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Social Consequences of Tourism Research Paper

Executive Summary

Tourism has a number of social benefits to the host communities. From one end, it assembles people of different cultural affiliations together. The act of sharing and learning from each other’s culture fosters cultural understanding. This understanding is an incredible ingredient towards embracing the spirit of multiculturalism.

However, when cultural inferiority and superiority complexes exist between the host communities and the visiting people, embracement of multiculturalism suffers a great deal. The perceptions of the host people about tourism also play pivotal roles in determining the social impacts of tourism. When tourism serves to introduce some lifestyles that are not acceptable within the ethical and moral domains of the host communities, they may perceive it as a means of deteriorating their cultural beliefs and norms.

Therefore, rather than tourism serving to highlight and reinforce the need for global cultural integration, it serves to produce cultural conflicts. The paper notes that some of the things that cause the cultural conflicts are only undue indulgences by some specific persons but not the entire society from which the tourists come. Unfortunately, chances exist where the host communities may tend to over generalize the behaviors of an individual tourist to use them to define the entire society from which she or he comes.

This leads to stereotyping, which is another social impact of tourism. The paper also argues that tourism has the social impacts of creating public awareness of the host communities’ cultural artifacts coupled with their needs to the international community. More often than not, such awareness has the implication of attracting the attention of the global community to the societal needs.


Across the globe, tourism constitutes an industry that is growing rapidly. It affects communities both socially and economically. This means that it is a source of livelihood to many people living within tourism destinations. However, even with these advantages, tourism creates a perceived fear among the residents of the tourism destinations who associate with the perception of its capacity to erode the cultures of the indigenous people.

Opposed to these negative social impacts, “as with any economic activity, tourism can have negative impacts on communities” (Surabaya, Tee, and Somme 57). Thus, it is critical for measures and steps taken to be taken to minimize all these negative impacts so that tourism can act to benefit the communities living within the locations of the tourism destinations. As an economic sector, tourism is peculiar in comparison with all other economic sectors.

In the first instance, unlike many sectors, tourism remains a subtle industry whose employees remain not replaced by technology. Consequently, tourism will continue to act a major source of employment. It “aids in the conservation of natural spaces, avoids the migration of the local population, and improves the economic and socio-cultural level of the local population” (Haley 4).

Tourism plays pivotal roles as a major employer in changing social interactions of people. Additionally, tourism facilitates “the commercialization of the local products, interchange of ideas, costumes and the sensitization of the tourist, and local population for protection of the environment” (Haley 4).

From the perspective this fundamental argument, this paper focuses on highlighting the various social impacts of tourism. However, since time constraint hinders one from scrutinizing all the impacts in a single paper, the research paper only considers the social impacts of tourism.


This research utilizes secondary data and information to analyze the social impacts of tourism. The research generates data and information from a variety of secondary sources including libraries, journals, and internet resources. After an in depth analysis of the social impacts of tourism as reflected in these secondary sources, the research will draw inferences from them.

However, it is crucial to reveal that such an approach introduces a major drawback especially on issues such as the reliability of the secondary sources as general reflections of social impacts of tourism. Nevertheless, the paper mitigates this limitation by drawing the sources utilized in the literature review from a variety of studies based on largely disbursed geographical regions across the globe.

Aims and Objectives

The main objectives of this research are to

  • Introspect the social impacts of tourism
  • Deploy the social impacts introspected in (i) above to prescribe some approaches that may be used to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts

Based on these objectives, the main aim of the research is to lay down theoretical constructs on how tourism can act to influence societies living in tourism destinations positively. By shedding light on the negative and positive impacts of tourism, the point of argument here is that it becomes possible to capitalize on specific policies to enhance the realization of optimal benefits from the positive impacts while minimizing the negative impacts.

Literature Review

Residents’ Perception of Tourism

An enormous body of knowledge, which scrutinizes the impacts of tourism on societies living within tourism destinations, depicts tourism as having both positive and negative social impacts. On the negative side, Deer, Jag, and Fred argue, “most jobs for local people in the tourist industry require the locals to work as servants, house maids, waiters, gardeners, and other menial works that may give people a sense of inferiority” (66).

