People and Economic Activity

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Evaluate the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism at a national and global scale

Tourism is the world’s largest and fasted growing economic activity. It consists of a multitude of both positive and negative impacts on people’s lives and the biophysical environment. A suitable balance must be established between the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism in order to ensure its long-term sustainability and in prosperity as a mutually beneficial economic activity on a global and national scale. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of its impacts and introducing the necessary preventive and remedial measures to ensure the economic activity is beneficial to both the host nation and tourists nationally and globally.

On a global scale tourism negatively impacts on the environment when the level of tourists is greater than the environment's capacity to cope. In recent years the depletion of the ozone layer has been attributed to global mass tourism. Tourism has contributed to the problem directly through the construction of new developments and daily management and operations, for example the hotel industry regularly uses refrigerators, air conditioners and propellants in aerosol cans, which contain CFC’s. Similarly emissions from Jet aircraft are also a source of ozone depleting substances. It has been predicted that by 2015, half of the annual depletion of the ozone layer will be attributed to air travel.

In recent years global tourism has also been linked to climate change. Rapidly expanding air traffic has contributed to about 2.5% of the production of Carbon dioxide (Source: Mountain Forum). Thus making it a significant contributor to the increase concentrations of green house gases in the atmosphere and global warming. Air travel has also found to be a major contributor to the green house effect, with passenger jets now the fastest growing source. This problem is expected to increase as the number of international travelers does from 594 million in 1996 to 1.6 billion by 2020.

Global tourism has also been attributed to the loss of biodiversity which causes resources to be strained by excessive use and when impacts on vegetation, wildlife, mountain, marine, coastal environments and water resources exceed the carrying capacity. Uncontrolled mass global tourism will only exacerbate this trend.

On the other hand, global tourism has also contributed positively to the environment by serving as tool to finance conservation activities. Tourism can contribute directly to the conservation of sensitive areas and habitats through revenue from park entrance fees.

Global tourism also raises environmental awareness leading to a realization that income can be generated for host countries through conservation rather than exploitation. Global tourism has the potential to increase public appreciation of the environment and to spread awareness of environmental problems when it brings people in closer contact with nature and the environment. For example the conservation movement in Africa is increasing, leading to a decline in the poaching of endangered species, such as elephants for their tusks. Similarly in India the exploitation of wild animals such as tigers has decreased.

On a global and national scale tourism is responsible for a significant increase in air and noise pollution. Transport by air, road and rail is continuously increasing in response to the rising number of tourists and their greater mobility. Air transport is the fastest growing transport sector, with air pollution growing at a rate of approximately 15% per year. This significant increase in air transport has meant that tourism now accounts for more than 60% of air travel and is thus responsible for about 3% of global emissions (particularly carbon dioxide). Noise pollution from aircraft, buses, cars and recreational vehicles is an ever-growing problem exacerbated by...
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