Before elaborating the relativity of Tourism and Environment, it is necessary to understand both terms individually. Relativity is to distinguish contrast and characterise between two different values for understanding their dependability upon each other.
Tourism: Tourism is now a phenomenon, not just a simple holiday activity. It also has to be considered that tourism and tourist are two different characteristics. Approaches differentiate accordingly and it can be defined according to both understandings:
‘It [tourism] is a human activity which encompasses human behaviour, use of resources, and interaction with other people, economies and environments.’ Bull, 1991:1 cited in Holden, A. (2008).
From mentioned definition tourism is mainly focused on natural or social aspects, where author has examined tourism on the basis of environmental characteristics. Another understanding could be from the perspective of a visitor or tourist, again I would like to mention a definition from Holden’s writing; where he used another author’s definition to differentiate from the previous point of view.
Tourism as: ‘an attitude to the world or a way of seeing the world, not necessarily what we find only at the end of a long and arduous journey’ Franklin, 2003:33 cited in Holden, A. (2008).
This definition is from the perspective of a tourist as a single entity and more individualistic. Here personal experience is more valuable for a consumer. Tourism is not a very old study for world but travel defiantly is. Tourism is more of gaining an exceptional experience than a regular living, while travel can consists of various reasons behind it.
But according to Hunter and Green (1995, pp: 1) “There is no universally accepted definition of tourism. This is not surprising, since what constitutes a ‘tourist’ and the ‘tourism industry’ are still matters of debate.”
Environment: In terms of tourism, Environment is always understood as a nature or atmosphere of a destination or a place which is used for tourism. Nature consists of mountains, water resources such as sea side, sea, rivers, waterfalls etc. Green environment includes plants, forests, parks, rainforests, safaris etc. when elaborated to wilderness it consists wild life, animals, forest species and so on. Socially; heritage sites or cultural uniqueness is also a part of an environment.
‘In environmental studies it has commonly been assumed that there exists a fundamental connection between a society’s management of natural resources and its perception of nature.’ Brunn and Kalland (1995:1) cited in Holden, A. (2008).
Environmental studies and explanations are vast and distributions of its characteristics are crucial. If we look at it from a different perspective it seems environment consists of whole world (living or non living beings) including humans, animals, plants and resources. From evolution humans are using environmental resources. When observed this use or loss, it is categorised as Environmental study. Resistance and Resilience are two distinctions in this study, where Resistance is tolerance of the site (while getting used and still being undisturbed) and Resilience is the ability to recover from the happened loss or change. Some sites have either qualities or some not. Hence due to its characteristics,
Hunter and Green (1995) stated that ‘environment can be subdivided into three components as the physical environment or a biotic environment which includes solar energy, soil, water and climate’.
Tourism and Environment are interdependent:
Tourism is based on the environment; Tourism has and will always devour the natural resources. Tourism is the main factor carrying out the natural environment in both positive and negative aspect. Even simplest form of tourism like visiting a zoo consumes environmental resources such as animals, birds or plants. Such a kind simple form of tourism also renders constructive as well as unconstructive effects. The negative effect cases might be the capturing animals from their natural habitat and keeping them in a zoo, whereas positive aspect can be that by capturing the animals they are getting protected against hunters and other environmental conditions that can be critical to them. In various other smaller or greater impressions tourism has both negative and positive effects, but more important is to understand the actual destruction or refurbishments causing from tourism towards environment.
It is understandable that human involvement with environment tend to use the resources, if it can’t help to make them grow at least they can be saved from future damages by use of intelligent human behaviour. Study of tourism environment is about understanding the cause and effect rule and to imply theories to protect the environmental loss due to mass tourism. It is also significant that Tourism should place along with the higher quality of environment and environment shall get benefit from it not the damage. No doubt every human action has its own pros and cons and fragility of nature resources must not be seriously harm by it. Tourism is without a doubt among the world’s highest profitable industries (whether on the cost of environment) and relationship between tourism and environment can get equilibrate if financial profits gets used for the conservation programs or environmental sustainability.
Impacts of Tourism on environment:
All activities consume resources and produce waste, possibly all these activities has a potential to spoil the environment, and in same context Tourism is no exception. Tourism has developed as a largest industry and any activity happens at a mass level definitely leaves it’s positive and negative impacts, such as tourism did in the past. Although not the case that every environmental problem is produced by tourism but still being a mass industry it affects on a wider platform.