Consequently, tourism may make people perceive themselves as inferior in comparison to those touring their historical areas of residence. The danger in this kind of perception is that local people possess high risks of their cultures mixing with those of the tourists.

Therefore, their cultural artifacts are likely to disappear or fade. While this argument may remain valid in some situations, it is also arguable that cultures of people may also act as sources of tourism attraction. Consequently, while tourism may serve to dissolve indigenous people’s cultures, it may also act as a mechanism of reinforcing them because, if indigenous people’s cultures attract tourists, it is likely that the tourists would tend to associate themselves with such cultures for them to have an ample experience on the cultures.

Deer, Jag, and Fred agree with line of argument by claiming, “Tourists come from other societies with different values and lifestyles, and because they have come to seek pleasure, they may spend large amounts of money besides behaving in ways that they would not accept at home” (68). This implies that the fantasy associated with tourism may act to justify some otherwise morally unacceptable social indulgences.

In this line of argument, Haley asserts, “visitor’s behavior can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of the host community including crowding and congestion, drugs and alcohol problems, and prostitution and increased crime levels”(5). When some of the unethical behaviors evidencing themselves within societies because of tourism end up being justified, the moral norms that tie the host communities together must disintegrate.

Thus, the society becomes fragmented. In addition, societies may develop a perception that tourism is one of the mechanisms of taking away what is traditionally rightfully theirs. For instance, in most cases, some people normally move from their places of residence to pave ways for construction of tourists’ recreational centers, restaurants, and amusement parks among other things.

This case has the implication of making tourism “infringe on human rights” (Haley 6). Where tourists may engage in morally unacceptable indulgences within their societies of origin, their interaction with local people within the tourism destinations may create the wrong impression about the social, moral, and ethical constructions of the societies from which particular tourist comes. In one end, this may have the implication of stereotyping some people of a given originality.

On the other end, where a given society living within tourism attraction centers perceives itself as inferior in comparison to the visiting people, chances are that it may end up embracing certain unethical indulgences, which may not even be acceptable by the visitors’ cultural, moral, and ethical norms. In this context, Deer, Jag, and Fred argue, “local people seeing the tourist example may want to live and behave the same way” (67).

This step is a great impediment to social norms of the indigenous people living within tourism attraction destinations. By impairing the social norms of the residents of tourists’ destinations, tourism creates differing perceptions about the tourists among the locals. For instance, Haley argues that aspects that are akin to the perception of tourism among the local people living within north America results to poor and inappropriate hosts’ attitudes.

According to him, tourism truncates into “increased noise, litter, traffic, crime, over-crowding, and tourism-induced price increases” (5). In particular, price hiking that is induced by the perception that tourists have a lot of money to spend impairs the buying power of the local people living within the localities where the tourism attraction centers are located.

Nevertheless, the same perception leads to prioritization of certain developments within the tourism destination centers, which have the overall impact of bettering the mobility of the local people. A good example of this is the immense investment by the governments towards the development of infrastructures including roads and recreational facilities in areas of tourist attraction. The myriads of social impacts of tourism based on the perceptions of people about economic activities are ideally theoretical in nature.

Quoting Ape et al. work on ‘Developing and Testing a Tourism Impact Scale’, which was published in the journal Travel Research in 1998, Haley supports this line of argument. He asserts, “While the research conducted has made a significant step towards a better understanding of the relationship between positive and negative perceptions of tourism and support for specific tourism-related policies, historically, most of the research on the topic of residents’ perceptions has been theoretical in nature” (Haley 6).

To resolve the criticism of understanding of social impacts of tourism based on the constructed perception of people about the industry, the theory of social exchange is relevant. Surabaya, Tee, and Somme have done a research on the capacity of social exchange theory to explain the social impacts of tourism. Their research claims, “It is not simply the existence of an exchange that is important, but the nature and value of the exchange that influences attitudes and perceptions” (Surabaya, Tee, and Somme 59).

This implies that people who are likely to hold a positive perception of the social impact of tourism are the ones who have been employed by the industry. However, for this to happen, such people need to have had a positive employment experience with the industry. Otherwise, their perceptions would end up being negative. Thus, it is arguable that the discussed social impact of tourism based on the perception of the locals is akin to experience that people have with the tourism industry within their areas of residence.

