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10 THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISMMany tourists who visit such places become fascinated by, and protective of, reef fish, corals, nesting turtles,migrating cetaceans, whale sharks and so on. They will often actively support conservation initiatives; but theymay also be the unwitting necrotic travelling agents of change. (Mair, 2006, p. 1)LEARNING OUTCOMESAfter reading this chapter, you will understand:the potential environmental impacts of tourism, both positive and negativethe role of environmental sustainability in new tourism forms, and the different characteristics of these tourismformsa number of key concepts and management tools for the environmental management of tourism.Signage in Ulu Temburong National Park, BruneiSource: Lynn MinnaertINTRODUCTIONTourism experiences are intrinsically linked to the environment they take place in: we often travel to experience places andenvironments that are different from the one we are familiar with. Many destinations are popular because of their naturalassets: beaches, lakes, mountains, rolling countryside and empty plains are all examples of natural environments that canmake a destination popular with tourists. At the same time, however, many of these environments are fragile, and byintroducing tourists and their activities to them, we run the risk of damaging them. Tourism can also cause changes to thebuilt environment, such as resort towns or parts of cities. This chapter reviews how tourism impacts on the environment ittakes place in, and how these impacts can be managed.The chapter also provides an overview of the different impacts tourism can have on the environment of a destination. Bothpositive and negative impacts are reviewed. The concept of sustainability is examined, and linked to new tourism formssuch as eco-tourism, responsible tourism and agro-tourism. Finally, the chapter discusses how environmental impacts canbe managed in the destination, by maximising the positive impacts and minimising the negative impacts. Key managementconcepts and tools to achieve this aim are presented.ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM ON A DESTINATIONThe rapid growth of international tourism in the past 50 years or so has gone hand in hand with its ever more visual impacton the environment. Several once popular and beautiful resorts now seem to be typified by polluted beaches, an over-developed seafront and hordes of tourists who are not always respectful of their surroundings. This has led to an interestwithin tourism studies in how sustainable tourism is: although the concept of sustainable development has been around
much longer, the debate about sustainable tourism is a phenomenon that really gained momentum in the 1990s(Swarbrooke, 1999).This section will present the negative environmental impacts of tourism on the natural and the built environment, as well ason animal life. It will also highlight how tourists, via their behaviour, at times exacerbate the negative environmental impactsof their vacations, although the extent of these impacts depends strongly on the scale of development in the destination,the environmental controls that are in place, and the visitor management techniques that are employed. Even though thesenegative impacts of tourism attract a lot of attention and are not to be minimised, tourism can also make positivecontributions to the natural and built environment. The section will give examples of these positive environmental impactsof tourism.Negative Environmental Impacts of TourismTourism can cause a wide variety of negative environmental impacts. These are most visible within destinations but mayalso occur within the generating region and along transit routes. This section will start by reviewing the negativeenvironmental impacts of tourism on three aspects of the destination:The natural environment and resources: climate; water and soil pollution; waste/litter; over-use of resources.Animal life: habitats; animal behaviours; eco-systems; and the dangers of the souvenir trade.The built environment: over-development; pollution via building work; aesthetic pollution.The Natural EnvironmentTourism, and most particularly mass tourism, is being increasingly acknowledged as a human activity that poses hugethreats to the natural environment. Not only does tourism often develop in fragile natural environments, such as lakes,beaches and mountains, it is also reliant on transport via air, sea or road. Tourism is a contributor to climate change andcan cause damage to the natural environment via pollution, an increase in waste and an over-use of resources.Climate changeA major sustainability challenge that affects all aspects of life, including tourism, is climate change. Climate change hascaused extreme weather events to increase in frequency: examples are droughts, heatwaves, cyclones and hurricanes.Global warming can also lead to rising sea levels, threatening human and wildlife habitats.The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years, there have been seven cycles of glacialadvance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modernclimate era — and of human civilisation. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’sorbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives. Current global warming, however, is different, as it is theresult of human activity since the mid-twentieth century, and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades tomillennia. Human activity, in particular the burning of fossil fuels, has increased the ‘greenhouse effect’: the warming thatresults when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space (NASA, 2022).The energy sector, with its oil, gas and coal producers, is the largest contributor to global warming (Heede, 2014). Roadand air transportation, due to their dependence on fossil fuels, are also heavy polluters. Tourism, in turn, is dependent ontransportation, and, as a discretionary activity, has been linked to climate change.Exact figures of the impact of tourism on our climate are difficult to provide, as tourism has a broad nature and variouscomponents which all contribute, to a different extent, to climate change (CO2, heating, air-conditioning, construction, etc.).Despite these difficulties, the UNWTO estimates that tourism is responsible for about 5.3% of global CO2 emissions.The transport sector, including air, car and rail, generates the largest proportion of tourism emissions, with 75% of allemissions. Air travel causes 54–75%, with coach and rail 13%. Air travel is considered the main tourism contributor toglobal warming: it’s responsible for 40% of the total carbon emissions caused by the travel sector.The accommodation sector accounts for approximately 20% of emissions from tourism. This involves heating, airconditioning and the maintenance of bars, restaurants, pools and so on. Clearly, this varies according to the location andsize of the accommodation, as well as the type of establishment – hotels having greater energy consumption thanpensions or camping sites.Furthermore, activities such as visiting museums or theme parks, attending events or shopping also contribute to certainamounts of emissions (approx. 3.5%) ( transport mainly contributes to air pollution through the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxides (NOx) thatcreate global warming and ground-level pollution at airports. The contribution of aviation to carbon dioxide emissions isrelatively low compared to other sectors: as a percentage of the global population, relatively few people can afford to fly,however a transatlantic flight is estimated to add as much to a person’s carbon footprint as one year of driving. In addition,an almost uninterrupted increase in demand globally suggests that aviation’s contribution to CO2 emissions will increase.The International Air Transport Association reported that in 2019, before the start of the pandemic, air capacity andpassenger numbers went up globally, which means more airlines were flying more planes and more passengers to moredestinations. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the aviation sector heavily, and its continued growth came to an abruptend. For example, in the USA, domestic and foreign airlines carried 398 million passengers in 2020, 62% fewer than in
