The over-utilization of tourism facilities and resources is the major cause of environmental degradation (Gossling, 2002). Many countries, out of the desire of higher incomes, encourage more and more tourism without considering the maximum limit of tourism that the environment can sustain. The result is over-stretched natural resources, human- wildlife conflict, increased discharges into the water bodies, loss of natural habitat and increased pressure on endangered species among other negative impacts.

The United Nations Environment Program sites the over-use of fresh water resources as one of the negative impacts of the lucrative industry. Fresh water is used in the tourism industry to maintain golf-courses, swimming pool and use in hotels, which may often stretch fresh water resources as well as create a lot of waste water. The report likens the water requirement of one golf resort to the water requirement of approximately sixty thousand villagers (UNEP, 2012).

The industry also contributes significantly to air pollution. Tourists move from one point to another using planes, trains and ships and increase the energy needs in various destinations thus contributing to emissions of toxic gases into the atmosphere that leads to global warming. Aside from air, tourists also contribute significantly to noise pollution. Discos and night-clubs are set-up in tourist destinations which are characterized by a lot of loud music. The vehicles and planes used by tourist also contribute to a certain extent to noise pollution. The noise causes distress among wild game because they are not accustomed to such noises.

In order for tourism to flourish, a lot of infrastructure development is required. Hotels and resorts are therefore set in different parts to accommodate the ever swelling number of tourists. Some are even built in the wilderness so as to give tourists a real wild safari adventure. An example is the number of hotels set up in the Maasai-Mara in East Africa in order to enable tourists to witness the eighth wonder of the world marked by the migration of wildebeests across the vast Mara plains from the comfort of their hotel rooms (Batta, 2007). Roads are also constructed in the wild to provide routes for tourist to follow in the adventures. The infrastructure impacts negatively on the environment by exerting pressure on the scarce wild land and grazing lands for animals. The structures limit the movement of animals and may deny them easy access to grazing lands and water points.

Gosling points out that tourist directly or indirectly lead to extinction of endangered species (Gossling, 2002). The visitors often buy rare animals, plants and birds to domesticate them, thus denying them a chance to exist in their natural habitat and interact with other animals as nature dictates. Animals are often caged in circuses and animal orphanages to give tourists an opportunity to mingle with the animals. Some of the orphanages subject the beasts of nature to harsh conditions that may even lead to their death. Other tourists feed the animals and thus expose the animals to chemicals and human diseases that may be fatal to the health of the animals.

The hospitality industry is directly driven by tourism. Therefore, we can deduce that tourism contributes significantly to the solid waste and sewerage management and disposal problem that has become rampant with the rise of the hospitality industry. The sewage wastes are often directed to water bodies creating health hazards and water pollution alike. Tourists have also been accused of littering in the environment, thereby denying the environment its natural aesthetic beauty. The litter may at times include lit cigarettes that when carelessly disposed especially in the dry areas may cause bush fires which often spread quickly and are hard to contain that end up not only destroying vegetation but also killing wild animals and birds. The animals that are lucky to escape the fire are thereafter rendered homeless until the vegetation grows back.

Positive Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

The tourism industry should also be applauded for its positive contribution towards a sustainable environment. Some countries have set aside some funds from the multi-billion earnings made from the industry to promote environment conservation measures. Central and East Africa, where poaching of elephants and rhinos for their tusks is rampant, money from the booming tourism industry was set aside to put in place mechanisms to avert the vice. Parts of the monies are used in demarcating areas where the flora and fauna thrive to prevent any form of conflict with human activities (Batta, 2007).

Tourism provides employment to millions of individuals across the world. It, therefore, indirectly, protects the environment from destruction by individuals that would have otherwise been unemployed had it not been for the tourism industry.

Suggested Solutions

It will require the concerted efforts of all key players in the tourism industry to ensure that the environment is protected from unwarranted destruction due to tourism activities. Governments, schools, not-for profit organizations all have a critical role of sensitizing the public on the need for sustainable environment conservation.

Policy makers within the government sector also have a big role to formulate rules and regulations to ensure that a balance is struck between economic benefits from tourism and environmental conservation. Proper planning and management of tourism and related activities is critical to ensure that available resources are not overs-tretched.

Regulating the number of tourists is another critical solution towards minimizing the negative impacts of tourism. Governments should put in place measures to ensure that the number of visitors does not exceed the capacity the environment can sustain without causing a strain on natural resources.

There should also be regulated interaction with the wildlife. The encroaching of infrastructure on grazing lands and other tourist destinations should be checked. Aside from preventing the limited movement of animals, it would also prevent deforestation and human-wildlife conflict.


Tourism is a critical tool for economic progress, however, if not correctly planned for can result in undesired and dire effects on the environment (Md. GhulamRabbany, 2013). The fresh water resources, marine life, wildlife or plants may become victims of our greed for the income from tourism.

Environmental degradation may have negative effects on other aspects of human lives that are not necessarily related to tourism, for instance, global warming. Such effects negatively influence other economic activities as well as the quality of lives we live and thus there is a lot of need to effectively manage the industry to mitigate such negative effects.

Md. GhulamRabbany refers to sustainable tourism as that which respects the environment and is based on generally accepted principles of sustainability (Md. GhulamRabbany, 2013). In a nutshell, as the paper suggests, it is important to strike a balance between economic gains made from the tourism industry and the need for environmental conservation.


Batta, R. N. (2007). Tourism and the Environment: A Quest for Sustainability : with Special Reference to Developing Countries, and Policy Analysis on Himachal Pradesh. Dar es Salaam: Indus Publishing.

Gossling, S. (2002). Global Environmental Consequence of Tourism. Global Environment Change, 283-302.

Md. GhulamRabbany, S. A. (2013). ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF TOURISM. American Journal of Environment, Energy and Power Research, 117-130.

UNEP. (2012). Tourism’s Three Main Impact Areas. UNEP magazine for environmentally sustainable development, 1-13.