Aspects of carrying capacity
When applied to tourism, the concept of carrying capacity can be considered from different perspectives, for example environmental, social and physical.
Environmental carrying capacity can be described as the threshold at which the damage inflicted on a destination by tourism exceeds the ability of the environment or natural habitat to regenerate.
Social carrying capacity can be described as the threshold beyond which social aspects of the host community are negatively impacted by tourist activities, reducing their quality of life and potentially the experience of tourists themselves. Reduced tolerance for visitors and increased levels of crime are sometimes indicators that the carrying capacity has been surpassed.
Social carrying capacity can be described as the threshold beyond which social disturbance or cultural damage can occur, compromising the quality of life of hosting communities and, on the other side, the quality of the tourist experience.
Among the most recurrent indicators of an exceeded social carrying capacity in a destination are:
- A decreased level of tolerance towards visitors, on the side of the hosting population
- In the worst cases, also increased levels of crime
- Increase in the marketing of drugs directly linked to the presence of tourists
- Phenomena such as an increase of prostitution
- In general, a loss of socio-cultural values
Physical carrying capacity is the maximum number of visitors that a tourist attraction is able to support, that still allows people to move around comfortably.
Read the following articles and reflect on the impact of tourism on a destination:
A Bloomberg article on how overtourism is overwhelming the world’s top destinations.
A WorldAtlas article on the 10 most visited countries in the world.
Identify an example of each aspect of carrying capacity (social, environmental, physical) in your own region or from one of the countries mentioned in the top 10.
Take a photo of (or sketch) one of your examples and share it on the aspects of carrying capacity padlet wall.
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