2019 when the record high of 1.1 billion annual passengers was reached (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2021). Post-pandemic, however, there is an expectation that aviation’s upward trajectory will resume.Despite technological, regulatory and operating advances that reduce the emissions of individual flights, these areinsufficient to offset the emissions of air travel if the sector keeps expanding. In addition, it is widely believed that theclimate change effects of aviation may be worse than those of other industries because of the altitude at which they occur,and the resulting cloud formation and condensation trails. Regulation is starting to develop to mitigate the impacts of airtravel: since 2012, the EU has required all air carriers (both EU and non-EU) to offset CO2 emissions from any flight withinthe European Economic Area. In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) finalised the details of a globaloffsetting initiative, which will first be implemented as a voluntary system from 2021 to 2026, and will be mandatory from2027 to 2035 (ICAO).Motorised road transport contributes to greenhouse gases and climate change through exhaust emissions, reduces airquality through the release into the atmosphere of fine particulates that cause respiratory illnesses, and creates congestionand environmental damage. Tourism by road increases these negative environmental impacts which affect the quality oflife of local residents and visitors’ experience of the destination. However, tourists who travel by coach, on public transportor private group tours, reduce the number of equivalent tourists’ cars on the road, and the National Travel Survey in the UK(Department for Transport, 2019) suggests that the occupancy level of cars used for tourism purposes is often higher thanwhen used for other purposes such as commuting. Greyhound Lines in the USA claim that one departure removes theequivalent of 34 cars from the road and achieves 184 passenger miles per gallon.Rail transport is becoming increasingly acknowledged as a viable sustainable alternative to road and air transport. Rail isthe most emissions-efficient major mode of transport, and electric trains powered by renewable energy can offer practicallycarbon-free journeys. Rail contributes less than 0.2% of the global transport sector’s total CO2 emissions, even though ithas over 8% of total market share (Timperley, 2019).Sea transport makes considerable contributions to air pollution, particularly because of the volume of shipping globally.According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), international shipping emitted 2.8% of global man-madeemissions in 2018 (Saul, 2020), and this is expected to increase alongside global trade. It should be noted, though, thatmost sea transport is for freight rather than passengers; however the growing popularity of cruise travel has led to theincreasing importance of sea transport for tourism. Cruise lines cause significant emissions: for example, CarnivalCorporation, the world’s largest luxury cruise operator, emitted nearly 10 times more sulphur oxide around Europeancoasts than did all 260 million European cars in 2017 (Transport & Environment, 2019).Cruise ship MSC PoesiaImage by Erich Westendarp from PixabayAn additional moral issue is that transport does not only pollute the air in tourism-generating areas, in other words thetourist’s own geographic region, but also in the destination countries, some of which produce a lot less CO2. Tourists whovisit developing countries, for example, pollute the air by flying to the destination, thus causing air (and noise) pollution forpeople who pollute a lot less themselves. The same goes for countries that tourists tend to drive through on the way totheir destination: many northern Europeans, for example, drive to southern Europe via the Benelux countries. In thesecountries, emissions due to tourism will therefore be high, even though tourists do not bring many environmental, social oreconomic benefits to the local communities. In both cases, tourists do not pay for the environmental damage they cause tothese destination or transit regions.Benelux: Belgium, the Netherlands and LuxembourgWater PollutionTourism often takes place in areas close to water, such as seas or lakes. Despite this relationship between tourism andwater, it is usually not the activities of tourists that have the biggest negative impacts. Pollution tends to be caused byinadequate facilities that are unable to cope with the large influx of tourists at peak times. Holden (2008) indicates that
inadequate sewage systems often result in human waste being disposed of directly into the sea. Rapid development in thepast, to keep up with growing numbers of tourists, has sometimes left destinations with infrastructure that cannot cope withthe demands tourism places on it. Another form of water pollution results from the use of fertilisers and herbicides for hotelgardens and golf courses. These chemicals seep down to the ground water lying between five and 50 meters under thesurface, and from there flow into rivers, lakes and seas.The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most heavily polluted, semi-enclosed basins in the world. According to Greenpeace,thousands of tonnes of toxic waste are pumped directly into it – mainly by industry. Tourism is a contributing factor to this:the Mediterranean is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world, and accounts for up to a third of globaltourist arrivals. Overcrowding and inadequate facilities, often built at a distance from population centres and amenities,result in increased pollution in the peak months ( In 2016, Princess Cruises was fined a record $40million for its deliberate pollution of the seas. Between 2005 and 2013, the Caribbean Princess cruise ship illegally used abypass pipe to discharge oily waste directly into the sea, while disabling the monitoring equipment that is in place toprevent this practice. A single illegal discharge dumped 4,227 gallons of oil-contaminated waste, about 20 miles off thecoast of England, on 26 August 2013. The oily bilge waste comes from a ship’s engines and fuel systems. Instead of beingdumped raw into the ocean, it is supposed to be offloaded when a ship is in port and either burned in an incinerator ortaken to a waste facility – however, the chief engineer responsible wanted to avoid the costs associated with this( Blue Flag programme is an internationally used quality label for beaches that guarantees good water quality,environmental education and information, environmental management, safety, and other criteria. It is awarded by theindependent charity Foundation for Environmental Education. Over 4,600 beaches and marinas have been awarded BlueFlag status. Most of these are in Europe, where the initiative originated, but it has since expanded to 49 countries( 10.1Surfers Against SewageSurfers Against Sewage is a not-for-profit organisation campaigning for clean, safe recreational waters, free fromsewage effluents, toxic chemicals, marine litter and nuclear waste. Surfers and recreational water users who comeinto contact with sewage or other toxins may contract health problems, ranging from ear, nose and throat infections,eye and wound infections, and gastro-intestinal complaints such as diarrhoea and vomiting, to more seriousillnesses such as bacillary dysentery, pneumonia, botulism, hepatitis A, meningitis and septicaemia. Research bythe organisation showed that surfers were three times more likely to contract hepatitis A than the general public.Surfers Against Sewage highlights that popular British destinations such as Guernsey and Brighton discharge rawsewage in the sea, and campaigns for greater awareness and regulation. The organisation also campaigns againstmarine litter and water pollution via the flushing or dumping of chemicals. The majority of these chemicals can befound in everyday household products such as shampoo, skincare cream, washing detergent, and paint. Somechemicals have been found to change the hormonal balance of wildlife: they are partly responsible for thefeminisation of around one-third of the male fish population in Britain ( PollutionSoil pollution, or soil contamination, refers to the presence of chemicals or other man-made substances that interfere withthe natural soil environment. This type of pollution is often caused by underground storage tanks (for example, containingfuel), the application of pesticides, and the dumping of industrial waste. Although the tourism industry is not the biggestcause of soil pollution, some of its activities can contribute to the problem. The use of pesticides on golf courses and hotelgrounds is an example. Boniface and Cooper (2005) have also linked the use of artificial snow in ski resorts to soilpollution. Because ski seasons are becoming shorter and less reliable, ski cannons are increasingly used to top up thesnow in these resorts. Not only do these snow cannons use a large amount of water, there are also chemicals in artificialsnow that speed up the crystallisation process. Some resorts also infuse their artificial snow with salt to make the runsfaster for skiers. These chemicals can then contaminate the soil in an already very fragile natural environment.Waste/litterTourism, and in particular mass tourism, increases the destination’s population size temporarily, and therefore the level ofwaste that is generated increases too. This can cause environmental problems if not properly managed. Some waste (suchas food) can be classified as organic, whereas other forms (such as packaging) are inorganic. Litter can have variouseffects on a destination: in some cases, it will just make the environment unpleasant for tourists and the local community –for example, if the beach is littered with bottles, papers and cigarette butts. In the case of the Mediterranean islands,tourism during the main summer season is responsible for up to 80% of the marine litter accumulating on those beaches(Grelaud & Ziveri, 2020).One of the most famous effects of litter and waste caused by tourism is the widespread pollution in the Indian Himalayas.Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, is also referred to as ‘the highest junkyard in the world’. Solid wastemanagement is a problem, particularly along the trekking routes. During the tourist periods, food stalls pop up along theseroutes, selling their wares in disposable containers (Cole & Sinclair, 2002). Even though a large amount of the waste couldtechnically be recycled, it needs to be transported to the main road and then to recycling centres, making this an intensiveand costly enterprise. Since 2014, climbers have been provided with canvas bags to collect waste after scaling the peak,and are fined if they do not bring enough rubbish back. Sherpas are also contributing to the clean-up efforts, and are paid$2 per kilo of trash (BBC Newsbeat, 2017).
