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The role of tourism in sustainable development.

  • Robert B. Richardson Robert B. Richardson Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.013.387
  • Published online: 25 March 2021

Sustainable development is the foundational principle for enhancing human and economic development while maintaining the functional integrity of ecological and social systems that support regional economies. Tourism has played a critical role in sustainable development in many countries and regions around the world. In developing countries, tourism development has been used as an important strategy for increasing economic growth, alleviating poverty, creating jobs, and improving food security. Many developing countries are in regions that are characterized by high levels of biological diversity, natural resources, and cultural heritage sites that attract international tourists whose local purchases generate income and support employment and economic development. Tourism has been associated with the principles of sustainable development because of its potential to support environmental protection and livelihoods. However, the relationship between tourism and the environment is multifaceted, as some types of tourism have been associated with negative environmental impacts, many of which are borne by host communities.

The concept of sustainable tourism development emerged in contrast to mass tourism, which involves the participation of large numbers of people, often in structured or packaged tours. Mass tourism has been associated with economic leakage and dependence, along with negative environmental and social impacts. Sustainable tourism development has been promoted in various ways as a framing concept in contrast to these economic, environmental, and social impacts. Some literature has acknowledged a vagueness of the concept of sustainable tourism, which has been used to advocate for fundamentally different strategies for tourism development that may exacerbate existing conflicts between conservation and development paradigms. Tourism has played an important role in sustainable development in some countries through the development of alternative tourism models, including ecotourism, community-based tourism, pro-poor tourism, slow tourism, green tourism, and heritage tourism, among others that aim to enhance livelihoods, increase local economic growth, and provide for environmental protection. Although these models have been given significant attention among researchers, the extent of their implementation in tourism planning initiatives has been limited, superficial, or incomplete in many contexts.

The sustainability of tourism as a global system is disputed among scholars. Tourism is dependent on travel, and nearly all forms of transportation require the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels for energy. The burning of fossil fuels for transportation generates emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, which is fundamentally unsustainable. Tourism is also vulnerable to both localized and global shocks. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to localized shocks include the impacts of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and civil unrest. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to global shocks include the impacts of climate change, economic crisis, global public health pandemics, oil price shocks, and acts of terrorism. It is clear that tourism has contributed significantly to economic development globally, but its role in sustainable development is uncertain, debatable, and potentially contradictory.

  • conservation
  • economic development
  • environmental impacts
  • sustainable development
  • sustainable tourism
  • tourism development

Introduction

Sustainable development is the guiding principle for advancing human and economic development while maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and social systems on which the economy depends. It is also the foundation of the leading global framework for international cooperation—the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015 ). The concept of sustainable development is often associated with the publication of Our Common Future (World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987 , p. 29), which defined it as “paths of human progress that meet the needs and aspirations of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Concerns about the environmental implications of economic development in lower income countries had been central to debates about development studies since the 1970s (Adams, 2009 ). The principles of sustainable development have come to dominate the development discourse, and the concept has become the primary development paradigm since the 1990s.

Tourism has played an increasingly important role in sustainable development since the 1990s, both globally and in particular countries and regions. For decades, tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, non-extractive option for economic development, particularly for developing countries (Gössling, 2000 ). Many developing countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through development of international tourism. Tourism development is increasingly viewed as an important tool in increasing economic growth, alleviating poverty, and improving food security. Tourism enables communities that are poor in material wealth, but rich in history and cultural heritage, to leverage their unique assets for economic development (Honey & Gilpin, 2009 ). More importantly, tourism offers an alternative to large-scale development projects, such as construction of dams, and to extractive industries such as mining and forestry, all of which contribute to emissions of pollutants and threaten biodiversity and the cultural values of Indigenous Peoples.

Environmental quality in destination areas is inextricably linked with tourism, as visiting natural areas and sightseeing are often the primary purpose of many leisure travels. Some forms of tourism, such as ecotourism, can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of ecosystem functions in destination areas (Fennell, 2020 ; Gössling, 1999 ). Butler ( 1991 ) suggests that there is a kind of mutual dependence between tourism and the environment that should generate mutual benefits. Many developing countries are in regions that are characterized by high levels of species diversity, natural resources, and protected areas. Such ideas imply that tourism may be well aligned with the tenets of sustainable development.

However, the relationship between tourism and the environment is complex, as some forms of tourism have been associated with negative environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use, land use, and food consumption (Butler, 1991 ; Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ; Hunter & Green, 1995 ; Vitousek et al., 1997 ). Assessments of the sustainability of tourism have highlighted several themes, including (a) parks, biodiversity, and conservation; (b) pollution and climate change; (c) prosperity, economic growth, and poverty alleviation; (d) peace, security, and safety; and (e) population stabilization and reduction (Buckley, 2012 ). From a global perspective, tourism contributes to (a) changes in land cover and land use; (b) energy use, (c) biotic exchange and extinction of wild species; (d) exchange and dispersion of diseases; and (e) changes in the perception and understanding of the environment (Gössling, 2002 ).

