Despite challenges such as travel restrictions as well as safety and security concerns, there has been a rapid growth in the global tourism industry throughout the years.
According to a report from World Tourism Organization the number of international tourists is expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2020 and 1.8 billion by 2030 which implies the significance of tourism sector in the future (www.e-unwto.org).
Tourism holds great potential and can contribute to a country in several aspects, specifically to a country’s economy and environment, however the implications followed by tourism are not all positive and some countries face challenges, including environmental challenges that are alarming.The link between tourism and the physical environment is inevitable and the implications for the environment depend on the behavior of the individual tourist towards nature. The environmental challenges caused by tourism are many including global warming, pollution, ecosystem degradation and so on.
During the last decade, two major areas of concern have become air pollution and overexploitation of critical resources caused by tourists. There has been a significant increase in air traffic caused by factors such as inexpensive air tickets and rising GDP. According to EU’s environment reports lung damaging aircrafts will emissions will increase to 43% by 2035 (Neslen, 2016). This has alarming effects not only on health but on the global environment leading to catastrophic climate changes.
In addition, tourism has an importance for the resources of a country and one are that has been affected is the water resources. Water is essential for the tourism industry in hotels, swimming pools, golf courses and the like.Figure #2: The high water consumption of tourism-related activities.
Figure 2 compares usage of water per day in a single-family home, in a pool, ski resort and at a golf course. It is apparent that the usage of a single-family home per day is insignificant compared to other tourism-related activities. In areas where clean water is already a critical resource the overexploitation can cause a higher risk for conflicts and diseases. The figure below illustrates the massive inequality in the local and touristic consumption of water in Bali.
Figure #3: Water consumption by tourists is far greater than consumption by local populations. It is important for governments to address the wider impacts of overexploitation of resources from tourists in order to enforce rules and regulations to decrease such tendencies in future. In some areas, the overexploitation has led to severe resentment among the locals triggering demonstrations and cutting of water systems to the hotels (Hickman, 2012).
Collective and conscious efforts by policymakers, NGOs and tourists are required to deal with the wider negative environmental impacts of tourism because research shows that it is not only the environment that is affected by touristic activities but similarly the environment affects the tourists as well as their choice of travelling destinations. An example here would be China that has been experiencing a decrease in tourism and the air pollution has been blamed for that. Worldwide news coverage about China’s pollution hurts China’s image and drives away international tourists (Press, 2013).Figure #4: China tops the world in air pollution but other nations are not far behind.
Rates of tourism can suffer as a result. The tourism sector is an economic asset if tourists increasingly protect the environment. For example, the tourism sector can contribute vastly to the economic strength of a country.
There are three types of effects caused by tourism: direct, indirect and induced effects. Direct contribution refers to expenses that are immediate, such as airlines, hotels, entertainment and shopping, while indirect contribution is related to the less obvious effects, such as employment, foreign trade and effect on GDP. Finally, induced effect deals with expenditure of employees that work in touristic-related companies. In 2016, approximately 109 million jobs were created worldwide due to the contribution of travel and tourism and it is furthermore expected that by 2028 travel and tourism will support 23% of new jobs created worldwide (https://www.
wttc.org). It is an economic sector that has outpaced many all sectors except financial services, as seen in figure 3. In 2016, the top 5 countries to experience a growth in GDP due to travel and tourism were United States, China, Germany, Japan and United Kingdom (https://www.wttc.org).
Figure #5: Tourism stimulates growth in other sectors.The demand for tourism is therefore something profitable economically stimulating investment, fostering growth, allowing the creation of new businesses, and improving the local infrastructure. However, if tourist facilities in an underdeveloped country are owned by foreigners and the income is transferred to external bank accounts the tourist-activity will not benefit the local economy.