Over-use of Natural ResourcesWhen large numbers of tourists come to a destination with limited resources, increased competition for these resourcesoften ensues. Energy resources, such as gas and electricity, and water reserves, may come under severe pressure. Indestinations with limited water supplies, for example, the construction of large resorts with swimming pools is likely to placedisproportionately high demands on this resource.Nowadays, tourism absorbs 1% of the global consumption of water. This is a quantity that seems of little importance whencompared to the agricultural sector, which consumes nearly 70% of the supplied water in the world, or to manufacturing,which reaches 19%. However, in some emerging countries, in which tourism is a cornerstone of their development,consumption exceeds 7%, and, in some islands, such as the ones in the Caribbean or in Polynesia, the tourism sector isthe main consumer of water. In Spain, an average citizen consumes 127 litres per day, but the water consumption of atourist ranges between 450 and 800 litres, depending on the season and the area. These figures are calculated based onthe hotel and restaurant expenditure (kitchen, laundry, toilets, swimming pools, cooling and irrigation), as well as activitiessuch as golf, saunas, theme parks and municipal spending in hygiene services (We Are Water, 2017).Animal LifeTourism development and tourist activities can affect the behaviour and habitat of animals, particularly if the animals havebecome an attraction and part of the destination product, either in the wild or in captivity. This section will review tourism’spotential impact on animal behaviours and animal habitats. It will also discuss how tourists may introduce foreign lifesystems that threaten animals, or cause animal suffering when buying certain souvenirs.Animal BehavioursContact with tourists may alter the behaviour patterns and habits of animals, especially when that contact is frequent andintense. Orams (2002) classifies human contact with animals in the context of tourism in three broad categories: captive (inzoos, aquariums, aviaries and oceanariums), semi-captive (in wildlife parks or sea pens) and wild (in wildlife parks, alongmigration routes, and at breeding/feeding/drinking sites). Animals in the wild may seem to be least affected by tourists, butbecause seeing the animals is not as guaranteed in a wildlife park as in a zoo, the animals are sometimes fed by thetourists and guides, in order to allow closer contact. This practice may affect the behaviour of the animal profoundly. Theanimal needs to spend less time hunting and foraging, which can result in increased breeding, higher population levels or achange in migration patterns – the animal may stay in one place throughout the year, rather than migrating to anotherplace where usually food would have been more abundant. The danger is that the animal becomes dependent on thesehuman hand-outs and does not develop or maintain the necessary skills to feed itself. Another risk is that the animalbecomes habituated to human contact and even approaches humans where they would usually keep a safe distance. Thismay result in animals being hurt or killed.There have also been instances where animals fed by people have become aggressive towards humans. The GibraltarUpper Rock Nature Reserve is home to over 200 Barbary macaques. The macaques have free range throughout thereserve, and occasionally move into areas in the neighbouring urban zones. Interactions with humans have been asubstantial factor in the daily lives of the Gibraltar macaques for several generations, and this has impacted on their socialbehaviour. Fuentes (2006) highlights how the presence of tourists affects breeding patterns, and may lead to stress for themonkeys. The rise of tourists in Gibraltar, and their interest in the monkeys, has resulted in an explosion in their numbers.Although there are signs indicating that feeding the monkeys is forbidden, and that they may bite, taxi and coach driverstend to encourage interactions by luring a monkey onto the shoulder or head of a tourist for a picture. This behaviourculminated in 2008 in the Gibraltar government ordering a group of aggressive monkeys to be killed, after 25 broke intohotel rooms and were found scavenging in bins in the town centre. The motivation behind the cull was that tourists andchildren were frightened and that the monkeys would damage the tourism sector. The killings resulted in protests fromresearchers and animal rights groups, who argued that the animals would have returned to the hills if tourists and localshad stopped feeding them.CASE STUDY 10.1Elephant Rides and Tiger Selfies: The welfare of captive animals in tourismAnimal attractions and experiences are a popular component of the tourism product of many destinations. Manytourists dream of one day swimming with dolphins, riding an elephant or petting a tiger: these experiences allow themnot only to see these magnificent animals, but also to interact with them at close proximity. Yet, as these animalexperiences grew in popularity, so did concerns about the animals that were used in them, and their welfare. Withincreasing awareness about the poor welfare standards at some of these attractions, this part of the tourism sectorhas come under intense external scrutiny from NGOs, charities and other stakeholders involved in the animal welfareagenda (ABTA, 2013).Thailand’s elephant tourism is an example of this contentious relationship between tourism and captive animals. Asianelephants are an important part of Thailand’s history and culture, and feature prominently in Buddhist religiousiconography, in folklore and as emblems of the royal family (Rittichainuwat et al., 2020). During the twentieth century,over 100,000 elephants were captured throughout Asia, mainly for logging (Bansiddhi et al., 2020). When logging wasbanned in Thailand in 1989, entrepreneurs began to offer visits to old logging camps, which were easily turned intoattractions for visiting tourist groups, but often little regard was paid to elephant welfare. Between 1995 and 2001,heavily commercialised elephant camps burgeoned as tourism destinations throughout the country. In 2017, there
were about 2,700 elephants working in 223 tourism venues throughout Thailand (Bansiddhi et al., 2020). Popularactivities in the elephant camps are elephant rides, and entertainment such as elephants performing in shows, playingdarts or painting.The process of people gaining control over elephants is referred to as ‘phajaan’, ‘crush’ or ‘breaking in’, andtraditionally involved harsh methods such as beatings administered to a young elephant roped to strong posts anddeprived of sleep until it accepts people riding on its back. Modern training methods are more cooperative and reward-based, but most camps allowing visitors to be close to elephants also require the handler to carry a hook to ensure thesafety of visitors. While the hook is mostly used to put pressure on an ear to steer the elephant, and the pointed end ofthe hook tends to only be used in emergency situations, this tool can still cause injuries to the animal. Other concernsare that captive elephants are often unable to express their natural behaviours as they spend many hours physicallyrestrained, that they often receive a limited, poor diet and that they have no regular access to natural foraging, bathingand interaction with other elephants (Rittichainuwat et al., 2020).Another popular animal activity that has attracted strong scrutiny is petting or handling tigers, either as cubs or youngadults. To allow for this type of human interaction, tiger cubs are forcibly separated from their mothers during the firstfew months of their lives. In the wild, cubs would remain with their mother for about two years. To allow for a steadysupply of cubs, tigers are also often ‘speed-bred’ – in the wild, there is usually two to three years between litters. Thepetting zoos require cubs who are tired, overheated, thirsty, hungry or sick to sit still for a parade of paying customers,and the cubs are often physically abused to discipline them (The Humane Society, 2015).As public awareness of these animal welfare abuses grew, more and more travel companies started distancingthemselves from unethical animal attractions. ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, launched its ‘GlobalWelfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism’ report in 2013, providing a benchmark for best practice in animal welfare fortourism. In 2014, the state of New York banned direct contact between people and lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars andcougars, in a bill that eventually became known as the ‘Tiger selfie’ law. Social media platforms also took a stand. In2017, when dating app Tinder highlighted many profile photos that featured people petting tigers, they were asked byPETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to ban these photos. While Tinder did not implement a formal ban,it asked users to take these photos down. Instagram also took action: people posting or searching for phrasesincluding #koalahugs and #tigerselfie on the photo sharing app are now presented with a pop-up message, warningthat the picture might in fact be the result of abusive practices (Murphy, 2017).Reflective Questions1. Can you think of other examples of animal attractions? How ethical are the practices in these attractions?2. How effective do you think the Instagram pop-up message is in deterring people from visiting tiger-petting zoos?Animal HabitatsTourism and tourism activities can be a threat to animals when their habitats are cleared to make way for tourisminfrastructure. Habitats may be destroyed during the construction of hotels, lodges, camping grounds, roads or attractions.Trees, shrubs and other elements that are vital to the lives of the animals may be removed during the construction process.Tourism facilities might also fragment the habitat of certain animals, and make it harder for some of them to accesssources of food and water. The use of off-road vehicles may damage vegetation in the habitat. All these factors canseverely impact breeding and feeding habits (Higginbottom, 2004).Habitat: Ecological surroundings that are inhabited by an animal or plant speciesCertain types of sports tourism can be seen as particularly intrusive from this perspective, because they are intrinsicallylinked with the natural environment they take place in. Water sports are an example – several of these (e.g. diving andsnorkelling) take place in animal habitats, as viewing the animals is one of the attractions of engaging in the activity.Egypt’s Red Sea coast, for example, is famous for diving and snorkelling, and attracts many thousands of visitors eachyear. Hunting and fishing are other examples.Sports activities like these need to be carefully managed so that the activities of tourists do not endanger the animalhabitats they have come to visit. Trophy hunting (tourists hunting for specific animals that are seen as trophies, because oftheir body size, large tusks or skull length) is often presented as a source of income for conservation areas, but causes aset of problems. It is difficult, for example, to set reliable hunting quotas in areas where there are insufficient data aboutanimal populations, and because of corruption the quotas that are set may be exceeded. In the developed world, there isalso a growing ethical resistance against the idea of killing animals for sport (Lindsey et al., 2006).Snapshot 10.2Diving Tourism and Coral ReefsCoral reefs are an example of habitats that are under threat from tourism, mainly from water sports and diving.Some destinations, like Australia, Egypt, Mexico and Belize, have developed thriving niches for diving tourism.Particularly in destinations like these, where there is intensive diving, the activity can lead to broken coral andsediment covering the reefs. Most of the damage is accidental and involves unintentionally touching, trampling onand hitting coral with loose equipment. Divers are not the only problem: fishing and diving boats can also damage
the coral when they drop anchor. In the USA, states like Florida, Washington and Hawaii have mooring buoyswhere boats can tie up — sparing the ocean floor from the repeated impact of anchors — but this isn’t the standardin California, for example, where the purple hydrocoral typical of the region is suffering severe damage. Purplehydrocoral grows extremely slowly, so any damage takes a very long time to repair ( The damage not onlyaffects the coral, but also the fish, for which the reef is a vibrant habitat. Damage caused by divers and tourist boatsto coral reefs may lead to higher fish mortality, or cause them to migrate to other reefs (Hasler & Ott, 2008).Diving tourism in EgyptPhoto by Alexandr Podvalny from PexelsIntroduction of Foreign Life SystemsMost countries operate strict rules for tourists who want to export or import foodstuffs, seeds, bulbs, or live animals andplants. One of the reasons for this is that these can carry microbes, bacteria, viruses, pests and diseases that can deeplyimpact the environment of the area they are introduced to. When tourists, for example, bring exotic flowers home, this maycause invasive micro-organisms that were once confined to a small area to spread around the world.The introduction of new life forms is particularly dangerous in pristine and fragile environments, for example the GalapagosIslands. These islands were studied by Darwin, who found a wealth of endemic species there. Tourism activity in theislands has been steadily growing, and although care is taken not to disturb the environment unnecessarily, it is not withoutits problems. The Darwin Foundation has highlighted how tourist boats in the Galapagos introduced new insects, mainlymoths, to the islands, from countries such as Ecuador. The boats also transport insects from one island to another,because the insects are attracted by the lights on them. In fragile ecosystems, the introduction of a new species with nonatural predators can cause its numbers to grow rapidly, in time endangering or even replacing domestic species. A simplesolution to the problem would be to equip the boats with lights in colours that are less attractive to the insects( Native to a certain region. Because of the isolated location of the Galapagos Islands, there are a greatnumber of species here that cannot be found anywhere elseSouvenir TradeThe trade in certain souvenirs can pose a direct threat to animals in the destination. Ivory, exotic leathers and furs, animalteeth and claws, and food products such as shark fins are often offered to tourists, who may buy them because they areunaware of the environmental impacts of this, or because this adds to their value as a novelty item. Tourists may also beinvited to eat endangered species in local restaurants, such as turtle eggs, shark’s fin soup or iguana meat. Because theproducts are sold so openly, many tourists do not realise that they are driving up the demand for these products and soputting the environment in danger.IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, runs the campaign ‘Think Twice – Don’t Buy Wildlife Souvenirs’ toeducate tourists about the environmental impacts of certain behaviours and activities. The tagline for the campaign is ‘Ifyou don’t buy, they don’t die’. The campaign website offers an extensive list of souvenirs and foods to avoid when travellingand gives tips on how to be a more responsible tourist. There is also a link for travel agents and tour operators to supportthe campaign ( Built EnvironmentTourism impacts not only on the natural environment, but also on the built environment. The development of tourism oftenrequires extensive development of supporting facilities such as accommodation, attractions, roads and airports. In somedestinations, the extensive and rapid development of these facilities has caused the built environment to deteriorate. Thissection will look at the effects of over-development and aesthetic pollution. It will also address the question of how globalwarming will affect coastal development.