Research on tourism and the environment spans a wide range of social and natural science disciplines, and key contributions have been disseminated across many interdisciplinary fields, including biodiversity conservation, climate science, economics, and environmental science, among others (Buckley, 2011 ; Butler, 1991 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Given the global significance of the tourism sector and its environmental impacts, the role of tourism in sustainable development is an important topic of research in environmental science generally and in environmental economics and management specifically. Reviews of tourism research have highlighted future research priorities for sustainable development, including the role of tourism in the designation and expansion of protected areas; improvement in environmental accounting techniques that quantify environmental impacts; and the effects of individual perceptions of responsibility in addressing climate change (Buckley, 2012 ).

Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, and it has linkages with many of the prime sectors of the global economy (Fennell, 2020 ). As a global economic sector, tourism represents one of the largest generators of wealth, and it is an important agent of economic growth and development (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ). Tourism is a critical industry in many local and national economies, and it represents a large and growing share of world trade (Hunter, 1995 ). Global tourism has had an average annual increase of 6.6% over the past half century, with international tourist arrivals rising sharply from 25.2 million in 1950 to more than 950 million in 2010 . In 2019 , the number of international tourists reached 1.5 billion, up 4% from 2018 (Fennell, 2020 ; United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO], 2020 ). European countries are host to more than half of international tourists, but since 1990 , growth in international arrivals has risen faster than the global average, in both the Middle East and the Asia and Pacific region (UNWTO, 2020 ).

The growth in global tourism has been accompanied by an expansion of travel markets and a diversification of tourism destinations. In 1950 , the top five travel destinations were all countries in Europe and the Americas, and these destinations held 71% of the global travel market (Fennell, 2020 ). By 2002 , these countries represented only 35%, which underscores the emergence of newly accessible travel destinations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim, including numerous developing countries. Over the past 70 years, global tourism has grown significantly as an economic sector, and it has contributed to the economic development of dozens of nations.

Given the growth of international tourism and its emergence as one of the world’s largest export sectors, the question of its impact on economic growth for the host countries has been a topic of great interest in the tourism literature. Two hypotheses have emerged regarding the role of tourism in the economic growth process (Apergis & Payne, 2012 ). First, tourism-led growth hypothesis relies on the assumption that tourism is an engine of growth that generates spillovers and positive externalities through economic linkages that will impact the overall economy. Second, the economic-driven tourism growth hypothesis emphasizes policies oriented toward well-defined and enforceable property rights, stable political institutions, and adequate investment in both physical and human capital to facilitate the development of the tourism sector. Studies have concluded with support for both the tourism-led growth hypothesis (e.g., Durbarry, 2004 ; Katircioglu, 2010 ) and the economic-led growth hypothesis (e.g., Katircioglu, 2009 ; Oh, 2005 ), whereas other studies have found support for a bidirectional causality for tourism and economic growth (e.g., Apergis & Payne, 2012 ; Lee & Chang, 2008 ).

The growth of tourism has been marked by an increase in the competition for tourist expenditures, making it difficult for destinations to maintain their share of the international tourism market (Butler, 1991 ). Tourism development is cyclical and subject to short-term cycles and overconsumption of resources. Butler ( 1980 ) developed a tourist-area cycle of evolution that depicts the number of tourists rising sharply over time through periods of exploration, involvement, and development, before eventual consolidation and stagnation. When tourism growth exceeds the carrying capacity of the area, resource degradation can lead to the decline of tourism unless specific steps are taken to promote rejuvenation (Butler, 1980 , 1991 ).

The potential of tourism development as a tool to contribute to environmental conservation, economic growth, and poverty reduction is derived from several unique characteristics of the tourism system (UNWTO, 2002 ). First, tourism represents an opportunity for economic diversification, particularly in marginal areas with few other export options. Tourists are attracted to remote areas with high values of cultural, wildlife, and landscape assets. The cultural and natural heritage of developing countries is frequently based on such assets, and tourism represents an opportunity for income generation through the preservation of heritage values. Tourism is the only export sector where the consumer travels to the exporting country, which provides opportunities for lower-income households to become exporters through the sale of goods and services to foreign tourists. Tourism is also labor intensive; it provides small-scale employment opportunities, which also helps to promote gender equity. Finally, there are numerous indirect benefits of tourism for people living in poverty, including increased market access for remote areas through the development of roads, infrastructure, and communication networks. Nevertheless, travel is highly income elastic and carbon intensive, which has significant implications for the sustainability of the tourism sector (Lenzen et al., 2018 ).

Concerns about environmental issues appeared in tourism research just as global awareness of the environmental impacts of human activities was expanding. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm in 1972 , the same year as the publication of The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972 ), which highlighted the concerns about the implications of exponential economic and population growth in a world of finite resources. This was the same year that the famous Blue Marble photograph of Earth was taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft (Höhler, 2015 , p. 10), and the image captured the planet cloaked in the darkness of space and became a symbol of Earth’s fragility and vulnerability. As noted by Buckley ( 2012 ), tourism researchers turned their attention to social and environmental issues around the same time (Cohen, 1978 ; Farrell & McLellan, 1987 ; Turner & Ash, 1975 ; Young, 1973 ).