The harmful impact of tourism can destroy the natural environment when the negative impacts on the environment are sufficiently intensive and extensive. Such as damaging biodiversity of particular areas which includes holiday retreats, clearing of vegetation for constructing resorts and hotels or other tourism facilities, and also many rare species have been brought to the verge of disappearance due to non-tourism nuisance which are directly related to tourism. Habitat devastation brought by unrestrained and ill planned tourism is the prime cause of extinction of species which eventually destroy the natural balance, but destruction of biodiversity can have far reaching effects than this. Another negative impact is the depletion of natural resources like water, land and resources like food, energy or raw materials etc. which are already in short supply. Degradation of land resources like wood or plantations is another example of the negative impacts of tourism on the natural environment. Solid waste littering is more common in the case of trekking, rock climbing or hiking tourists. Tourism also pollutes the tourism sites with noise and air pollutions, problems are more compounded in countries or regions which lack or does not have the ability to effectively treat such forms of pollutants generated from tourism activities. Tourism development is more or less responsible for most of the harmful impacts that tourism has on the natural environment. The cutting down of forested areas, changing the landscape etc all have negative impacts on the ecological balance of the tourism destination, whereas levels of impact may vary from site to site, but the negative impacts of tourism on the environment cannot be ignored. The negative impacts are intensely visible in ecologically fragile environments.
Whether from generating a new site or a heritage site used for different prospective, somehow environment is getting a hard time by this. By pollution, numbers of persons using limited resources, behaviour of tourists while on holidays and so on are some of the causes which directly or indirectly affects environment. It may include both physical and cultural aspects. Unless managing at all level it is difficult to provide specific consideration to each resource and this is how this becomes a negative aspect towards tourism, environment has to pay such cost by loss to the natural settings to beaches, coral reefs or heritage sites.
Effluence caused by tourism main concerns faced by tourism trade today. The sewage waste from tourist resorts are drained into the rivers causing pollution in the river water and eventually to sea bed, it highly affects the marine life. Extreme use of natural resource that is fossil fuel to generate energy for tourist activity, the activities of overfishing, unnecessary use of ground water resources, are only few of problems which are created by tourism industry which in turn causes the reduction of the resource.
As tourism grows, it also give hands to increased littering, various forms of pollution e.g. noise, water, air. Sewage and waste got increased sometimes to uncontrollable levels. Alongside need for transportation gets high and number of vehicles produces numerous gases and noise in air. In areas where resources are limited, tourism develops a sense of competition, leading to all sorts of degradation. Such harmful impacts are majorly brought by poor management or lack of proper conservation mechanism in place.
However with all these harmful effects, the environment is also gaining the optimistic outcome of tourism. Tourism is moving towards a sustainable side by helping and preserving the natural resources for the future generation. Various nations and its conservative organisations are implementing strict plans for conserving their flora and fauna and protecting their natural resources.
We should not only see at the dark side of the moon if tourism has its costs, its pays back as well, as tourism grows it definitely encourage several other industries to rise side by side. Whenever a destination is selected to develop as a tourism destination government and planning sources put efforts for the regeneration of the place. It consists of revitalisation of an area or a site and beautifies the local environment. Thus this process brings new colours to the site. Any vital site when comes under tourism perspective, its natural resources gets special attention from the managing bodies, where as educated tourism developers knows the value of a natural resource and keeping this in mind they prevent any misuse or damage to it.
According to Swarbrooke (1999) the term sustainable tourism can be defined as the approach towards tourism in which more focus is shown in preservation of the natural resources in a way that they can be consumed by the present generation and can be preserved for the future generation as well.
Tourism can therefore no longer be seen as a harmful factor to environment. Economically, many areas in the world have benefitted from tourism and conservations are taking place on a higher level in many countries.
‘There is an urgent need to understand the relationships between tourists, tourism and the environment. Many new forms of tourist consumption revolve around environmental quality and the respect for nature. One more reason for the negative picture of tourism might be that it is difficult to disentangle the impact of tourism from other forms of economic activity in certain destination areas’. Shaw g., Williams A.M. (2002)
Numerous examples and case studies are available where tourism has proven a saviour to drowning economies, along with economical benefits; it is helpful in urbanisation of dead towns. Due to tourism many businesses develop and people get employed, on a social level tourism keeps all communities together and connected. Any tourist’s social involvement and habits are controlled by the behaviour in which s/he is coming from and an insight can be developed in order to gain positive response from tourists. Appropriate educational information system towards environment is rising as very useful tool.