Over-developmentMost long-established tourism destinations have developed tourism facilities and infrastructure over time on a large scale,to cater for the large numbers of tourists that come to visit. In many cases, because of the strong economic benefits ofmass tourism, this development has taken place in a rather unplanned fashion, resulting in long strips of poorly built hotels,cafes and shops that are not always in keeping with the local environment. Not only does this cause the built environmentto look ugly (see ‘aesthetic pollution’ below), it can also negatively affect the quality of life of the local community, forexample through a lack of green space, a loss of local pride, and overcrowding and congestion.In some destinations, action is being taken to remove inappropriate developments. The Spanish coast is one of the mostover-developed tourist destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean coastline is largely built up. Even though a law hasbeen in place since 1988 that forbids buildings to be erected within 500 metres of the water, these rules were largelyflouted during the property booms of the 1990s and 2010s. Greenpeace estimates that the urbanisation of the Spanishcoast has actually doubled in the last three decades (France 24, 2018). The Spanish government has threatened severaltimes to demolish these holiday homes, but so far only limited demolition has actually taken place. For example, the 21-story Azata del Sol complex on the Algarrobico beach in Almeria is, for many, a prime example of the overdevelopment ofthe coastline. The massive structure, which hosts 411 rooms, was illegally built on protected land in the Cabo de Gata-NijarNatural Park. The hotel was meant to be part of a larger golf complex with 1,500 rental apartments in the pristine volcaniclandscape of the reserve, but it has stood derelict since 2006 when a court ordered the developers to cease construction.After a lengthy court battle, the structure was ordered to be demolished in 2016. The Andalusian government committed tofree the budget needed for the demolition in 2021 (Kuner, 2020), however, as of 2022, the eyesore hotel was still standing.Aesthetic PollutionTourism development can also lead to what Holden (2008) refers to as ‘aesthetic pollution’: a decline in the visual,aesthetic appeal of a destination. This can be particularly apparent in destinations that have developed rapidly for tourism,where hotels and infrastructure have been constructed without much planning and regulation, often resulting in over-developed and built-up environments. Many coastal resorts have also started looking very similar, with little sensitivityshown towards local cultures or building styles. Aesthetic pollution not only adversely affects the built environment for thelocal population, it also influences the overall popularity of the destination and the type of tourists it will attract. Uncontrolledgrowth and aesthetic pollution are often connected to the ‘decline’ stage in Butler’s Tourist Area Life Cycle model (for moredetails on this model, see Chapter 7, ‘Tourism Destinations’). An example of a destination that can be argued to be in thisphase is Bugibba in Malta. The Lonely Planet guide for Malta and Gozo describes this destination as follows:The unattractive sprawl of Bugibba, on the eastern side of the bay, is the biggest tourist development in Malta.Bugibba is the heartland of the island’s cheap-and-cheerful package holiday trade, and is absolutely mobbed inthe summer. It is not the prettiest or most inspiring of places to end up on a holiday (and there are no sandybeaches) but at least it’s cheap, especially in the low season when there are some real accommodationbargains and the swimming areas are not so crowded. (Bain & Wilson, 2010, p. 99)A viewing point in Buggiba, MaltaSource: Lynn MinnaertCoastal Development and Global WarmingFor many people, tourism is synonymous with sun, sea and sand: the UNWTO (2020a) estimates that half of all touristsvisit a coastal area each year. It is therefore no surprise that many tourism developments can be found near beaches andshorelines. Within the European Union, for example, tourism is by far the largest employer in coastal regions, where 51%of all EU hotel bed capacity is concentrated. Moreover, coastal municipalities account for only 15% of the EU’s land areaand 21% of its population (European Commission, 2017). However, coastal developments are increasingly under threat.The effects of climate change are often especially visible on the coast, for example through storm surges and rising sealevels. In some regions, they are already damaging coastal tourism economies (Jarratt & Davies, 2020).
Miami, a major tourism destination in Florida, was named the most vulnerable major coastal city in the world in 2020, withhundreds of billions of dollars in buildings under assault from winds, storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise.Several major tourist attractions, including the Everglades, Biscayne National Park, and Miami Beach, are largely situatedon land less than three feet above the high-water mark and may become permanently submerged by the end of thecentury (Resources for the Future, 2020). Miami Beach has been dubbed the ‘ground zero’ of sea rise, and has launchedthe ‘Rising Above’ programme. The plan includes elevating roads, building new sea walls and installing new and highercapacity pumps and drainage systems to alleviate flooding. In the Florida Keys; however, the approach will probably bemore of a ‘managed retreat’: abandoning areas too expensive to maintain and focusing on measures with a better cost–benefit ratio. By 2040, parts of the island group may simply need to be abandoned – this region already experiencesregular and severe flooding. Florida is also at increased risk of hurricanes: in 2017, a record-breaking season withhurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma caused damage estimated at $265 billion (Luscombe, 2020).Positive ImpactsAlthough tourism, as described in the sections above, is often linked to negative environmental impacts, it can also have anumber of positive impacts for the natural environment. Even though it is hard to argue that tourism makes theenvironment better, tourism can replace or prohibit activities that are even more damaging, such as mining, logging orheavy industries. The economic benefit of tourism can also be a stimulus for destinations to appreciate the localenvironment and enforce stronger environmental controls. Tourism can encourage the protection or enhancement of theenvironment in two ways: it can conserve and protect the natural environment, on the one hand, and regenerate andenhance the built environment, on the other.Conservation/Protection of the Natural EnvironmentAlthough tourism, as explained in the previous paragraphs, can often be seen as a threat to the natural environment, it canalso act as a driving force for conservation and protection. This is because, via tourism, leisure and recreation, the naturalenvironment can become a source of income for the local community – this means that there is less need to replace thenatural area with housing, industry or commercial uses. For many destinations, natural attractions like beaches, mountains,lakes and countryside are important elements of the tourism product. If these destinations want to experience theeconomic benefits of tourism, it is important that they take good care of this asset. Tourists who visit the area can also playa role in the awareness-building process, if they are being told about the fauna and flora in the area and the various threatsthat may affect their habitat.Snapshot 10.3US National Park ServiceThe US National Park Service is often presented as a global leader in responsible and sustainable tourismdevelopment in fragile natural areas. It is a bureau of the US Department of the Interior that manages the 417 parksof the National Park System. Some of its most famous parks are Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.Founded in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, the mission of the NPS ‘is to conserve the scenery and the naturaland historic objects and the wild life therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and bysuch means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations’. In 2020, the NPS received $2.9billion in state funding – its contributions to the economy, however, are substantial. Annual visitor spending incommunities within 60 miles of NPS sites supports more than 340,500 mostly local jobs and contributes about $42billion to the US economy. In 2019, the National Parks attracted over 327 million visitors.The NPS has implemented rigorous visitor management and conservation policies: in 2017, for example, the GreenParks Plan was introduced, which emphasises a holistic approach to sustainable operations (e.g. energy and waterconservation, procurement and recycling, transportation). However, the enduring popularity of the parks also poseschallenges. Increasing visitor numbers (including a growing percentage of overseas visitors) have led to morefrequent instances of illegal camping, vandalism, theft of resources, wildlife harassment and other misbehaviourfrom visitors ( of the Built EnvironmentTourism can be a driver for the protection and enhancement not only of the natural environment, but also the builtenvironment. The term ‘regeneration’ refers to the revitalisation of run-down urban areas, so that they become an attractiveplace to live, work and visit. Regeneration projects usually include impressive buildings, hotels, shopping malls, andentertainment and cultural facilities. In many former industrial cities, regeneration schemes became popular after thedeindustrialisation of the Western economy: with many industries moving production to countries with a cheaper labourforce, and the growth of the service economy, much of the industrial infrastructure was no longer needed. Tourism, leisureand recreation spending increased rapidly in modern society as the disposable income of many families grew. Thisresulted in a range of industrial buildings being transformed into museums and cultural attractions. In London, for example,a former power station along the river Thames has been transformed into a major cultural attraction: the Tate Modernmuseum of modern art. This is an example of how tourism development can create new uses for existing buildings andmake an area more aesthetically pleasing via the removal of graffiti and the prevention of dereliction.