The notion of sustainable development is often associated with the publication of Our Common Future , the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Commission (WCED, 1987 ). The report characterized sustainable development in terms of meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987 , p. 43). Four basic principles are fundamental to the concept of sustainability: (a) the idea of holistic planning and strategy making; (b) the importance of preserving essential ecological processes; (c) the need to protect both human heritage and biodiversity; and (d) the need to develop in such a way that productivity can be sustained over the long term for future generations (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ). In addition to achieving balance between economic growth and the conservation of natural resources, there should be a balance of fairness and opportunity between the nations of the world.

Although the modern concept of sustainable development emerged with the publication of Our Common Future , sustainable development has its roots in ideas about sustainable forest management that were developed in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries (Blewitt, 2015 ; Grober, 2007 ). Sustainable forest management is concerned with the stewardship and use of forests in a way that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, and regeneration capacity as well as their potential to fulfill society’s demands for forest products and benefits. Building on these ideas, Daly ( 1990 ) offered two operational principles of sustainable development. First, sustainable development implies that harvest rates should be no greater than rates of regeneration; this concept is known as maximum sustainable yield. Second, waste emission rates should not exceed the natural assimilative capacities of the ecosystems into which the wastes are emitted. Regenerative and assimilative capacities are characterized as natural capital, and a failure to maintain these capacities is not sustainable.

Shortly after the emergence of the concept of sustainable development in academic and policy discourse, tourism researchers began referring to the notion of sustainable tourism (May, 1991 ; Nash & Butler, 1990 ), which soon became the dominant paradigm of tourism development. The concept of sustainable tourism, as with the role of tourism in sustainable development, has been interpreted in different ways, and there is a lack of consensus concerning its meaning, objectives, and indicators (Sharpley, 2000 ). Growing interest in the subject inspired the creation of a new academic journal, Journal of Sustainable Tourism , which was launched in 1993 and has become a leading tourism journal. It is described as “an international journal that publishes research on tourism and sustainable development, including economic, social, cultural and political aspects.”

The notion of sustainable tourism development emerged in contrast to mass tourism, which is characterized by the participation of large numbers of people, often provided as structured or packaged tours. Mass tourism has risen sharply in the last half century. International arrivals alone have increased by an average annual rate of more than 25% since 1950 , and many of those trips involved mass tourism activities (Fennell, 2020 ; UNWTO, 2020 ). Some examples of mass tourism include beach resorts, cruise ship tourism, gaming casinos, golf resorts, group tours, ski resorts, theme parks, and wildlife safari tourism, among others. Little data exist regarding the volume of domestic mass tourism, but nevertheless mass tourism activities dominate the global tourism sector. Mass tourism has been shown to generate benefits to host countries, such as income and employment generation, although it has also been associated with economic leakage (where revenue generated by tourism is lost to other countries’ economies) and economic dependency (where developing countries are dependent on wealthier countries for tourists, imports, and foreign investment) (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Khan, 1997 ; Peeters, 2012 ). Mass tourism has been associated with numerous negative environmental impacts and social impacts (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Fennell, 2020 ; Ghimire, 2013 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Liu, 2003 ; Peeters, 2012 ; Wheeller, 2007 ). Sustainable tourism development has been promoted in various ways as a framing concept in contrast to many of these economic, environmental, and social impacts.

Much of the early research on sustainable tourism focused on defining the concept, which has been the subject of vigorous debate (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Inskeep, 1991 ; Liu, 2003 ; Sharpley, 2000 ). Early definitions of sustainable tourism development seemed to fall in one of two categories (Sharpley, 2000 ). First, the “tourism-centric” paradigm of sustainable tourism development focuses on sustaining tourism as an economic activity (Hunter, 1995 ). Second, alternative paradigms have situated sustainable tourism in the context of wider sustainable development policies (Butler, 1991 ). One of the most comprehensive definitions of sustainable tourism echoes some of the language of the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development (WCED, 1987 ), emphasizing opportunities for the future while also integrating social and environmental concerns:

Sustainable tourism can be thought of as meeting the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that we can fulfill economic, social and aesthetic needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. (Inskeep, 1991 , p. 461)

Hunter argued that over the short and long terms, sustainable tourism development should

“meet the needs and wants of the local host community in terms of improved living standards and quality of life;

satisfy the demands of tourists and the tourism industry, and continue to attract them in order to meet the first aim; and

safeguard the environmental resource base for tourism, encompassing natural, built and cultural components, in order to achieve both of the preceding aims.” (Hunter, 1995 , p. 156)

Numerous other definitions have been documented, and the term itself has been subject to widespread critique (Buckley, 2012 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ). Nevertheless, there have been numerous calls to move beyond debate about a definition and to consider how it may best be implemented in practice (Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Liu, 2003 ). Cater ( 1993 ) identified three key criteria for sustainable tourism: (a) meeting the needs of the host population in terms of improved living standards both in the short and long terms; (b) satisfying the demands of a growing number of tourists; and (c) safeguarding the natural environment in order to achieve both of the preceding aims.

