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Social Impacts of Tourism Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

The WTO defines tourism as an encounter between a person and a destination in its natural setting. It is also an encounter between individual groups of people and social groups. It can also be viewed as an encounter between nations and an exchange of values. The exchange is however significantly different when it occurs between an industrialized country and a developing country as is common in tourism.

It follows therefore that social impacts are felt more in this scenario as compared to an exchange between two industrialized countries. The social impacts of tourism can be classified into two positive and negative. Some of the positive social impacts include social change and multicultural understanding as tourism enables people from different and diverse backgrounds to socialize which helps them understand one another.

It also enables the host country to adapt to the realities of life as well as improve their lifestyle through the development of urban infrastructure, population benefits, and development of the middle class of the increased income from tourism, increased social mobility, and modernization.

Tourism also promotes knowledge and the use of foreign language by the host country as it brings people of different language groups together. It also precipitates the improvement of health conditions and disease control as tourists require high quality public health services and tourism also provides extra income for the improvement of such. Tourism also creates awareness of good hygiene and health problems with the locals, which eventually leads to changes in the health infrastructure of the host country.

Social negative impacts of tourism on the other hand include; social saturation as tourists usually visit during certain times causing an influx in the population and a consequent strain on the public facilities and public amenities. Tourism also influences changes in the social structure, behavior and roles.

For instance, it lowers the status of traditional forms of employment such as agriculture; it causes migration of people and a subsequent break of families. Tourism also exposes the young people to the social behaviors, modes of dressing, attitudes of the tourists, which may not be according to the traditional norms and values. In the homes gender roles are changed as the wives may earn more than the husbands or start working outside the home.

Tourism also causes community problems such as an increase in prostitution, women’s employment, loosening of morals, increase in crime and negative demonstrative effects such as nude bathing, inappropriate dressing, irresponsible behavior, polarization of the local workers among others.

An example of the social impacts of tourism on the host community can be seen in a case study done on Kaniki point resort in the Philippines. The resort is a world-class scuba diving and ecotourism resort located on a small island Kaniki near Basuanga in the Camalan group of Palawan in the Philippines.

Basuanga is a popular tourist destination due to its excellent natural environment and scuba diving. Basuanga is a poor rural area with a low population marred by unemployment and compounded with an influx of in-migration of people from other poor areas in the Philippines due to tourism. The influx of in-migration has caused a strain on the existing social fabric evidenced by the poor health conditions and lack of adequate infrastructure especially water, sewers and roads.

These strains are also evidenced by the prevalence of diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, parasitism which have also become the major causes of death in the area. The ocean around kaniki has been the major food source for the locals Bausanga and Kaniki. The area has however been affected by dynamite, cyanide and illegal fishing causing significant decline of fish numbers.

This is however being alleviated through the preservation of the marine environment for business interests and tourism. The development in the tourism sector has also caused a strain in the area resources through deforestation to create space for development. Tourism through the Kaniki resort has however contributed to an increase in income, enhancement of livelihood and cultural exchange opportunities for the locals in the area.

The conservation of the environment, reforestation and rehabilitation of the island in the resort has also has also been beneficial for the whole area in general. The Kaniki point resort has also been in the Frontline to facilitate meaningful dialogue with the communities in Basuanga, become involved in regional planning, contribute to the formation of strong regulations, and cooperate with tourism operators to increase positive social impacts of tourism in the area.

The town of Gawler in Australia identifies that tourism has impacted its society positively and negatively. Among its positive social impacts is the improvement of infrastructure especially power, water and telecommunications, access to these and in the service sector which includes banks and transport.

Tourism has also promoted new investments which have enhanced the lifestyle of communities. It has also fostered a sense of community pride as it is common belief that tourists pick a specific tourist destination for a reason. A well kept town or destination will definitely attract visitors and vice versa.

Tourism has also provided a platform for intercultural exchange, for them to learn about traditions and confront their beliefs on new perspectives of lives and society. Tourism has helped fund conservation efforts as well as fosters effective management of sensitive and significant areas. Tourism has also seen an increase in cultural celebrations which highlight important events and pay homage to ancestry.

It has also seen the sustenance of local crafts, foods and personalities. Tourism has however contributed to issues which have detracted the quality of life for the locals. The intrusion of daily life, loss of privacy, sense of crowding has caused some to have ill attitudes towards tourists. Tourism has also been accused of taking the local sites and the best community secrets to be mere spectacles thus losing their destination appeal.

