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Relationship between Tourism and the Environment
The fact that the impacts of global warming due to accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere are becoming more severe is not in question. The issues that arise in regards to this situation relate to finding and agreeing on the most effective ways of dealing with climate change.
The most difficult decisions that governments and stakeholder need to make when it comes to climate change management relate to the economic impact of these decisions. This is why it is important to consider the impact of tourism on climate change. Tourism is a very lucrative industry and accounts for significant amounts of foreign exchange in non-industrialized countries.
In order to address the impacts of tourism on the environment, there is need to discuss how to replace the income that may be lost by implementing these measures. This paper takes a broad view of the term environment. Environment includes not just the flora and fauna found in a region, but also the social, economic, and political expressions of the people living in a given place.
Interaction between Tourism and the Environment
Tourism has a very intimate relationship with the environment. The primary attraction of tourists is natural formations. There is usually a unique element in the natural environment of a particular place that makes it attractive for tourists. Tourists enjoy seeing natural features such as rivers, springs, mountain ranges, desert formation, and forests.
Apart from nature-oriented tourists, there are tourists who are interested in the sociological aspects of a particular place. Some tourists go after unique cultural elements of a region such as the forest tribes of the Amazon and the Congo.
They also travel to experience the lifestyles of people in unique places around the world, such as the monks in Tibet. These unique cultures developed because of the natural environment of the people living in them.
Tourism is a weather-dependent economic activity. This predisposes it to climate change in riskier terms compared to other sectors. Sightseeing requires good weather for effectiveness. In addition, visiting game parks, marine parks or participating in winter activities all depends on the weather. Therefore, tourism not only exists because of natural environments, but it also thrives because of the climate of a region.
Benefits of Tourism to the Environment
Several benefits accrue to the environment because of tourism. First, tourism encourages locals to conserve the environment and to preserve their local culture. Since tourists pay to come see these elements, most local communities see the link between tourism and their incomes.
Some of them make crafts which tourist buy, while others participate in local cultural events, which tourists pay to attend. Some locals also find direct employment in the tourism industry. The locals work as tour guides, and business professionals in the tourism industry. In this sense, the local communities see direct benefits from tourism. This encourages them to conserve the environment.
Secondly, the tourism sector in any country usually finds itself in the forefront of conservation efforts. Stakeholders in the tourism industry work hard to promote environmental conservation initiatives because the sector’s revenue depends on the integrity of the environment.
As such, players in the tourism sector work hard to ensure that all the stakeholders in the country are working towards environmental sustainability. While players in this industry do it for economic reasons, the impacts of their actions serve to protect the entire environment.
Thirdly, a well-established tourism industry creates a revenue stream for conservation efforts. In order to have an effective tourism industry, it is important for the country to develop primary infrastructure such as roads, rails, and airports to support the tourism industry.
In doing this, tourism contributes towards the development of the infrastructure necessary for conservation efforts. For instance, building roads in national park makes it possible for tourists to reach the park. At the same time, it makes the work of protecting animals from poachers easier since forest ranger can access the national park easily.
On the other hand, the tourism industry spends money on conservation efforts simply because players in that industry have an economic interest in the protection of the natural environment. These efforts towards conservation of nature stem from the economic rewards of tourism.
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Tourism also relieves the pressure that comes from dependence on the natural environment for resources. People living in an area that tourists visit do not have to cut down trees for firewood, or to encroach into forestland for agriculture because the income they receive by providing services to the tourists makes it possible for them to acquire these resources from other regions.
For instance, someone working as a forest ranger can afford to buy meat from the grocery shop. There is no need for the ranger to hunt game for food, as the case may have been if there was no tourism.
The final benefit that the environment receives from tourism is that the tourism sector encourages locals to conserve their culture. Culture is a part of the social environment of any location.
Tourists tend to enjoy seeing the cultural practices of other people. The motivation of locals to conserve their culture increases once they realize that there is interest in their culture. They will seek to conserve it because of the realization that they can derive economic benefits from it.
Liabilities of Tourism to the Environment
On the other hand, tourism is also a cause of environmental degradation. This degradation takes several forms. The most significant way in which tourism affects the environment negatively is through transport and accommodation costs. The UNTWO (2) estimates that tourism is responsible for 5% of the global CO2 emissions. Most of the emissions come from transport.