How tourism can enhance environmental conservation-
If tourism destroys the environment with negative impacts, it also plays a very big role in the preservation of the natural environment of the destination areas. As tourism industry benefits from the tourism sites, it should be its morally responsible to take a pivotal role in the conservation of the natural setting from which it gets benefits. An appropriate and well managed tourism approach can reduce the pessimistic impact of tourism on the natural environment.
Appropriate use of earned revenue- Though the profits earned from the tourism conduct is the major contribution of the tourism trade to the efforts of preservation of the environment, educating the tourist is also an essential aspect in the effort of conservation of the natural environment. The revenue earned from various tourist activities brings in the wealth which enables organisations to focus on the conservational efforts. Without the money, conservation process is nothing. Though, concern must be taken to see that the managers of such destinations or sites are not tempted to enlarge the visitation upper limit as the money starts to flow, thinking that the money thus earned from tourist activities like entry fees will be enough to address the very issues caused by the increased visitation. If this persuasion is not overlooked, than the natural environment will suffer more thereby negating the effective use of money from tourism for the conservation of the environment. The conservationists who have the expertise and authority should make an effort to take control and focus on the maintenance of the environment.
Developing eco-tourism- Another most important method is to bring a change from the basic idea of mainstream conventional tourism. This can be achieved by propagating the initiative of sustainable tourism and eco-tourism which are far more environmental friendly and aims at nourishing both the external and the internal environment of the destination. Adopting the idea of such forms of tourism plays a significant role in the conservation of the natural environment. Fundamental principles of these forms are inclined towards reducing the ill effects of tourism on the environment without compromising the value of experience that the visitors can get from visiting the sites.
In further part of this essay I have mentioned and elaborated how this alternate tourism is developing these days.
Sound planning- Sound environmental management of tourism amenities like resorts and hotels can enhance the benefits to natural areas; requirement is careful planning of tourism development which is based on the environmental resources existing in the destination area. For example clearing of vast areas of vegetation or forest to build resorts, holiday retreats, etc and changing of the landscape to appear more appealing to the tourist. While doing this, the natural environment or to be precise the biodiversity or the ecology of the area is being affected. So care should be taken to see that tourism development causes least impact on the environment. This again can be done by creating eco friendly resorts or buildings which will have the least impact on the surroundings. Tourism also has the potential of raising awareness of the environmental problems among the people by bringing them into close contact with the surroundings. Tourism cannot be sustainable if the surroundings or the environment of the destination is not sustainable in itself.
Developing awareness among tourists- Conservationists should offer means by which people using the particular destination, both locals and tourists can be made aware of the importance of maintaining the environment. In fact they can encourage the people to contribute towards maintaining the environmental balance. Conscious effort to transform and develop the destination should be the aim of the environmentalists and the development projects, keeping in mind the positive possibility as well as the downfall of the environment with extreme tourism. A way in which tourism can contribute to the conservation process is by having an appropriate mechanism for the dealing with pollution and sewages generated from tourism activities. Various means can be used to minimise the impact of tourism on the environment. Appropriate interpretation can remove negative facts of the site and educate and inform the tourist on the diverse aspects related to the environment. This can lead to the visitor’s greater understanding of the environment and thus act in a more responsible manner and hence minimise the impact caused by them. Implementation of visitation limits, proper rules regulations and mentioning the environmental issues caused by tourism at its early stage can imply a big difference in the conservation of the natural environment.
Helping wildlife preservations- Tourism also plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of various species of endangered species which is a vital part of the natural environment. Nature loving tourists visit wildlife reserves and in doing so contribute to the conservation process. Tourism can play major role in the conservation process in various other ways. The tourism industry can also organise campaigns to raise awareness of the environmental issues affecting nature or wildlife and in doing so can also built up a good image which has been often criticised in the last few decades for the negative impacts it has caused to the wildlife destinations.
Alternate tourism is developing- A new breed of tourists is developing called eco-tourists and sustainability came in light in 80’s due to previously happened mass destruction in environmental resources. Sustainable Development concept came in attention from 1980’s and in March 1980, World Conservation Strategy (WCS) was prepared. IUCN, UNEP, WWF, FFO and UNESCO joined hands for world’s living resources. WCS was a conservation strategy where ecosystem degradation-destruction, deforestation, desertification, pollution, soil erosion and genetic diversity and extinction of species and many related issues were in discussion.