Some literature has acknowledged a vagueness of the concept of sustainable tourism, which has been used to advocate for fundamentally different strategies for tourism development that may exacerbate existing conflicts between conservation and development paradigms (Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ; McKercher, 1993b ). Similar criticisms have been leveled at the concept of sustainable development, which has been described as an oxymoron with a wide range of meanings (Adams, 2009 ; Daly, 1990 ) and “defined in such a way as to be either morally repugnant or logically redundant” (Beckerman, 1994 , p. 192). Sharpley ( 2000 ) suggests that in the tourism literature, there has been “a consistent and fundamental failure to build a theoretical link between sustainable tourism and its parental paradigm,” sustainable development (p. 2). Hunter ( 1995 ) suggests that practical measures designed to operationalize sustainable tourism fail to address many of the critical issues that are central to the concept of sustainable development generally and may even actually counteract the fundamental requirements of sustainable development. He suggests that mainstream sustainable tourism development is concerned with protecting the immediate resource base that will sustain tourism development while ignoring concerns for the status of the wider tourism resource base, such as potential problems associated with air pollution, congestion, introduction of invasive species, and declining oil reserves. The dominant paradigm of sustainable tourism development has been described as introverted, tourism-centric, and in competition with other sectors for scarce resources (McKercher, 1993a ). Hunter ( 1995 , p. 156) proposes an alternative, “extraparochial” paradigm where sustainable tourism development is reconceptualized in terms of its contribution to overall sustainable development. Such a paradigm would reconsider the scope, scale, and sectoral context of tourism-related resource utilization issues.

“Sustainability,” “sustainable tourism,” and “sustainable development” are all well-established terms that have often been used loosely and interchangeably in the tourism literature (Liu, 2003 ). Nevertheless, the subject of sustainable tourism has been given considerable attention and has been the focus of numerous academic compilations and textbooks (Coccossis & Nijkamp, 1995 ; Hall & Lew, 1998 ; Stabler, 1997 ; Swarbrooke, 1999 ), and it calls for new approaches to sustainable tourism development (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Sharpley, 2000 ). The notion of sustainable tourism has been reconceptualized in the literature by several authors who provided alternative frameworks for tourism development (Buckley, 2012 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ; McKercher, 1993b ; Sharpley, 2000 ).

Early research in sustainable tourism focused on the local environmental impacts of tourism, including energy use, water use, food consumption, and change in land use (Buckley, 2012 ; Butler, 1991 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Hunter & Green, 1995 ). Subsequent research has emphasized the global environmental impacts of tourism, such as greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity losses (Gössling, 2002 ; Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ; Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Additional research has emphasized the impacts of environmental change on tourism itself, including the impacts of climate change on tourist behavior (Gössling et al., 2012 ; Richardson & Loomis, 2004 ; Scott et al., 2012 ; Viner, 2006 ). Countries that are dependent on tourism for economic growth may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (Richardson & Witkoswki, 2010 ).

The early focus on environmental issues in sustainable tourism has been broadened to include economic, social, and cultural issues as well as questions of power and equity in society (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Sharpley, 2014 ), and some of these frameworks have integrated notions of social equity, prosperity, and cultural heritage values. Sustainable tourism is dependent on critical long-term considerations of the impacts; notions of equity; an appreciation of the importance of linkages (i.e., economic, social, and environmental); and the facilitation of cooperation and collaboration between different stakeholders (Elliott & Neirotti, 2008 ).

McKercher ( 1993b ) notes that tourism resources are typically part of the public domain or are intrinsically linked to the social fabric of the host community. As a result, many commonplace tourist activities such as sightseeing may be perceived as invasive by members of the host community. Many social impacts of tourism can be linked to the overuse of the resource base, increases in traffic congestion, rising land prices, urban sprawl, and changes in the social structure of host communities. Given the importance of tourist–resident interaction, sustainable tourism development depends in part on the support of the host community (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ).

Tourism planning involves the dual objectives of optimizing the well-being of local residents in host communities and minimizing the costs of tourism development (Sharpley, 2014 ). Tourism researchers have paid significant attention to examining the social impacts of tourism in general and to understanding host communities’ perceptions of tourism in particular. Studies of the social impacts of tourism development have examined the perceptions of local residents and the effects of tourism on social cohesion, traditional lifestyles, and the erosion of cultural heritage, particularly among Indigenous Peoples (Butler & Hinch, 2007 ; Deery et al., 2012 ; Mathieson & Wall, 1982 ; Sharpley, 2014 ; Whitford & Ruhanen, 2016 ).

Alternative Tourism and Sustainable Development

A wide body of published research is related to the role of tourism in sustainable development, and much of the literature involves case studies of particular types of tourism. Many such studies contrast types of alternative tourism with those of mass tourism, which has received sustained criticism for decades and is widely considered to be unsustainable (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Fennell, 2020 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Liu, 2003 ; Peeters, 2012 ; Zapata et al., 2011 ). Still, some tourism researchers have taken issue with the conclusion that mass tourism is inherently unsustainable (Sharpley, 2000 ; Weaver, 2007 ), and some have argued for developing pathways to “sustainable mass tourism” as “the desired and impending outcome for most destinations” (Weaver, 2012 , p. 1030). In integrating an ethical component to mass tourism development, Weaver ( 2014 , p. 131) suggests that the desirable outcome is “enlightened mass tourism.” Such suggestions have been contested in the literature and criticized for dubious assumptions about emergent norms of sustainability and support for growth, which are widely seen as contradictory (Peeters, 2012 ; Wheeller, 2007 ).