Disposable income: This is the income of a person after taxes and bills for necessities (food, rent/mortgage,utilities)Regeneration can involve the conservation and restoration of heritage buildings, but it is often associated with grandprojects of modern architecture that become symbols (also called flagships) of the city. The Guggenheim museum inBilbao, for example, is often used as an illustration of how flagship buildings can enhance the image of a city and increasevisitor flows. Even though these developments are usually not purely aimed at tourists, their cost and scale can oftentranscend the needs of the local population. They often become tourist attractions, thus strengthening their symbolicfunction as a showcase for cities.Although regeneration projects can bring a range of benefits to the destination, some have also been linked to a number ofnegative environmental and social impacts. Certain urban regeneration projects have been criticised because of the‘placelessness’ they can create: the regenerated area of one city, with its modern architecture, waterfront apartments andentertainment complexes, may look exactly like that of another city. There are sometimes few links between the culture of aplace and the regenerated area, so that landscapes become increasingly ‘global’ (Smith, 2007). Regeneration can alsolead to gentrification and displacement: as the area becomes more and more desirable as a place to live and work, thelocal residents who used to live there may be forced out of the area due to increased rents or housing costs.Gentrification: The rebuilding of an area, leading to an influx of more affluent people, often resulting in anincreased living cost which may drive out the original residentsOn the basis of these examples, it can be stated that tourism can have a variety of negative impacts on the naturalenvironment. Mass tourism moves a large number of people to often fragile natural environments, which may put pressureon resources, cause pollution, affect animal life and cause detrimental changes to the built environment. There is a growingawareness of these negative environmental impacts of tourism and a mounting pressure on tourism to protect andenhance the natural and built environment. The remainder of this chapter will discuss the concept of environmentalsustainability and examine how the environmental impacts of tourism can be managed so that the positive impacts aremaximised and negative ones are minimised.Snapshot 10.4The New York City High LineA great example of regeneration in NYC is the High Line, an elevated railroad track constructed in 1929, that fellinto disuse when the subway system was moved underground. Much of the line was demolished between the1960s and the early 1980s. A short section remained, however, unused, until the turn of the century. In 1999,Manhattan residents and property owners began campaigning for the disused rail line to be converted for publicuse. The track was often too narrow to be redeveloped into buildings, but offered the opportunity to develop amuch-needed green space in the city. While the southern section was demolished to make way for new apartments,the rest remained unused for 40 years, while the surrounding neighbourhoods of Chelsea and the MeatpackingDistrict became sought-after locales. The regenerated High Line opened in 2009, and offers flower and art displays,food stalls, viewing points and a traffic-free walkway from Midtown to the Whitney Museum in the MeatpackingDistrict ( High Line has been a big success with locals and tourists alike, and property prices nearby have soared. Sincethe High Line was unveiled, numerous cities in the USA and elsewhere have talked of similar projects. Chicago,Philadelphia, Jersey City and St Louis have considered the same solution for their disused urban spaces, whileEurope’s capitals have enthusiastically discussed similar designs.
View along the NYC High LineImage by Sheina LlanosENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITYIn the face of a growing awareness of the negative environmental impacts of tourism, the concept of sustainability hasbecome central to the debate in how the travel sector can be managed responsibly. This section will introduce the conceptof environmental sustainability and discuss approaches to tourism that aim to provide alternative and more environmentallysustainable tourism choices.Defining SustainabilitySustainability is a term for which many definitions exist. Rogers et al. (2008, p. 5) describe sustainability as ‘the termchosen to bridge the gulf between development and environment’. Dresner (2008, p. 69) explains thatthe starting point of the concept of sustainable development was the aim to integrate environmentalconsiderations into economic policy. More profoundly, it was conceived as an attempt to bring environmentalistideas into the central area of policy, which in the modern world is economics.Originally, the term was applied to forestry, fisheries and groundwater, to answer questions like ‘How many trees can wecut down and still have forest growth?’ and ‘How many fish can we take and still have a fishing industry?’ Today,‘sustainability’ is applied more widely to a variety of sectors and aspects of development. The problem is that this makesthe term hard to define. At its core, sustainability balances environmental concerns with an allowance for economic growth:this means that development and growth are not blocked, but the way in which growth is achieved is considered closely.There is, however, not one particular way in which sustainability needs to be achieved: a wide range of actions can beclassed as aiming towards this goal. Because the term can be interpreted in many different ways, one could say it hasbecome rather vague – some even say it has become almost meaningless (Dresner, 2008).Even if there are many different definitions for sustainability, there is a general consensus that it has three aspects:Economic: maximising income while maintaining a constant or increasing level of capital.Environmental/Ecological: maintaining and maximising the robustness and resilience of the natural environment.Social/Socio-cultural: maintaining and maximising the robustness and resilience of social systems and cultures(Rogers et al., 2008).
These three aspects of sustainability can be applied to the three determining stages of development: consumption,production and distribution (Rogers et al., 2008):Consumption: in sustainable development, it is the aim not to use resources beyond the reasonable limit set bynature through regeneration.Production: sustainable development recognises the need for new production patterns that take into account not onlythe economic benefits of production, but also the social and environmental benefits.Distribution: sustainable development aims to reduce poverty and inequality – the socio-economic aspects ofsustainability are particularly important here.Several authors distinguish between strong and weak sustainability. A strong sustainability approach emphasises thatresources need to be used in restrained ways as humankind cannot substitute them, and they must be preserved for futuregenerations (Munier, 2005, p. 15). This is a more hard-line approach, which advocates using resources at the rate they areproduced. For example, we currently consume oil a million times faster than it is produced (Dresner, 2008, p. 3) – a strongsustainability approach would advocate that we need to reduce our consumption of oil to one millionth of its current level. Aweak sustainability approach regards resources as a commodity that supports humankind (Munier, 2005, p. 15): althoughhumankind needs to use them wisely, it allows for a responsible use of them. A weak sustainability approach would seek toreduce the dependency on oil with gradual reduction targets (Dresner, 2008). Blewitt (2008, p. 29) refers to these terms as‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ ecology.The Role of the United Nations: Conferences and Sustainable Development GoalsThe United Nations has played a key role in our understanding of sustainability and sustainable development. These twoterms came to prominence in 1987, when the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development,chaired by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, published its report ‘Our Common Future’ (United Nations,1983). The central recommendation of this document, usually known as the Brundtland report, was to balance thecompeting demands for environmental protection and economic development through a new approach: sustainabledevelopment. The Commission defined it as development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising theability of future generations to meet their needs’ (Dresner, 2008, p. 1).Further UN conferences on Environment and Development included the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and the1997 Kyoto Protocol, a UN treaty that was signed by over 140 states (Blewitt, 2008, p. 18). These events served as aframework for international collaboration to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases, andthe impacts that were, even at that time, increasingly appearing as inevitable.Another milestone occurred in 2015, when all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for SustainableDevelopment, which provided a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. At its heart are the 17Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing –in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand in hand with strategiesthat improve health and education, reduce inequality and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change andworking to preserve oceans and forests (United Nations, 2016). The 17 goals are:GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals2015 also marked the year of the Paris Agreement, which aimed to intensify and accelerate the actions and investmentsneeded for a sustainable low carbon future. Its goal was to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degreesCelsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries vowed to reducegreenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, in order to achieve a climate-neutral world by mid-century.In 2021, the