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Tourism and Environmental Conflict Research Paper


Tourism is the activity of people travelling from their home or usual environment to other places where they stay for a period of not more than a year primarily having fun with the new environment. The purpose of the travel varies from group to group. It may include travelling for leisure, for business purposes, for educational purposes, and for work purposes.

There are two types of tourism, outbound tourism and inbound tourism. Out bound tourism is when residents of a given area travel to areas outside their home areas whether as local tourists or as international tourists. In bound tourism is when people, local or international, come in to visit a local area. As the paper reveals, tourism and the environment within which it takes place are ever conflicting.


The Routledge Handbook of Tourism and the Environment by Holden and Fennel is a popular source that addresses the issue of tourism and the environment. According to Holden and Fennel, the two issues cannot be separated when one is discussing the issue of tourism because tourism affects the environment both positively and negatively with the later taking precedence in most discussions (23).

Whenever there is tourism, there is always environmental conflict at a certain point of the tourism activity because the movement of people from one area in to the other area always upsets the balance of the destination environment no matter what the precaution that might be taken.

The environment in this case can be described as something real with a life of its own. It can be something perceived in the minds of people having its own natural existence. Negative tourism impacts can be categorized into three major categories as follows: natural resource usage, pollution, and behavioral considerations. Natural resources are usually limited in nature.

As an example to support the thesis, as pointed out by Nygard in his article, when an area is a tourist attraction point, it becomes an interest to people from outside who, in their pursuits of satisfying their interests of visiting an area, will also have to share in some of the resources like clean water (387).

Some of these resources are common pool resources. Therefore, additional users might cause a strain in their availability to all other people in particular those the resources ought to be benefiting the most. This argument is informed by reason that most attraction areas usually attract tourists in droves at a particular time of the year.

If tourists in some of these areas were distributed all year round with consideration for the existence of these resources, the resources would be easily manageable. This has so far been difficult to achieve because tourism is a profit-oriented business. As a result, players in the industry tend to pull so much towards their own interests to the extent of influencing policy issues so that they can have their way.

The need to accommodate tourism leads to the destruction of some ecosystems for building resorts and other facilities that are to be used by the tourists. Accommodation of tourism comes with an opportunity cost towards the available resources. Local people may be denied the use of their own resources so that they are made available for tourism use.

Thus, other sectors of the economy might stagnate because of this provision. An example of this case is when the local people in an area are moved away to give some space for constructing a facility like an airport. It also happens when beaches in some areas are closed from locals so that they act as preserves for tourists, in Goa India, for instance, where there has been a lowering of the local level of water wells due to a strain on them.

Human behavior by the tourists towards the environment of their destinations is also a source of environmental conflict. Most items that tourists use are usually the disposable type, which come in disposable packaging, which is more often not the eco-friendly type.

Most tourists usually discard these packages to the environment without care. In support of the claim made about tourism and the environment, Buckley points out the impact of tourism on flora and fauna. He says, when tourists visit the natural habitats of wildlife to see wildlife in its natural settings, they tend to disrupt the wildlife patterns like their eating and breeding habits (404).

Some species of wildlife tend to be extremely sensitive to foreign invasion. Thus, when their breeding is interfered with, it tends to subject them to the endangerment of extinction. Most natural settings that are an attraction to tourism are often introduced to pollution when tourist trucks and other vehicles drive into the expansive natural settings.

Therefore, their exhaust emissions normally contaminate plants and other fauna. Tourist activities lead to both direct and indirect pollution of the environment. The mass movement of tourists during tourism seasons leads to air pollution due to the use of planes as a mode of transport.

Planes emit fumes that are left in the air. The fumes contain lots of carbon dioxide, which is a major contributing factor to the degradation of the ozone layer. Therefore, the degradation of the ozone leads to climatic change, as pointed out in the BBC article by North, which adversely affects life on the earth surface (Para. 6).

Therefore, tourism directly or indirectly contributes to environmental pollution and degradation in this case. Noise pollution happens in areas like the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania where tourists use hot air balloons to fly and see wildlife. This disturbs the peace and tranquility that animals are supposed to enjoy. As a result, some of these animals tend to move away in search of peaceful places.

This therefore directly leads to an upset of the natural environmental settings and the interrelationship between flora and fauna. Another risk caused to the environment through tourism is the use of luxury cruise ships for voyage.