Models of responsible or alternative tourism development include ecotourism, community-based tourism, pro-poor tourism, slow tourism, green tourism, and heritage tourism, among others. Most models of alternative tourism development emphasize themes that aim to counteract the perceived negative impacts of conventional or mass tourism. As such, the objectives of these models of tourism development tend to focus on minimizing environmental impacts, supporting biodiversity conservation, empowering local communities, alleviating poverty, and engendering pleasant relationships between tourists and residents.

Approaches to alternative tourism development tend to overlap with themes of responsible tourism, and the two terms are frequently used interchangeably. Responsible tourism has been characterized in terms of numerous elements, including

ensuring that communities are involved in and benefit from tourism;

respecting local, natural, and cultural environments;

involving the local community in planning and decision-making;

using local resources sustainably;

behaving in ways that are sensitive to the host culture;

maintaining and encouraging natural, economic, and cultural diversity; and

assessing environmental, social, and economic impacts as a prerequisite to tourism development (Spenceley, 2012 ).

Hetzer ( 1965 ) identified four fundamental principles or perquisites for a more responsible form of tourism: (a) minimum environmental impact; (b) minimum impact on and maximum respect for host cultures; (c) maximum economic benefits to the host country; and (d) maximum leisure satisfaction to participating tourists.

The history of ecotourism is closely connected with the emergence of sustainable development, as it was born out of a concern for the conservation of biodiversity. Ecotourism is a form of tourism that aims to minimize local environmental impacts while bringing benefits to protected areas and the people living around those lands (Honey, 2008 ). Ecotourism represents a small segment of nature-based tourism, which is understood as tourism based on the natural attractions of an area, such as scenic areas and wildlife (Gössling, 1999 ). The ecotourism movement gained momentum in the 1990s, primarily in developing countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, and nearly all countries are now engaged in some form of ecotourism. In some communities, ecotourism is the primary economic activity and source of income and economic development.

The term “ecotourism” was coined by Hector Ceballos-Lascuráin and defined by him as “tourism that consists in travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals” (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1987 , p. 13). In discussing ecotourism resources, he also made reference to “any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas” (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1987 , p. 14). The basic precepts of ecotourism had been discussed long before the actual use of the term. Twenty years earlier, Hetzer ( 1965 ) referred to a form of tourism “based principally upon natural and archaeological resources such as caves, fossil sites (and) archaeological sites.” Thus, both natural resources and cultural resources were integrated into ecotourism frameworks from the earliest manifestations.

Costa Rica is well known for having successfully integrated ecotourism in its overall strategy for sustainable development, and numerous case studies of ecotourism in Costa Rica appear in the literature (Chase et al., 1998 ; Fennell & Eagles, 1990 ; Gray & Campbell, 2007 ; Hearne & Salinas, 2002 ). Ecotourism in Costa Rica has been seen as having supported the economic development of the country while promoting biodiversity conservation in its extensive network of protected areas. Chase et al. ( 1998 ) estimated the demand for ecotourism in a study of differential pricing of entrance fees at national parks in Costa Rica. The authors estimated elasticities associated with the own-price, cross-price, and income variables and found that the elasticities of demand were significantly different between three different national park sites. The results reveal the heterogeneity characterizing tourist behavior and park attractions and amenities. Hearne and Salinas ( 2002 ) used choice experiments to examine the preferences of domestic and foreign tourists in Costa Rica in an ecotourism site. Both sets of tourists demonstrated a preference for improved infrastructure, more information, and lower entrance fees. Foreign tourists demonstrated relatively stronger preferences for the inclusion of restrictions in the access to some trails.

Ecotourism has also been studied extensively in Kenya (Southgate, 2006 ), Malaysia (Lian Chan & Baum, 2007 ), Nepal (Baral et al., 2008 ), Peru (Stronza, 2007 ), and Taiwan (Lai & Nepal, 2006 ), among many other countries. Numerous case studies have demonstrated the potential for ecotourism to contribute to sustainable development by providing support for biodiversity conservation, local livelihoods, and regional development.

Community-Based Tourism

Community-based tourism (CBT) is a model of tourism development that emphasizes the development of local communities and allows for local residents to have substantial control over its development and management, and a major proportion of the benefits remain within the community. CBT emerged during the 1970s as a response to the negative impacts of the international mass tourism development model (Cater, 1993 ; Hall & Lew, 2009 ; Turner & Ash, 1975 ; Zapata et al., 2011 ).