The relationship between economic development and the conservation and sustenance of natural resources is concept of sustainable development. Though these thoughts were already in air from many years at that time but WCS discussed many drastic changes happening to environment and WCS was proven as a bridge between prior thoughts and later actions. Another major outcome was establishment of WCED (World commission on environment and development) in 1983, Gro Harlem Brundtland (PM Norway) was appointed chairperson for this commission and in 1987 he publicised a report known as Brundtland Report (Our Common Future) in which ‘Sustainability’ were originally popularised-
Sustainable development is development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (According to WCED 1987:43) cited in Hall, C.M. and Lew, A.A. 1998
Certainly sustainability consists of strategy making, preservation of ecological processes, protection of heritage and biodiversity, futuristic focused productivity and balance between social behaviour and environment. Along with the global acceptance of International tourism, sustainability also got recognised as a key element towards long term beneficial policies along with saving limited resources. Destination areas have developed to accommodate all these travellers, and receiving them and catering their needs has also become part of a daily routine.
‘Development is a highly contested concept and since the Second World War debates over what it is, and how to achieve it, has gone through a number of phases. International tourism has been a global phenomenon from centuries, but that packaging of tourism for mass consumption dates back to the mid-19th century, when a specific service sector devoted to the mass consumption of travel emerged, roughly parallel to the development of mass production in the industrial sector’. Harrison, D. (ed.) (2001)
As people are not tends to be flexible when it comes to implementing rules and regulation, especially when visitors are on holidays, Author B Wheeller describes in his words. And what sort of touristic approach is needed is “Tourism at one with nature; non-consumption, non-exploitative, avoiding degradation and destruction of the ‘environment’, but rather tourism in harmony, in balance with nature” Wheeller, B. (1994)
Based upon the statements and codes-of-conduct developed by tourism stakeholders, that the environment has been placed on the outline as a major concern of how tourism is to be developed potentially.
Thus all these negative and positive effects of tourism on the environment, brings us to a conclusion that tourism can be treated in negative as well as positive aspect in regards to the environment. The negative impacts can be reduced by taking initiative towards conserving natural resources. There are various tools that can be used to protect the environment like collecting income in the form of taxes. All these examples however show us a positive picture about how the tourism industry and the environment are co-dependent to each other for their mutual existence. Though there are many negative aspects to tourism, we can still say that tourism has the tools to protect, preserve and enhance natural resources and the environment.
Therefore Tourism and natural environment can both co-exist and be mutually beneficial to each other if the tourism industry has the willingness to pull in full support to the conservation efforts of the natural environment. In doing so, it can help maintain the environment and also recover from the negative image that it has built up for itself during the last few decades. Proper and efficient planning and management accompanied by strict implantation, strict rules and regulations, proper interpretation, propagating the idea of sustainable consumption, well planned eco tourism and sustainable tourism and educating the tourist and making them aware of the impacts of their actions which may have negative impacts on the environment are some of the few ways in which tourism sector can contribute in the conservation process of the natural environment. There cannot be a limit to the extent tourism can contribute to the process and there cannot be an end to its contribution towards environmental conservation because as long as tourism exists, the negative impacts of tourist will be evident on the natural environment. There is no doubt accepting the fact that tourism brings in money. But even then, care must be taken to make sure that the economic growth brought by the tourism industry must contribute to the natural environment processes and the sustainable use of natural resources.
Brunn and Kalland (1995:1) cited in Holden, A. (2008) Environment and Tourism (2nd edition), Routledge)
Bull (1991:1) cited in Holden, A. (2008) Environment and Tourism (2nd edition), Routledge)
Franklin (2003:33) cited in Holden, A. (2008) Environment and Tourism (2nd edition), Routledge)
Hall, C.M. and Lew, A.A. 1998. The geography of sustainable tourism development: an introduction. Harlow: Longman.
Harrison, D. (ed.) (2001) Tourism and the Less Developed World: Issues and Case Studies. Wallingford: CABI. Ch. 1.
Holden, A. (2008) Environment and Tourism (2nd edition), Routledge.
Hunter, C. and Green, H. (1995) Tourism and the Environment: A sustainable relationship? Routledge, London.
Shaw G., Williams A.M. (2002) 2nd ed. Critical issues in tourism: a geographical perspective: Oxford.
Swarbrooke, J. (1999) Sustainable Tourism Management. CABI Publishing, Wallingford.
Wheeller, B. (1994) Egotourism, sustainable tourism and the environment: a symbiotic, symbolic or shambolic relationship? in A.V. Seaton et al., eds. Tourism: The State of the Art, Wiley, Chichester.