The Gawler strategic plan: 2005-2009 identifies events and heritage as being its major tourism strengths. The plan therefore sets out clear steps for the town to utilize their infrastructure to sell the personality of the town in an attempt to maximize on the positive social impacts of tourism.

In a South Australian community attitudes survey, South Australians consider tourism as having a positive effect on their region. They identify tourism as having created employment opportunities and a demand for business. Tourism has also increased their levels of community pride as it is a common perception that tourism increases demand on the communities.

In a study done on the Red bull Bid wave Africa a professional sporting event held in Africa specifically Hout Bay Cape Town several social effects on the community were identified. It is an extraordinary surfer event as one can view the most radical and biggest surf break from the Sentinel point.

To get to this point tourists have to travel 2kms through the town of Hunderberg. The harbor also serves as the base for the RBBWA event. It is the departure point for the boats and jet skis as well as the viewing point for surfers and water events. The harbor also hosts the National rescue institute which is the headquarters of the event. The harbor is also a departure point for those who wish to view the events at the sentinel point.

The event attracts the best surfers and surfing enthusiasts from all over the world annually. It therefore hosts a large group of tourists to the region annually. Results from the study show that the locals agreed that the event provided them with a chance to socialize with people as well as increased their entertainment opportunities.

The locals also felt that the fact that this event was held in their country enhanced their sense of community pride. The event made the locals feel good and proud of their country and community.

To the locals however, the event does not promote the development and maintenance of public amenities and facilities such as roads, parks, sporting facilities or public transport. The respondents also complained of lacking access to these amenities during the event due to closure and overcrowding especially because of the proximity of this event to the local community.

South Africa having realized the social impacts caused by tourism have put in place legislative measures to curb the negative impacts and promote the positive ones In cape town one of the most common tourist destinations in the country, the RT charter has committed its signatories to abide by a set of principles geared towards the protection of the cultural heritage as well as the reduction of negative social impacts.

Community tourism forums are also conducted regularly in areas such as Atlantis and Nyanga to raise awareness in the communities on their role as the protectors of their cultural heritage and values. The Cape Town tourism guide also outlines guidelines for responsible tourism behavior for the tourists, which includes respect for the local culture, religion and social practices as well as dignity and privacy of the local people.

The government has also put in place measures to protect the sacred Xhosa initiation tradition from interference by the tourists, which has gone a long way in alleviating negative social impacts of tourism in their communities. To enhance the positive impacts, Cape Town in 2009 published the Khayelitsha tourism map, which showcases various tourist destinations and sites where tourists can experience both traditional and contemporary cultures of the Xhosa.

The map also includes traditional healers, shebeens, eateries, peace gardens, historical sites, and musicians. Cape Town also funds cultural festivals and events that attract tourists such as the Cape Town jazz festival, annual cape minstrel’s carnival, Fashion week and Indaba expo which showcase contemporary fashion and craft design tradition, industrial and interior design through the cape craft design institute which also supports entrepreneurs and artists.

In conclusion the social impacts of tourism should not be ignored and where positive should be cultured. In areas where a one dimensional agenda of economic gain from tourism has been pursued the result has been the disdain for tourism among the locals. The locals ending up feeling as though the city , neighborhood or the area that they have come from no longer belongs to them.

This has already happened in the Sagrada familia and the Ramblas in Barcelona and in certain areas of Majorca. Tourism in these areas is regarded as a social burden which has also created an anti-tourist attitude of the locals. In Barcelona for example it is not uncommon to see a sign written “tourist, you are the tourist”.


Cruz, Z. (2005). Principles of tourism Part II 2005 edition. Rex Bookstore inc.

Gawlervisitorinformationcentre. (2011). The social and cultural impacts of tourism. Australia: Tourism Fact sheets; A service of the ‘Town of Gawler’.

Peris, D. A. (2012). The impact of tourism in society. Generated Catalunya.

RTCapeTown. (2011). Social Impacts: reducing social impacts of tourism. Capetown: Responsible tourism cape town.

Tloko, N. J., & Swart, K. (2008). Sport tourism event impacts on the host community: A case study of red bull wave Africa. South Africa Journal for research in sport, physical education and recreation, 79-93.

Trousdale, W. J. (2001). Appropriate Impact assessment: A case study of kaniki point resort, Palawan Phillipines. Vancouver: Cognizant communications Corp.

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