Most of these ships are fossil fuel propelled, which produce much fumes that are discharged in the air. They also pose a risk of spilling fuel into the sea in case of an accident. When this happens, it is usually a major environmental disaster because the ships are usually loaded with tones of fuel for their propulsion.

Although there are measures in such cruise ships on waste management, there is no guarantee that the crew of ships or the passengers will keep the required standards of waste management. They may thus be tempted to dump wastes into the sea. Game hunting, as a form of sport, is also detrimental to the environment.

This is usually a tourist activity (Nygard 384). Hunting game for fun depletes the game in their environment. In some cases, it has led to the near extinction of some species thus altering the environmental set up.

On the other hand, tourism is as important as the environment. It has also led to the conservation of the environment by funding this purpose. Therefore, tourism is important to the environment, as well as to the economy of nations as an economic earner.

Refuting the afore-made thesis in his article, Korstanje says that too much emphasis on the protection of the environment tends to slow down tourism thus stifling the income of a nation (94). He points out how tourism leads to infrastructural development of nations thus opening up most countries’ economies to the greater world (95). With the income from tourism, they are able to trade with other countries economically.

A strong balance of trade, as well as a strong balance of income, will always boost a country’s economy against issues such as inflation. Some countries of the world, especially most third world countries, are not as industrialized as the first world countries. Therefore, they cannot compete on the industrialization platform with them.

The only way for them to earn foreign exchange is through their environment, which is unique in its natural setting. Therefore, if environmentalists are left to have their way, some of these economies will die. The people of these countries will also suffer more than the environment the environmentalists are trying to save. Thus, it will be illogical to save the environment and sacrifice humanity in exchange.

If people compare the amount of pollution caused by the industries through massive emissions and the pollution caused by tourism, they find that the pollution by tourism does not generate any reasonable threshold of environmental pollution when put to scale as the industries do.

Therefore, it is unfair to project tourism as a major enemy to the environment on the same scale as industries. Too much emphasis on the environment has made it very expensive to invest in tourism. Thus, when it happens, the packages are made to be very expensive as a way of recouping the investment.

This usually turns off many potential tourists thus denying a given area so much economic boost that might have come with tourism. It also denies a given area the much-needed money in it that can be used to protect the same environment.

Environmental protection is a big package that includes educating the community, putting in place infrastructure that will stop other natural forms of degradation, and the general supervision of the same environment as pointed out by Faraji (46-7) in his opinion.

Funds for such projects are not easily forthcoming. If the environment is not allowed to be used as an income-generating project, there will be nothing to be used to save the same environment. Some arguments that have been used to make a case against tourism as being environment damaging are at times farfetched.

As an example, the existence of the ozone layer so far is still a matter of debate because it is hypothetical. Thus, there is no proof of its existence. Therefore, the use of the ozone as a measure of tourism pollution when the ozone’s existence is still a conjecture does not hold water as an argument.


In conclusion, tourism and environmental conflict are issues that have become a big topic for debate. On one hand, tourism as an activity is ever expanding day by day as many people in the world over aspire for leisure moments in their lives. More and more people are saving for holidays nowadays than before.

What used to be an indulgence for the rich has turned into an indulgence for almost everyone who can save. This massive increase of tourism traffic causes a strain to the environment at a very alarming rate. At the same time, proponents of tourism argue for tourism. Their arguments are valid thus creating a never-ending debate between tourism and its impact on the environment.

Works Cited

Buckley, Ralph. “Tourism and the Environment.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 36.1(2011): 397-416. Print.

Faraji, Abdoreza. “The Relationship between Tourism and Environment.” Iranian Journal of Tourism and Hospitality 1.1(2010): 37-48. Print.

Holden, Andrew, and David Fennel (eds). The Routledge handbook of Tourism and the Environment. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Korstanje, Maximiliano. “Can tourism be considered ethical?” Journal of Travel & Tourism Research 11.1(2011): 91-104. Print.

North, Andrew. Protecting Afghanistan’s Environment and Tourists’ Future, 2012. Web.

Nygard, Mikael. “Opportunit y or Threat: Finnish Hunters attitudes to hunting tourism.” Journal of Sustainable Tourism 19.3(2011): 383-400. Print.

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"Tourism and Environmental Conflict." IvyPanda, 16 Apr. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/tourism-and-environmental-conflict/.

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IvyPanda. "Tourism and Environmental Conflict." April 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/tourism-and-environmental-conflict/.


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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Tourism and Environmental Conflict'. 16 April.

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