Tourists travel in planes, both internationally and locally. Within the tourist locations, they use buses, cabs and hired vehicles to tour the region. In some places, they use snowmobiles and trains. Some tourists travel on cruise ships and luxury yachts.
Those who go fishing use speed boats, while other use jet skis for water sports. Accommodation and tourist activities account for a quarter of all emissions produced by the tourism industry. These costs go towards air conditioning, lighting, cooking, and general maintenance needs of tourist facilities.
The second impact of tourism on the environment is that in some cases, tourism creates pressure ion natural ecosystems because of the need to see certain elements of nature. Players in the tourism industry find in necessary to create roads, viewing ramps and staircases in natural environments such as mountain sides to facilitate the movement of tourists within natural environments.
Some of these activities lead to the destruction of migration routes, disturbance of sensitive ecosystems, and the eventual loss of the natural allure of certain ecosystems. The noise associated with movement and other human activities force animals to develop new migration routes, and they may permanently relocate to new habitats still untouched by humans.
The third impact of tourism on the social environment is that it can lead to the development of a synthetic culture. Once locals discover that tourists seem to enjoy certain cultural displays, the locals will tend to emphasize these aspects of their culture in order to attract tourists.
In the process, the actual cultural practices die out and new synthetic cultural practices developed for tourists takes their place. Cultural tourism inevitably affects host cultures when tourists come to see them. If a tourist stays in a location for an extended period, cultural exchange takes place, and in the end, the culture left behind will have elements of the tourist’s culture in it.
Some of the influences include lingual adaptation, changes in food preferences and prioritization of issues based on the tourist’s worldwide. Not all these influences are negative, but they all amount to a change in the local culture. Some of these cultures are many centuries old. Therefore, it is tragic for tourist activities to change them in a few decades. It is a loss of world heritage.
Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism
Environmental conservation in tourism is responsible for the rise of ecotourism and sustainable tourism. However, there is need to be clear about the fact that ecotourism may not mean sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism looks at long-term issues surrounding the tourism industry. The goal of sustainable tourism is to deliver tourism as a product in a way that does not harm the environment.
On the other hand, ecotourism refers to tourism with nature as the primary focus. Ecotourism espouses concepts of sustainable tourism, usually aimed towards environmental conservation. However, if a particular ecotourism package does not take into account the carbon footprint associated with its activities, then it may not be sustainable.
About Sources used in this Work
The report entitled, “Tourism and Climate Change” by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) talks about the part that tourism is playing in climate change. The report looks at the impact of tourism-related emissions on climate change. It also lists key statistics quantifying the impact of emissions caused by activities in the tourism industry in the world.
The International Ecotourism Society (IES) website is the source used as an industry website. The website has important information relating to various aspects of ecotourism.
It discusses the important elements of ecotourism and presents reports regarding activities around the world by its members. The goal of the international ecotourism society is to conserve the environment, to support communities and to enhance ecotourism.
The primary academic source used in the paper was the journal article written by Abdoreza Faraji Rad and Somayyeh Aghajani titled “The Relationship between Tourism and the Environment.
This article presented various issues that surround tourism and environment. This article presented the positive and negative aspects of tourism and the environment as well as the potential role ecotourism can play in the effort towards achieving sustainability in tourism.
The International Herald tribune blog article titled, “Travelling with a Smaller Carbon Footprint” was the popular information source used for the project.
This blog gave vital statistics and analysis of the impact of tourism on climate change. In the follow-up comments after the blog entry, a commentator observed that it is not enough to put effort into reducing an individual’s carbon footprint as a tourist if the individual still leads a wasteful lie back home.
Encyclopeadia Britannica. Institutional Economics. 2012. Web.
FTI Consulting. The Importance of Aviation Infrastructure to Sustainable Economic Growth. Consultancy Report. Gatwick Airport. London: FTI Consulting, 2011. Print.
IES. What is Ecotourism. November 2012. Web.
Rad, Abdoreza Faraji and Somayyeh Aghajani. “The relationship Between Tourism and Environment.” Iranian Journal of Tourism and Hospitality (2012): 36-48. Print.
Schnurr, Matthew A and Larry A Swatuk. Natural Resources and Social Conflict: Towards Critical Environmental Security. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.
Schuetze, Christopher F. “Travelling with a Smaller Carbon Footprint.” 1 October 2012. International Herald Tribune Rendezvous. Web.
UNWTO. Tourism and Climate Change. Geneva: United Nations World Tourism Organization, 2011. Print.