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Negative environmental impacts

Environmental problems occur as a result of tourism development.
My background is that I’ve been working in the industry for many years now. I started on the commercial side working in product development and product management, travelled a lot in the late 80s, 1990s. I could see tourism expanding extremely quickly, bringing great economic and social benefits in many ways but also unintended consequences on the environmental side and sometimes the cultural side, so finding ways and models for sustainable tourism was something that was always important to me and certainly I’ve been focusing on that area for the last 15 years now, working with the business to identify how we can operate more sustainably, how we can reduce the environmental impacts that we’re having where those negative, and how we can really boost the social and cultural and economic benefits of tourism.
And one thing that I’ve noticed a real sea change in over the last 18 months is customers concern about single-use plastics in tourism and what we’re doing to address that, and it’s probably the one issue that I’ve had in a lot of emails from customers about and also concern from people within the organisation so, that gave us the impetus to really look at our business and our supply chain through a plastic lens.
I mean it reminds me actually in a way to the way that we’ve been looking at the business for the last sort of 10 to 15 years so much through a carbon lens, now we’re also doing it through a plastic lens and it’s really shocking how much single-use plastic we’ve been able to eradicate from our supply chain, we put in place measurements and performance targets across our airline, across our cruise ships, and particularly across our hotels, about sort of 12 to 18 months ago and we have now measured the taking out of quarter of a billion pieces of single-use plastic out of our operations.
So they’ve been taken out of our supply chain, taken out of our aircraft operations but some way to go so, it’s great that the customer is calling us out on that, it’s really driven some change and there’s EU legislation coming in place in a few years time which will seek to eradicate certain types of plastic that we’re trying to be ahead of the curve on that one.

Destinations often attract tourists because of their environment.

This environment may be man-made (ancient monuments, cultural buildings, resorts, etc.) or it could be natural (areas of natural beauty, climate, wildlife etc.) but as we said in the previous step, the negative effects of tourists on the very environment that drew them often outweigh the positive, so we will focus on these first.

There are two main ways that tourism negatively impacts on the environment:

  • Through the development of the area
  • Through the behaviour of tourists

The development of an area results in the construction of facilities, not only attractions and hotels but also buildings, roads, parking lots, facilities etc. These are often situated near tourism activities, which depend on destinations’ natural resources, which can result in damage to the surrounding area.

Such infrastructure developments might impact biodiversity and ecological habitats, damage original visual resources, and weaken the destination’s regional resilience to natural disasters in extreme weather conditions, which in turn may result in negative phenomena, such as soil erosion and landslides. The negative impacts also include the overuse of water resources and deforestation.

The behaviour of tourists, and their use of facilities, can result in environmental pollution through an increased number of people. As well as air pollution from an increase in the use of fossil fuels, pollution of the land and sea swells in tourist areas and in tourist seasons.

One recent and well publicised example, is related to plastic:

Tourists cause 40% spike in plastic entering Mediterranean Sea each summer, report finds but there are others such as Paradise lost: Beautiful islands ruined by tourism and Tourists Caused Too Much Damage to the Beach From Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘The Beach’.

It is becaiuse of articles like these that concern over the use of plastic is at the forefront of may people’s thoughts and, as Jane Ashton said in the video above, creating the impetus for orgainisations to change.

In addition to these publicised examples, academic research has also found that tourism negatively affects the environment of a destination:

Environmental pollution due to increased tourism, such as traffic congestion, littering, and noise, is an important impact that affects the quality of residents’ daily lives.
(Chang et al, 2018)
In addition to air and water pollution, the use of green spaces and consumption of energy means that tourism, like other industries, contributes to climate change, thereby affecting more than the specific destination and, more recently there has been a shift in public perceptions to focus more on the effect tourism has on the climate as a whole rather than in specific destinations.

Your task

Discuss what negative environmental impacts are currently being focused on at both the destination and whole climate level. What solutions have been proposed? Are they realistic and achievable? Do you have any solutions of your own that you would like to propose?


Chang, K. G., Chien, H., Cheng, H. & Chen, H. (2018). The impacts of tourism development in rural indigenous destinations: An investigation of the local residents’ perception using choice modeling. Sustainability, 10(12), 4766.

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The Impacts of Tourism

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