Tourism and Stereotyping

Tourism brings together people of differing nationalities, race, and gender coupled with people segregated based on other demographic differences. More often than not, conception of differences among people in a negative way based on nationality, gender, and race among other social and demographic differences merely entangle oversimplification of perceptions of people involved.

In fact, association of one group with some certain characteristics that are inferior or negative is not based on facts but rather on misconceptions and prejudices. These misconceptions and prejudices about a particular group of people lead to their stereotyping. More interactively, and from the perspective of socio-psychology, stereotyping entangles “the pictures that people have in their heads about other groups” (Major et al. 34).

When the interactions of tourists with the indigenous people within the localities of tourism destinations serve to amplify the differences between the tourists and the locals, the preconceived negative perceptions of the indigenous people against the tourists’ of particular origin are confirmed.

For instance, when an indigenous person living within a tourist attraction destination encounters an individual of a certain nationality who is violent, the person may spread the news that all people belonging to the same nationality as the tourist are all violent.

This kind of generalization hinders diversity besides leading to stigmatization and discrimination. Although these are examples of negative stereotypes, positive stereotypes associated with tourists of a given originality may also be harmful since they truncate into limitation of the attitudes of people towards a group of people.

Bearing in mind the arguments raised here, is becomes imperative to posit that, depending on the nature of social and cultural differences between the indigenous people and the tourists, tourism may act to either boost the spirit of multiculturalism or destroy it even further when two groups of people of different nationalities come together. Concepts of stereotyping are anchored on three fundamental aspects. These are traits, concepts, and antecedents. Antecedents involve feelings of being rejected or accepted at an individual level.

In the interaction process of tourists and the local people, such feelings influence the local people’s behaviors and attitudes towards tourists and vice versa. On the other hand, concepts entail a “person’s beliefs regarding the stereotype that out-group members hold about his or her own group” (Voyager and Main 917). This implies that people who are stereotyped presume that the version of beliefs held against their intergroup are justifiable from the basis of impressions held by other people as opposed to out-group stereotypes.

This aspect of stereotyping is significant in the social interactions of people possessing conspicuous differences. Arguably, tourism presents such kind of social interaction. Indeed, the traits of stereotypes are contextual components, behavioral components, and cognitive components. Such components play incredible roles in defining social relationships between tourists and the host communities.

Tourism and Multiculturalism

For the creation of an environment that would foster multiculturalism, it is desirable that the parties coming together respect the cultural norms of each other. Unfortunately, “…out of ignorance or carelessness, tourists may fail to respect local customs and moral values” (Deer, Jag, and Fred 67).

The repercussion is the emergence of cultural conflicts. This means that one of the groups of people would be seeing the other as having some cultural traits, which are inferior in comparison to the cultural norms of the group from where one comes. This hinders the integration of the indigenous people’s and the tourists’ cultures.

The implication is hindering multiculturalism. In the same line of thought, Gawker Visitor Information posits, “there are some concerns that tourism development may lead to destinations losing their cultural identity by catering for the perceived needs of tourists – particularly from international markets” (2).

Therefore, a cultural battle exists between tourists and the indigenous people due to the need to protect the cultural artifacts of the indigenous people and the need to fulfill the cultural desires of the international tourist in the attempt to entice them to come back.

Where tourism is the only source of income in societies that are caught up in the mayhem of cultural conflicts, the battle has the highest probabilities of favoring the tourists. Put differently, the cultures of the indigenous people would be superimposed by those of the tourists. Consequently, the fertile environments for fostering multiculturalism cease to exist. Where the indigenous people are culturally inflexible, the overall impact is hostility.

The local people acerbate this hostility towards the tourists in the attempt to maintain cultural status quo. The argument here is that, in case the interaction process of tourists and the local people produces threats to the cultures of both parties, it becomes incredibly difficult for either party to embrace the differences between them. Therefore, creating the spirit of multiculturalism becomes difficult.

Amid the raised concerns that cultural conflicts between tourists and the host communities establish an environment that is prohibitive of cultural integration and hence multiculturalism, there is a scholarly evidence that tourism is an essential tool for propagating cultural understanding. For instance, Surabaya, Tee, and Somme argue, “tourism is an interface for cultural exchange, facilitating the interaction between communities and visitors (domestic and international)” (59).