Community-based tourism has been examined for its potential to contribute to poverty reduction. In a study of the viability of the CBT model to support socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation in Nicaragua, tourism was perceived by participants in the study to have an impact on employment creation in their communities (Zapata et al., 2011 ). Tourism was seen to have had positive impacts on strengthening local knowledge and skills, particularly on the integration of women to new roles in the labor market. One of the main perceived gains regarding the environment was the process of raising awareness regarding the conservation of natural resources. The small scale of CBT operations and low capacity to accommodate visitors was seen as a limitation of the model.

Spenceley ( 2012 ) compiled case studies of community-based tourism in countries in southern Africa, including Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In this volume, authors characterize community-based and nature-based tourism development projects in the region and demonstrate how community participation in planning and decision-making has generated benefits for local residents and supported conservation initiatives. They contend that responsible tourism practices are of particular importance in the region because of the rich biological diversity, abundant charismatic wildlife, and the critical need for local economic development and livelihood strategies.

In Kenya, CBT enterprises were not perceived to have made a significant impact on poverty reduction at an individual household level, in part because the model relied heavily on donor funding, reinforcing dependency and poverty (Manyara & Jones, 2007 ). The study identified several critical success factors for CBT enterprises, namely, awareness and sensitization, community empowerment, effective leadership, and community capacity building, which can inform appropriate tourism policy formulation in Kenya. The impacts of CBT on economic development and poverty reduction would be greatly enhanced if tourism initiatives were able to emphasize independence, address local community priorities, enhance community empowerment and transparency, discourage elitism, promote effective community leadership, and develop community capacity to operate their own enterprises more efficiently.

Pro-Poor Tourism

Pro-poor tourism is a model of tourism development that brings net benefits to people living in poverty (Ashley et al., 2001 ; Harrison, 2008 ). Although its theoretical foundations and development objectives overlap to some degree with those of community-based tourism and other models of AT, the key distinctive feature of pro-poor tourism is that it places poor people and poverty at the top of the agenda. By focusing on a very simple and incontrovertibly moral idea, namely, the net benefits of tourism to impoverished people, the concept has broad appeal to donors and international aid agencies. Harnessing the economic benefits of tourism for pro-poor growth means capitalizing on the advantages while reducing negative impacts to people living in poverty (Ashley et al., 2001 ). Pro-poor approaches to tourism development include increasing access of impoverished people to economic benefits; addressing negative social and environmental impacts associated with tourism; and focusing on policies, processes, and partnerships that seek to remove barriers to participation by people living in poverty. At the local level, pro-poor tourism can play a very significant role in livelihood security and poverty reduction (Ashley & Roe, 2002 ).

Rogerson ( 2011 ) argues that the growth of pro-poor tourism initiatives in South Africa suggests that the country has become a laboratory for the testing and evolution of new approaches toward sustainable development planning that potentially will have relevance for other countries in the developing world. A study of pro-poor tourism development initiatives in Laos identified a number of favorable conditions for pro-poor tourism development, including the fact that local people are open to tourism and motivated to participate (Suntikul et al., 2009 ). The authors also noted a lack of development in the linkages that could optimize the fulfilment of the pro-poor agenda, such as training or facilitation of local people’s participation in pro-poor tourism development at the grassroots level.

Critics of the model have argued that pro-poor tourism is based on an acceptance of the status quo of existing capitalism, that it is morally indiscriminate and theoretically imprecise, and that its practitioners are academically and commercially marginal (Harrison, 2008 ). As Chok et al. ( 2007 ) indicate, the focus “on poor people in the South reflects a strong anthropocentric view . . . and . . . environmental benefits are secondary to poor peoples’” benefits (p. 153).

Harrison ( 2008 ) argues that pro-poor tourism is not a distinctive approach to tourism as a development tool and that it may be easier to discuss what pro-poor tourism is not than what it is. He concludes that it is neither anticapitalist nor inconsistent with mainstream tourism on which it relies; it is neither a theory nor a model and is not a niche form of tourism. Further, he argues that it has no distinctive method and is not only about people living in poverty.

Slow Tourism

The concept of slow tourism has emerged as a model of sustainable tourism development, and as such, it lacks an exact definition. The concept of slow tourism traces its origin back to some institutionalized social movements such as “slow food” and “slow cities” that began in Italy in the 1990s and spread rapidly around the world (Fullagar et al., 2012 ; Oh et al., 2016 , p. 205). Advocates of slow tourism tend to emphasize slowness in terms of speed, mobility, and modes of transportation that generate less environmental pollution. They propose niche marketing for alternative forms of tourism that focus on quality upgrading rather than merely increasing the quantity of visitors via the established mass-tourism infrastructure (Conway & Timms, 2010 ).

In the context of the Caribbean region, slow tourism has been promoted as more culturally sensitive and authentic, as compared to the dominant mass tourism development model that is based on all-inclusive beach resorts dependent on foreign investment (Conway & Timms, 2010 ). Recognizing its value as an alternative marketing strategy, Conway and Timms ( 2010 ) make the case for rebranding alternative tourism in the Caribbean as a means of revitalizing the sector for the changing demands of tourists in the 21st century . They suggest that slow tourism is the antithesis of mass tourism, which “relies on increasing the quantity of tourists who move through the system with little regard to either the quality of the tourists’ experience or the benefits that accrue to the localities the tourist visits” (Conway & Timms, 2010 , p. 332). The authors draw on cases from Barbados, the Grenadines, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago to characterize models of slow tourism development in remote fishing villages and communities near nature preserves and sea turtle nesting sites.