Glasgow Climate Change conference took place. This event is also referred to as COP 26: the 26th edition ofthe COP, which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. During this event, countries updated their plans for reducingemissions, as the window for achieving the goals set in the Paris Agreement are rapidly closing. Ministers also agreed thatdeveloped countries should urgently deliver more resources to help climate-vulnerable countries adapt to the dangerousand costly consequences of climate change (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2017).The principles of sustainability have been applied to tourism in different ways. The following paragraphs will introduce theconcepts of eco-tourism, responsible tourism and regenerative tourism.Eco-tourismOne of the earliest terms that formally linked travel with sustainability was eco-tourism. Fennell (2020) highlights that thereis no single definition for eco-tourism: a range of definitions and approaches exists. He identified a range of characteristicsthat typify eco-tourism initiatives: these tend to be centred on nature-based attractions, but, as opposed to other nature-based tourism forms, there is usually an educational element involved in the experience. This educational element can beintensive or rather light, but learning about the environment is usually one of the motivations for tourists to participate ineco-tourism. The eco-tourism project should also make a credible attempt to be environmentally sustainable. It should below-impact, and benefit local communities.One of the key benefits of eco-tourism is that it presents a revenue stream that can be used to fund conservation activities.Eco-tourism can also encourage the tourist to adopt a more environmentally friendly attitude in general. Finally, if the localcommunity is involved in providing the eco-tourism experience, they may take on the role of environmental advocates andstewards (Weaver, 2006, p. 202). On the flipside of eco-tourism development is the fact that tourism – even eco-tourism –increases the likelihood of negative environmental impacts on the destination’s environment. It may increase pollution,change the behaviour of animals and put pressure on limited resources. This has resulted in eco-tourism sometimes beingcriticised as being a mere marketing ploy, also referred to as ‘greenwashing’ (Holden, 2016) – indeed, Wheeller (1991)goes even further and points to eco-tourists as being an inherent part of the problem. He says eco-tourists add to theenvironmental damage of tourism by constantly looking for the new, the exotic, the unspoilt and the vulnerable. By theirvery presence in a vulnerable natural environment, they risk causing the most irreversible damage.Responsible TourismResponsible tourism is a term that does not tend to refer to a product in particular, but to a certain attitude to tourism. Thisattitude sees tourism not as a mere product, that is consumed and then discarded, but as an activity with far-reachingconsequences, for which all stakeholders are in part responsible. This means that the tourists are responsible for theirbehaviour at the destination; the tourism providers for their operations, sourcing policies, and developments; the localcommunities for their involvement in tourism; and, finally, the governments for planning and regulating tourism in aresponsible fashion. Responsible tourism, like the concept of sustainability, has an environmental, social and economicelement.Leslie (2012) points out that tourism is by nature often an unsustainable form of consumption, and that mass tourism inparticular often destroys the natural beauty it is in search of. In contrast, responsible tourism tends to favour small-scale,slow, steady development. This should go hand in hand with tourist education so that they are more aware of the impactsof their activities. Even though these are laudable objectives, concerns have been raised for many years about howrealistic this objective is. Wheeller (1991), for example, highlighted around 30 years ago that small-scale and paceddevelopment may be more responsible, but how will this speed of development keep up with the ever-increasing volume oftourists? At that time, international arrivals amounted to fewer than half a billion tourists – in 2019, that number has grownto over 1.5 billion (World Bank). Educating all these tourists so that they behave in a more responsible way is a mammothtask. There is also the question of whether raised awareness will automatically lead to a change in behaviour by tourists.Many will have a certain understanding of the environmental impacts of tourism, but this does not always mean they will bewilling to change their habits or behaviour. Despite these challenges, awareness of responsible tourism is growing, andmany destinations are actively encouraging visitors to be mindful of their behaviours when they travel. In 2017 for example,the Icelandic Tourist Board invited tourists to take a pledge to travel responsibly when visiting the country. ‘The IcelandicPledge’ is an online agreement that tourists can sign, in which they promise to respect the natural environment whiletravelling in Iceland. On signing they get a certificate they can share on social media with the hashtag #IcelandicPledge.The initiative responds to a steep increase in the number of international visitors to Iceland: arrivals grew from fewer thanhalf a million in 2010, to almost 2.3 million in 2018 ( TourismMost recently, a new concept has emerged in the debate around tourism and sustainability. Glusac (2020) describesregenerative tourism as follows: ‘If sustainable tourism, which aims to counterbalance the social and environmentalimpacts associated with travel, was the aspirational outer limit of ecotourism before the pandemic, the new frontier is“regenerative travel,” or leaving a place better than you found it.’ Regenerative travel has its roots in regenerativedevelopment and design, a theory that sees projects such as buildings, businesses and farms as ‘living systems enablers’.As the world around us constantly changes and evolves, we should see our projects not in isolation, but as part of acomplex and, to some extent, unpredictable ecosystem. As we align our work with nature, we realise that each place on
the planet has the potential to contribute something of real value to the larger systems that it influences and participates in.This is not just true in pristine ecological systems: for example, a healthy forest contributes clean water to its watershed, oran estuary contributes healthy baby fish to its sea. Supporters of regenerative development believe that it is no less true forsystems that include human inhabitants (Mang & Haggard, 2016). Applied to travel, regenerative tourism approachesimpact holistically, from a community and ecology perspective.MANAGING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTSWhile concepts such as eco-tourism, responsible tourism and regenerative tourism are useful frameworks to help usenvision a more sustainable travel sector in the future, destinations also need practical tools and strategies to help themmanage the environmental impacts of tourism. Destinations can do this in part via efficient visitor management (discussedin more detail in the following chapter). This section will specifically look at managing environmental impacts and willexamine three key steps in achieving this: determining carrying capacity, policy and planning, and the role of partnerships.Rocky Mountain National Park, ColoradoSource: Lynn MinnaertKey Concepts in Environmental ManagementCarrying CapacityCarrying capacity can be defined as the maximum pressures a tourism destination, attraction or resource can be subjectedto before irreversible damage is inflicted. Carrying capacity can be interpreted in different ways: socially, economically andenvironmentally. On an environmental level, it can refer to the maximum number of people that can visit or make use of anatural area before it is damaged irreversibly, or it can refer to the maximum level of development (in terms of constructingbuildings, roads and other infrastructure) before the same effect ensues (Coccossis & Mexa, 2004).Although carrying capacity is a widely used concept in tourism studies, scholars are increasingly agreeing that a fixed,quantitative view of it is not useful: in other words, the notion that there is a fixed ceiling, a threshold number of visitors,which tourism should not exceed, has been largely discredited (Holden, 2008, p. 190). Instead, a more flexible view of theconcept is now often adopted: carrying capacity assessments today usually allow for a gradual increase in visitation, whilemanagement strategies are implemented to make this possible in a sustainable way. However, it needs to be emphasisedhere that this more flexible approach may not be suitable for highly fragile natural environments or destinations wherethere are no resources available to allow for environmental management strategies (Weaver, 2006).Limits of Acceptable ChangeAn alternative to the concept of carrying capacity is ‘limits of acceptable change’ (LAC). Where carrying capacity is focusedon keeping the destination the same and not causing irreversible change, this model projects which changes would bedesirable or acceptable, considering the potential of the area for tourism. LAC does not view the environmental needs ofthe destination as separate entities, but links them with social and economic factors: some level of environmental changemay be accepted if there are significant social and economic benefits. In practice, the system adopts a set of indicators(e.g. pollution levels, tourist satisfaction, employment) that are regularly monitored to see if the (environmental, social andeconomic) aims of the project are being achieved (Holden, 2008).Within environmental management, determining the carrying capacity or the limits of acceptable change should be the firsttask. Together with environmental impact assessments, these can form the basis of effective environmental managementvia policy, planning and partnerships. The complexity and expense of managing this process have led to it mainly beingimplemented in destinations in developed countries.