Opposed to the raised arguments, where the grounds for visiting a particular destination are pegged on the reasons for coming to an understanding and experiencing a certain group of people’s cultures, cultural conflicts may not exist because there is no point that the tourists would attempt to seek attention for their cultural beliefs and affiliations from the host communities.

Rather, the intention of visits is to experience cultural beliefs and affiliations of the host communities. In this dimension, Surabaya, Tee, and Somme assert, “People want to interact with other cultures, learn about traditions, and even confront themselves with new perspectives on life and society” (59). Directly congruent with this view, it sounds plausible to infer that the tourism industry is driven by experience. Hence, host communities’ culture constitutes unique experiences.

Tourism as a Tool for Creating Social Awareness

The cultural artifacts of different people are unique. When tourists visit to experience these artifacts of local people, awareness of both the existence and value for the cultural artifacts of the host community is created. This way, tourism helps in the integration of the host communities’ beliefs and norms with those of the wider global community.

It also helps in raising the caliber of awareness of the host communities’ social needs. For instance, through tourism, awareness is created for the inadequacy of community services such as healthcare and or continued persistence of cultural beliefs that impede the development of societies such as seeking access to education, gender equality, and other things that are given amicable consideration by the developed societies.

Based on the experience concerning the ways of life of particular groups of people, donor agencies are able to design programs to address the challenges that face people in ways that the programs are going to be welcomed without undue friction. Still in the realm of awareness, Haley argues that tourism helps to create awareness for the need to “promote conservation of wildlife and natural resources such as rain forests, as these are now regarded as tourism assets” (12).

However, even though the awareness of the needs to conserve the natural environment is created coupled with the society embracing the efforts, tourism also acts to destroy it. Surabaya, Tee, and Somme exemplify how tourism may serve to destroy natural ecosystems amid the intensive awareness by the host communities on the significance of their conservation.

They argue, “Tourism poses a threat to a region’s natural and cultural resources such as water supply, beaches, coral reefs, and heritage sites through overuse” (Surabaya, Tee, and Somme 63). This negative impact is even more amplified by considering how tourism results to more waste release to the environment, more noise, and littering among other things.


Therefore, based on the expositions made in the paper about tourism, it suffices to declare the industry as one that has a lot of influence socially and economically. Socially, tourism influences host communities both positively and negatively. In this research paper, it has been argued that some of the social impacts of tourism are erosion and or fostering the cultures of the indigenous people. It may lead to stereotyping besides serving as a tool for creating awareness.

The capacity of tourism to result to reinforcement of the cultural beliefs of the locals or to erode them depends on the perceptions that the locals have on tourisms and the reasons as to why people visit a particular destination. From this paradigm, the paper argues that, in case people tour certain tourism attraction centers with the chief intention of learning and experiencing the cultures of the indigenous people, chances of cultural conflicts are minimal since tourists would not bring in their cultural beliefs and affiliations in the interaction process.

Furthermore, the paper argued that where tourists engage in some behaviors, which are not morally acceptable by the host communities, tourism might have the social impacts of inducing stereotypes. This acts as immense impediments to the integration of the persons brought together by tourism. In overall, the paper maintains that tourism has more positive social impacts than negative impacts. Therefore, tourism acts to benefit the host communities both socially and economically.

Works Cited

Deer, Margaret, Leo Jag, and Liz Fred. “Rethinking social impacts of tourism research: A new research agenda.” Tourism Management 33.1(2012): 64-73. Print.

Gawker Visitor Information. The Social and Cultural Impacts of Tourism, 2011. Web.

Haley, Arthur. The Social Impacts of Tourism: A Case Study of Bath, UK. Surrey: University of Surrey, UK, 2004. Print.

Major, Boniface et al. “Coping with negative stereotypes about intellectual performance: The role of psychological disengagement.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 24.3(1998): 34-50. Print.

Surabaya, Elijah, Veronica Tee, and Stephaney Somme. “Understanding Residents’ support for tourism development in the central region of Ghana.” Journal of Travel Research 41.3(2002): 57-67. Print.

Voyager, Douglas, and James Main. “How Do Individuals Expect to Be Viewed by Members of Lower Status Groups? Content and Implications of Meta-Stereotypes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75.4(1998): 917-937. Print.

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