Tourism is a very complex issue and before we can begin to analyze the varying impacts it as on the region, we must first understand exactly what tourism is. Tourism has many definitions, according to Goeldner & Ritchie, “tourism is the processes, activities and outcomes arising from the relationships and the interactions among tourists, tourism suppliers, host government, host communities and surrounding environments that are involved in the attracting and hosting of visitors.” It can be classified into three types; domestic, that is, within the boundaries of one country. Regional, which refers to travel within a set geographical location or international which is travel from one country to another in a different geographical location. Contrary to popular believe, domestic tourism is the most dominant of the three forms as it accounts for about 80% of tourist trips worldwide, but with regards to the Caribbean, it is international tourism that is dominant and most beneficial to the region.
The Caribbean is a natural paradise, a nature lover’s dream with its lush greenery, tropical weather and exotic and peaceful atmosphere. It attracts millions of visitors from across the globe in search of tranquility and the natural wonders of the world such as the many creatures, birds, caves, plants, waterfalls and mountainous landscape. The Caribbean is unmatched in its diversity and natural beauty making it and tourism a perfect match; however with tourism come positive and negative impacts.
The impacts of tourism can be placed into three broad categories, there are economic, environmental and socio-cultural.
Firstly, let’s analyze the economic impacts as a result of tourism in the region. The tourism industry is the largest earner of foreign exchange for the Caribbean and is one of the top ten largest contributors for most, if not all the islands’ gross domestic product. It generates what is referred to as the ‘multiplier effect’ on the region’s economies and for this reason tourism appeals to developing countries hoping to improve their economic situation. The industry began in the Caribbean in the late 1970’s and since then it as grown and developed tremendously. Evidence of its growth and economic benefit can be seen throughout the last four decades. From generating an annual earnings of $4,000,000 in 1970 to a whopping $23,000,000 in 2010 and the cruise sector also had a significant growth from 1.3 million to 20 million in the same period. The region earns around 12 billion annually from foreign visitors. In an article by Ronald Sanders in The Island Sun Newspaper, he stated, “In 2004, travel and tourism contributed 14.8 per cent of the Caribbean's Gross Domestic Product and 2.4 million jobs, representing 15.5 per cent of total employment.” This projection was seven years ago indicating that the number has probably increased today.
These figures clearly indicate why tourism is essential to the Caribbean’s economy as it pumps large amounts of foreign...