Although there is a growing interest in the concept of slow tourism in the literature, there seems to be little agreement about the exact nature of slow tourism and whether it is a niche form of special interest tourism or whether it represents a more fundamental potential shift across the industry. Conway and Timms ( 2010 ) focus on the destination, advocating for slow tourism in terms of a promotional identity for an industry in need of rebranding. Caffyn ( 2012 , p. 77) discusses the implementation of slow tourism in terms of “encouraging visitors to make slower choices when planning and enjoying their holidays.” It is not clear whether slow tourism is a marketing strategy, a mindset, or a social movement, but the literature on slow tourism nearly always equates the term with sustainable tourism (Caffyn, 2012 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Oh et al., 2016 ). Caffyn ( 2012 , p. 80) suggests that slow tourism could offer a “win–win,” which she describes as “a more sustainable form of tourism; keeping more of the economic benefits within the local community and destination; and delivering a more meaningful and satisfying experience.” Research on slow tourism is nascent, and thus the contribution of slow tourism to sustainable development is not well understood.

Impacts of Tourism Development

The role of tourism in sustainable development can be examined through an understanding of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of tourism. Tourism is a global phenomenon that involves travel, recreation, the consumption of food, overnight accommodations, entertainment, sightseeing, and other activities that simultaneously intersect the lives of local residents, businesses, and communities. The impacts of tourism involve benefits and costs to all groups, and some of these impacts cannot easily be measured. Nevertheless, they have been studied extensively in the literature, which provides some context for how these benefits and costs are distributed.

Economic Impacts of Tourism

The travel and tourism sector is one of the largest components of the global economy, and global tourism has increased exponentially since the end of the Second World War (UNWTO, 2020 ). The direct, indirect, and induced economic impact of global travel accounted for 8.9 trillion U.S. dollars in contribution to the global gross domestic product (GDP), or 10.3% of global GDP. The global travel and tourism sector supports approximately 330 million jobs, or 1 in 10 jobs around the world. From an economic perspective, tourism plays a significant role in sustainable development. In many developing countries, tourism has the potential to play a unique role in income generation and distribution relative to many other industries, in part because of its high multiplier effect and consumption of local goods and services. However, research on the economic impacts of tourism has shown that this potential has rarely been fully realized (Liu, 2003 ).

Numerous studies have examined the impact of tourism expenditure on GDP, income, employment, and public sector revenue. Narayan ( 2004 ) used a computable general equilibrium model to estimate the economic impact of tourism growth on the economy of Fiji. Tourism is Fiji’s largest industry, with average annual growth of 10–12%; and as a middle-income country, tourism is critical to Fiji’s economic development. The findings indicate that an increase in tourism expenditures was associated with an increase in GDP, an improvement in the country’s balance of payments, and an increase in real consumption and national welfare. Evidence suggests that the benefits of tourism expansion outweigh any export effects caused by an appreciation of the exchange rate and an increase in domestic prices and wages.

Seetanah ( 2011 ) examined the potential contribution of tourism to economic growth and development using panel data of 19 island economies around the world from 1990 to 2007 and revealed that tourism development is an important factor in explaining economic performance in the selected island economies. The results have policy implications for improving economic growth by harnessing the contribution of the tourism sector. Pratt ( 2015 ) modeled the economic impact of tourism for seven small island developing states in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. In most states, the transportation sector was found to have above-average linkages to other sectors of the economy. The results revealed some advantages of economies of scale for maximizing the economic contribution of tourism.

Apergis and Payne ( 2012 ) examined the causal relationship between tourism and economic growth for a panel of nine Caribbean countries. The panel of Caribbean countries includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. The authors use a panel error correction model to reveal bidirectional causality between tourism and economic growth in both the short run and the long run. The presence of bidirectional causality reiterates the importance of the tourism sector in the generation of foreign exchange income and in financing the production of goods and services within these countries. Likewise, stable political institutions and adequate government policies to ensure the appropriate investment in physical and human capital will enhance economic growth. In turn, stable economic growth will provide the resources needed to develop the tourism infrastructure for the success of the countries’ tourism sector. Thus, policy makers should be cognizant of the interdependent relationship between tourism and economic growth in the design and implementation of economic policy. The mixed nature of these results suggest that the relationship between tourism and economic growth depends largely on the social and economic context as well as the role of tourism in the economy.

The economic benefits and costs of tourism are frequently distributed unevenly. An analysis of the impact of wildlife conservation policies in Zambia on household welfare found that households located near national parks earn higher levels of income from wage employment and self-employment than other rural households in the country, but they were also more likely to suffer crop losses related to wildlife conflicts (Richardson et al., 2012 ). The findings suggest that tourism development and wildlife conservation can contribute to pro-poor development, but they may be sustainable only if human–wildlife conflicts are minimized or compensated.