Environmental Impact AssessmentsEnvironmental impact assessments (EIAs) systematically examine the potential future environmental impacts ofdevelopment on the destination. Where carrying capacity assessments are carried out for existing facilities and attractions,an EIA is often (but not always) conducted ahead of new developments – the positive and negative impacts on the localenvironment are predicted and evaluated. Although there is no set structure for how an EIA should be conducted, thisusually includes five stages:identifying the impactpredicting/measuring the impactinterpreting the significance of the impactdisplaying the results of the assessmentdeveloping appropriate monitoring schemes. (Holden, 2008, p. 192)Conducting an EIA is an intensive process that includes the participation of, and consultation with, the differentstakeholders in the development – as such, it is a time-consuming and expensive exercise. Nevertheless, because of thegrowing emphasis governments place on reducing the negative environmental impacts of tourism, it has now become apart of the legal requirements for new developments in many countries. EIAs are mostly used in the planning stage, wherethey play a role in identifying environmentally unsound proposals, or in supporting planners in making amendments toproposals to make them more environmentally friendly. Despite their benefits as a planning tool, EIAs have also beencriticised: because of their cost, they are difficult to enforce in developing countries.Policy and PlanningThe public sector can play an important role in minimising negative environmental impacts via effective policy andplanning. (The role of the government in tourism will be reviewed in more depth in a later chapter.) These strategies canusually be divided into two main groups: land use strategies (how the space is used and which new developments areallowed) and visitor management strategies. Visitor management strategies are explained in more detail in the nextchapter. This section will focus more specifically on land use strategies such as zoning and development standards. Apartfrom policy and planning, the public sector also has a range of practical management tools at its disposal, such aslegislation and taxation. These will be discussed later in this chapter.The negative environmental impacts of tourism tend to increase as tourism develops in the destination. Land use planningrefers to the actions and decisions governments take with regard to how the land is used, which types of uses are allowed,and which guidelines for development are set. A good way to control the negative environmental impacts of the tourismindustry is to regulate where and how it is developed in the first place. Zoning is a tool for land use planners: the termrefers to regulating land use by dividing the area into zones with specific uses. The guiding principles of zoning are usuallyto conserve environmental features and to not mix uses that are incompatible. A nightlife area, for example, would notnecessarily be compatible with residential developments built very close by. Similar activities may be clustered, the accessto certain areas may be restricted, and undesirable buildings may be relocated to alternative areas (Jafari, 2003). Toachieve a sustainable balance of tourism activities and natural conservation on beaches, for example, specific zones maybe allocated for boating and water sports. Jet skis and recreational boating could lead to foreshore erosion and water andair pollution (Lück, 2008). Planners can reduce the pressure on natural resources by providing an alternative space for thewater sports activities – this is referred to as space zoning. On top of this, the activity may be only allowed at certain timesof the day – this is referred to as time zoning (Hall & Page, 2002). It needs to be noted here that environmental concernsmay not be the only reason for establishing different zones: a separate zone for water sports might also improve the safetyand enjoyment of both the sports users and recreational users of the beach.Development standards are another tool that governments and local communities can use in land use planning. These areconditions and restrictions that are set for different aspects of new developments. Weaver (2006) gives the followingexamples:Density controls: the number of accommodation units that are allowed per hectare or square kilometre. These applynot only to residential developments, but also to hotels.Height restrictions: although high buildings are not necessarily environmentally unsustainable, they can causeaesthetic pollution in areas where they are inappropriate, such as rural areas.Site coverage: the amount of space that is covered by buildings, compared to the level of open space.Setbacks: the amount of space that needs to be maintained around landscape features. An example here is themandatory distance between a tourism development and the beach.Building standards: these can relate to energy efficiency, waste management and building materials.Landscaping: the conservation of open spaces, trees and native plants.Noise regulations: restrictions on the levels of noise that are allowed and the times during which they are allowed.Theme parks, airports and nightclubs may be affected by these regulations.
Partnerships and CollaborationsTourism is a sector that is dependent on a range of different stakeholders – for example, transport providers,accommodation facilities, public sector planners, and attractions. All of these stakeholders potentially have an impact onthe environment, and there is a growing consensus that to achieve environmental sustainability, all of these stakeholdersneed to work collectively. Partnerships or collaborations are often cross-sector initiatives, including representatives fromthe public and private sector, and from the local community.Bramwell and Lane (2000) highlight a number of benefits of partnerships and collaborations. The involvement of a widerange of stakeholders gives a better overview of the problems under discussion, improves democratic decision making,and may increase the likelihood of a successful implementation. A more creative solution may be found by workingtogether. By pooling their resources, the different stakeholders in the partnership may also put these to more effective use.Nevertheless, there are also a number of potential problems. It is important that a wide range of stakeholders take part inthe collaboration or partnership for it to be effective. There is also the risk that the collaboration is mere window-dressing,because the more powerful stakeholders do not take the views of other stakeholders into account. The process can alsobe costly and time-consuming.Management ToolsEnvironmental management strategies can be executed via two approaches: these are also called ‘hard’ and ‘soft’measures (and will also be discussed in Chapter 12, on visitor management). Kuo (2002) summarises the differencesbetween the two approaches as follows. Hard measures aim to regulate tourist activities in a destination: they can take theform of access restrictions, rules and regulations, zoning and patrolling. These measures are firm and binding, and notvoluntary. Soft measures aim to educate and influence the visitor and can take the form of information provision,recommendations and declarations, and marketing. Soft measures are moral rather than legal and cannot be easilyenforced. The following sections will discuss examples of both hard and soft measures that are used in environmentalmanagement. Legislation, taxation and the idea of carbon credits are introduced as hard measures, whereas labellingschemes and codes of conduct are introduced as soft measures.Legislation and RegulationsTourism businesses, like other businesses, are required to comply with environmental legislation and regulations. In mostcountries, legislation exists regarding air quality, noise levels, land contamination, planning and land use, vehicleemissions, and waste management. So far, the industry has largely relied on self-regulation and soft measures (such asrecommendations, codes of ethics, and eco-labels), but, due to the size and rapid growth of the industry, perhaps morehard legislation is necessary. Unsurprisingly, the tourism industry generally fears the restrictive effect these laws couldhave. Holden (2003, p. 105) comments that increased litigation and more extensive environmental legislation, including therequirement for more detailed environmental impact assessments, would be likely to restrict tourism development andincrease the likelihood of a denial of access to nature areas for tourism. Subsequently, there would seemingly be littledirect benefit or incentive for the majority of tourism stakeholders, including government, industry and local communities.TaxationEnvironmental taxation puts into practice the ‘polluter pays’ principle: the person who causes the environmental damage isalso the person who needs to pay to rectify that damage. Taxes can be levied on tourism businesses or directly on tourists.Both methods may be implemented either through the general tax system of the economy or through specific plans. TheWorld Tourism Organization has identified 40 different types of taxes applied to the tourism industry in both developed anddeveloping countries (Gooroochurn & Sinclair, 2005, p. 479). Of these 41 forms of taxation, three are environmental: eco-tax; levies on CO2 emissions; and landfill tax. Economists have long argued that taxes and charges can achieve the samegoals as regulation and in a shorter time (Mak, 2004).The levy of environmental tourist taxes is a popular notion, but so far the implementation of these taxes has proved to beproblematic. A tourism tax was introduced in the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera), but was soondropped. The Balearic Islands, and Mallorca and Ibiza in particular, are well-established mass tourism destinations, butalso ones that are characterised by poor planning and overdevelopment. Tourism here is highly seasonal and the highvisitor numbers in the peak season lead to pollution and water shortages. The eco-tax was introduced in 2002, after heavypolitical resistance, and was charged via accommodation providers. The tourist paid an average of €1 per day, the costranging from €0.25 to €2 depending on the accommodation classification. The proceeds were used to support greenmarketing, to clean up beaches, to encourage energy-saving projects in hotels, and to contribute to the acquisition of areasof natural beauty in the countryside and the revitalisation of agriculture (Boniface & Cooper, 2005). Even though the taxraised almost €25 million in its first year, it was dropped in 2003 as soon as a new government was elected.The most common form of environmental tourist tax is probably levies on transport. Aviation in particular has been targeteddue to its high level of carbon emissions compared to other transport modes. For example, Air Passenger Duty is a taximposed by the UK government on all passengers flying out of the country. The tax depends on the distance to thedestination (destinations that are further away are taxed more) and on the class of travel (economy travellers pay less thanthose in premium classes). Air Passenger Duty was introduced in 1994 to pay for the environmental costs of air travel, butalso because airlines do not pay tax on fuel for international flights – the sector is seen as ‘under-taxed’. The airlineindustry, as well as the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), have lobbied heavily against this tax, which they saythreatens growth and employment in the sector. Proponents of the tax, however, argue that, as air travel is a discretionaryactivity only enjoyed by parts of the population, air passengers should bear some of the financial responsibility for theenvironmental impacts of flying.
