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Tourism Context and Impacts

Tourism Context and Tourism Impacts
In the last video, we discussed the pressure of people on places, and I try to argue that studies of impacts of tourism are not new. In fact, there is about history of 50 years also, in which people have studied the economic, environmental and social impacts of tourism. Before talking in more detail about the impacts of tourism, I want to make some context comments about tourism. First of all, it is important to recognize that tourists visit special places, they visit mountains, coasts, coral reefs, heritage sites, and these places are often very fragile, they can be destroyed very easily. The second important general point is that tourism is ubiquitous, but is also highly concentrated.
There are very few places in the world that are not visited by tourists. High mountains, and dry deserts, are all visited by tourists, and only the bottom of the oceans are not visited, So, tourists are everywhere. But also, tourists are highly concentrated. And they are concentrated on different scales, they are concentrated on large regions such as Alps, they are concentrated in particular places. So for instance, people visit China, as a limited number of places they often choose to visit Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Guilin, so on, and within their places they are further concentrated. And of course, in those areas where a large number of people are concentrated, there is a danger of having too many tourists and destroying the resource.
Another important point is tourism is a form of urbanization. When tourists visit a place, they need many of things that are needed in the cities. They need transportation, they need a place to live or accommodation, they need water, they need energy, they generate waste. So, a growing number of tourists is likely increasing the population of the areas that they visit. And therefor, they need the kinds of services that are often found in the urban areas.
And as tourism has involved, the units of production have increased in sizes. Planes are bigger than they used to be, hotels have more rooms than they used to have, cruise ships have got larger and larger and larger. And so, it becomes very difficult to manage and plan for these very large units and keep them in balance. One new airplane landing every day, may increase number of visitors by several hundreds, and they need somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat, someone to take care of their waste. In addition to the rapid growth number of tourists, we have to consider the changes in sizes of units of production.
And in my discussion of the impacts, I will focus on the impacts on destinations, on the places tourists visit, that is the kind of topic that is receiving most attention. However, increasingly, people are also studying the impacts of the journey itself. Because of course as people travel, they use energy that creates greenhouse gases, that contributes to climate change. I’m not going to say a lot about that in this presentation, but it is important topic related to impacts.
Turning on to impacts and consequences of tourism, it’s really difficult to make generalizations about the impacts of the tourism. Firstly, the activities in which tourists participate are very varied. So, it is obvious that the consequences of visiting a museum are different from skiing down a hill or for going on a cruise.
So, this means that many studies focus on the impacts of particular activities and it is difficult to generalize from one activity to another activity. Also, as we said, tourism occurs everywhere, in many different ecosystems or settings. So the impacts of tourism on a coral reef are obviously going to be different from impacts on a desert or impacts on a tropical forest. So, we have to bear in mind the nature of the environment in which tourism is occurring. And furthermore, there are direct and indirect impacts. The impacts of tourism themselves, for example, are very direct as they walk upon things, as they purchase items in shops and so on. But also, indirect impacts, as places further away have consequences from tourism.
Things will happen upstream in the river for instance, affect what goes on downstream. Purchases in agriculture products for example, may influence farming practices some distance away. So, this makes it very difficult to define a study area when we want to understand the impacts of tourism. Impact research is not easy to do, and there are many challenges which much be overcome if people are trying to understand the impacts of tourism. Ideally, we want to know what places were like before tourism occurred, so that we can then measure the changes and associate these changes with growing number of tourists.
But often we don’t know what places were like before the tourists arrived, we can’t define that, then we guess to some extent that what the impacts of tourists are. Also, it is very difficult to separate changes resulting from natural processes, from change resulting from human activities. This of course is one of the biggest issues related to climate change, how much change in climate is natural, and how much is human induced. But this also applies to many other aspects of the environment. So described natural that gravity causes things to move down a slope, but often soils and vegetation are disrupted by human beings and they move down a slope more quickly. So, it is a combination of natural and environment.
If we consider air pollution, human beings generate the particles, but often the weather system and the topography shape the valleys, influence weather pollution will be concentrated or weather will be dispersed. So, the combination of natural and human processes work together. And I will give examples of the fact that tourists arrive at one location, but the effects occur somewhere else, upstream or downstream affects.
As a result of these kind of situations, the study of the impacts of tourism, whether is economic, environmental or social cultural, can be quite complicated. Most studies occur after the fact, what I mean by this is that the impacts have already been created. People study that because they are concerned about the changes that they observed, so they coming after the changes have occurred. The studies are often done quite quickly, but often it is very difficult to relate the amount of use which is not been measured within changes that have occurred.
It would be better to monitor the changes and monitor the tourism use, so we could try to understand how many people doing what activities have resulted in changes that we can observe. However, this takes a lot of time, and therefor it’s more expensive to do. It doesn’t make good thesis topic, because it takes you long time to finish your study if you monitor things over a long time. There are some experimental studies which I call simulation where people do experiments to try to understand the impacts of particular activities.
So, for example people may walk across the area a known number of times, and then they may go back and try to say what change is taken place in the soils and vegetation.

In this session, Professor Geoffrey Wall will give us an overview on the context of tourism and the complexity of tourism impacts.

Is the impact of tourism on destinations measurable? Why?

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Tourism Policy and Planning

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