Carbon Credits/Carbon TradingCarbon credits and carbon trading are concepts that play a role in the creation of an international carbon market: thismarket-based system is proposed as a potentially effective way to reduce carbon emissions. In theory, the mechanism issimple. Participating nations agree to reduce their carbon emissions to a certain level. Nations that struggle to meet theiremissions targets can buy carbon credits from other nations, which either have no emissions target (for example,developing nations) or have reduced their emissions below their agreed target. Like any tradeable commodity, the price ofcarbon credits is largely determined by supply and demand (Laurance, 2007, p. 20).In practice, implementing carbon trading on a global level has proven more problematic. The 1997 Kyoto Protocolencouraged trading schemes on a national and an international level, and some commentators even called for tradingschemes between individuals (also called personal carbon trading). This would involve allocating every individual a numberof tradeable energy units per year (Egger, 2007). An individual who takes a large number of flights per year, for example,would have to pay for extra credits, or try to reduce their carbon credits somewhere else, by using public transport or usingless energy. These individual carbon trading initiatives have had limited success, however the European Union hasoperated a European Union Emissions Trading System since 2005.The 2015 Paris Climate Accord takes a different approach from the Kyoto Protocol. Rather than binding emission limitsfor each country, the new climate agreement requires all parties to set their own emission targets. The goal is to keep aglobal temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement does notprovide a concrete mechanism for carbon trading on a global level, however it reaffirms the role of carbon markets inachieving its climate goals (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2017).Paris Climate Accord: An environmental treaty aimed at combating climate change and helping countries adaptto its effectsLabelling/Auditing SchemesEco-labels can be awarded to tourism providers and destinations. A range of eco-labels exists, targeting different aspectsof the tourism industry: beaches, hotels, camping sites, marinas and events. Font and Buckley (2001) describe the role ofeco-labels as threefold:For the consumer: to guide consumers in choosing more environmentally friendly product choices.For the suppliers: to market and promote the environmental efforts of companies and destinations, to incentivisethem to improve their economic performance, and to support and guide their efforts.For the government: to provide a voluntary instrument that encourages environmental sustainability, that cancomplement legislation.Most labels are funded by the public or the voluntary sector. This funding is needed to pay for the development of the label,to manage the verification process, and to hire staff to do the administration. Most labels cannot fund these activities viamembership fees alone.These labels are often presented as a way to standardise and validate the green claims companies make: as consumersare becoming more environmentally aware, it is often said that ‘green sells’ – still, many companies are accused of‘greenwashing’, so that consumers do not always know which claims to believe. The labels can help tourists to make aninformed choice. This can only happen if a label is credible: because many labels exist, the interest and knowledge of thepublic about them can be rather low – in the worst case, it may even put customers off. At present, there is no label that isglobally recognised and subscribed to, although there are some that have gained popularity on a more local level. TheNature and Ecotourism Accreditation Programme (NEAP) in Australia, for example, is a dominant label for tour operators.Europe has the largest number of eco-labels, most of which are small-scale and apply to the accommodation sector. Eco-labels are also appearing in the developing world: Kenya, for example, has its own eco-rating scheme, which awardsaccommodation providers with a bronze, silver or gold rating. The Smart Voyager scheme also certifies eco-friendly cruiseships in the Galapagos Islands.‘Greenwashing’: Companies are said to ‘greenwash’ when they make green claims to improve their image, butdo not make profound changes to the way they operateDeveloping one global eco-label for tourism may be beneficial in terms of credibility, but is hard to achieve in practice. Itwould be difficult to ensure, for example, that the verification process would be carried out to equal specifications indifferent countries, and misuse may be likely. The tourism sector consists of complex and varied industries: it would behard to develop one eco-label that could certify a ski chalet, a beach and a marina at the same time. It may be morerealistic to aim towards a range of eco-labels that could be used on a wide geographical scale by their product category.Codes of Conduct/Codes of EthicsWeaver (2006) describes codes of conduct (also called codes of ethics) as a set of guidelines that aim to influence theattitudes and behaviour of those claiming adherence to these. Such codes are voluntary: people or businesses can choose
to sign up to them, but there are no legal penalties for not adhering to them. They can be useful awareness-building toolsand are quick and easy to implement as opposed to hard legislation. From this perspective, they offer many advantages forthe tourism industry, but there are also disadvantages: because they are not binding, it is easy for a tourism business tosign up to a code of ethics and not significantly change their business behaviour. As with any form of self-regulation, thesuccess of the code is dependent on how serious the business decides to be in implementing it. Mowforth and Munt (2003)highlight that most codes of conduct are not even monitored by independent bodies and can be seen as covert marketingexercises. Codes of ethics can also be rather general and focus on environmental principles, rather than providing realhelp and support mechanisms that are also economically sustainable.A wide range of different codes of conduct is in use, some of which focus particularly on tourists or the communitiesinvolved in tourism, whereas others target tourism businesses. For tourists and the local community, codes of conduct willusually promote a responsible use of resources, showing respect for wildlife and local cultures, reducing waste and usinglocal products and suppliers. For tourism businesses, they tend to focus on the same issues, in addition to the use ofenvironmental auditing and business practices.An increasing number of eco-tourism tour operators have developed their own code of conduct that is sent out to clientsbefore their holiday. These may provide a form of ‘moral suasion’ (Weaver, 2006, p. 114) for the tourist: even though thesecodes are not legally binding, on a group holiday there is a form of social control, and not following the code could result indisapproval from fellow travellers and a loss of face. Many of these codes include practical guidelines instead of focusingon more general environmental principles. Asia Adventures, a private tour operator in Cambodia, sends its travellers acode of conduct before departure that includes (among other advice) the following environmental guidelines:Consider what you pack in your suitcase before leaving home. Waste disposal systems in many developingcountries are ill equipped to deal with the increased pressures that tourism brings, and a few simple measurescan make an enormous difference to the effect you have on your destination. Where possible remove thewrapping of packaged goods before you leave, e.g. unwrap soaps and take bottles/tubes out of boxes. Pleasetake more harmful waste, such as batteries, back home with you where they may be disposed of or recycledmore responsibly;Consider bringing a refillable water bottle with you as these can often be refilled hygienically from large watercontainers in hotels and certain attractions, this limits the amount of plastic bottled water you would use;Try to reduce other plastic use, for example, when shopping, use your own bag to carry purchases, and refrainfrom having straws with your drinks;On our tours we have a ‘zero litter’ policy – ‘carry in, carry out’, so please do not drop litter. As well as beingunsightly, bottles, cans, plastic, cigarette butts, etc. can be deadly to wild animals;Remember that in many places water is a very precious commodity and should not be wasted, use a minimumboth in your accommodation and whenever possible throughout your trip, e.g. turn off the tap when brushingyour teeth, take a shower rather than a bath;In addition, where toilet facilities exist, however unsavoury, they should be used. Where they do not, always buryyour waste and make sure it is never near (at least 30m) from a water source. ( chapter has provided an overview of the environmental impacts of tourism. Many of these are negative: tourism mayincrease pollution, disturb animal life and habitats, and have a detrimental effect on the built environment. The activitiesand behaviours of tourists may add to the environmental cost of tourism. Nevertheless, tourism can also have positiveimpacts, by increasing protection and conservation, or encouraging regeneration. The concept of environmentalsustainability has been discussed and linked to a number of new tourism forms that have this concept at their core. Finally,a number of guiding principles of environmental management were reviewed and a set of management tools discussed.In brief, it can be said that the development of mass tourism has tended to take the natural environment, on which it isoften very dependent, for granted. Tourism operators and tourists themselves nowadays often show a greater awarenessof these impacts and positive signs of change can be noted. However, with the industry growing at a relentless pace, muchstill needs to be done before the industry can pride itself on being environmentally sustainable.SELF-TEST QUESTIONS1. In 2019, the term ‘flight shaming’ gained a lot of traction in many parts of Europe. It refers to calling out tourists whotake short flights when more sustainable options, such as train travel, are also available. Do you think that this typeof social pressure can make people change their behaviour?2. This chapter has discussed hard and soft measures to reduce the negative environmental impacts of tourism. Whichdo you think are most effective and why?3. Regeneration schemes have been accused of leading to placelessness and homogenisation of the builtenvironment. Do you feel this is true in the case of The High Line? Would this be a place you would be inclined tovisit?FURTHER READING
Ballatyne, R. and Packer, J. (2013) International Handbook on Eco-Tourism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Holden, A. (2008) Environment and Tourism. London and New York: Routledge.Smith, M. (2007) Tourism, Culture and Regeneration. Wallingford: CABI.Weaver, D. (2006) Sustainable Tourism. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.USEFUL WEBSITESBlue Flag: www.blueflag.orgDarwin Foundation: www.darwinfoundationorgGreenpeace: www.greenpeace.orgInternational Fund for Animal Welfare: www.ifaw.orgResponsible Tourism Awards: www.responsibletourismawards.comSecretariat of the Antarctic Treaty: www.ats.aqSurfers Against Sewage: Travel Foundation:
PART IV TOURISM MANAGEMENT AND MARKETINGCONTENTS11 Tourism Marketing 28512 The Management of Visitors 32113 Public Sector Involvement in Tourism 344