Environmental Impacts of Tourism

The environmental impacts of tourism are significant, ranging from local effects to contributions to global environmental change (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). Tourism is both dependent on water resources and a factor in global and local freshwater use. Tourists consume water for drinking, when showering and using the toilet, when participating in activities such as winter ski tourism (i.e., snowmaking), and when using swimming pools and spas. Fresh water is also needed to maintain hotel gardens and golf courses, and water use is embedded in tourism infrastructure development (e.g., accommodations, laundry, dining) and in food and fuel production. Direct water consumption in tourism is estimated to be approximately 350 liters (L) per guest night for accommodation; when indirect water use from food, energy, and transport are considered, total water use in tourism is estimated to be approximately 6,575 L per guest night, or 27,800 L per person per trip (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). In addition, tourism contributes to the pollution of oceans as well as lakes, rivers, and other freshwater systems (Gössling, 2002 ; Gössling et al., 2011 ).

The clearing and conversion of land is central for tourism development, and in many cases, the land used for tourism includes roads, airports, railways, accommodations, trails, pedestrian walks, shopping areas, parking areas, campgrounds, vacation homes, golf courses, marinas, ski resorts, and indirect land use for food production, disposal of solid wastes, and the treatment of wastewater (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). Global land use for accommodation is estimated to be approximately 42 m 2 per bed. Total global land use for tourism is estimated to be nearly 62,000 km 2 , or 11.7 m 2 per tourist; more than half of this estimate is represented by land use for traffic infrastructure.

Tourism and hospitality have direct and indirect links to nearly all aspects of food production, preparation, and consumption because of the quantities of food consumed in tourism contexts (Gössling et al., 2011 ). Food production has significant implications for sustainable development, given the growing global demand for food. The implications include land conversion, losses to biodiversity, changes in nutrient cycling, and contributions to greenhouse emissions that are associated with global climate change (Vitousek et al., 1997 ). Global food use for tourism is estimated to be approximately 39.4 megatons 1 (Mt), about 38% than the amount of food consumed at home. This equates to approximately 1,800 grams (g) of food consumed per tourist per day.

Although tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, nonextractive option for economic development, (Gössling, 2000 ), assessments reveal that such pursuits have a significant carbon footprint, as tourism is significantly more carbon intensive than other potential areas of economic development (Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Tourism is dependent on energy, and virtually all energy use in the tourism sector is derived from fossil fuels, which contribute to global greenhouse emissions that are associated with global climate change. Energy use for tourism has been estimated to be approximately 3,575 megajoules 2 (MJ) per trip, including energy for travel and accommodations (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). A previous estimate of global carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions from tourism provided values of 1.12 gigatons 3 (Gt) of CO 2 , amounting to about 3% of global CO 2 -equivalent (CO 2 e) emissions (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). However, these analyses do not cover the supply chains underpinning tourism and do not therefore represent true carbon footprints. A more complete analysis of the emissions from energy consumption necessary to sustain the tourism sector would include food and beverages, infrastructure construction and maintenance, retail, and financial services. Between 2009 and 2013 , tourism’s global carbon footprint is estimated to have increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO 2 e, four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Lenzen et al., 2018 ). The majority of this footprint is exerted by and within high-income countries. The rising global demand for tourism is outstripping efforts at decarbonization of tourism operations and as a result is accelerating global carbon emissions.

Social Impacts of Tourism

The social impacts of tourism have been widely studied, with an emphasis on residents’ perceptions in the host community (Sharpley, 2014 ). Case studies include research conducted in Australia (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Tovar & Lockwood, 2008 ), Belize (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008 ), China (Gu & Ryan, 2008 ), Fiji (King et al., 1993 ), Greece (Haralambopoulos & Pizam, 1996 ; Tsartas, 1992 ), Hungary (Rátz, 2000 ), Thailand (Huttasin, 2008 ), Turkey (Kuvan & Akan, 2005 ), the United Kingdom (Brunt & Courtney, 1999 ; Haley et al., 2005 ), and the United States (Andereck et al., 2005 ; Milman & Pizam, 1988 ), among others. The social impacts of tourism are difficult to measure, and most published studies are mainly concerned with the social impacts on the host communities rather than the impacts on the tourists themselves.

Studies of residents’ perceptions of tourism are typically conducted using household surveys. In most cases, residents recognize the economic dependence on tourism for income, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that working in or owning a business in tourism or a related industry is associated with more positive perceptions of tourism (Andereck et al., 2007 ). The perceived nature of negative effects is complex and often conveys a dislike of crowding, traffic congestion, and higher prices for basic needs (Deery et al., 2012 ). When the number of tourists far exceeds that of the resident population, negative attitudes toward tourism may manifest (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008 ). However, residents who recognize negative impacts may not necessarily oppose tourism development (King et al., 1993 ).

In some regions, little is known about the social and cultural impacts of tourism despite its dominance as an economic sector. Tourism is a rapidly growing sector in Cuba, and it is projected to grow at rates that exceed the average projected growth rates for the Caribbean and the world overall (Salinas et al., 2018 ). Still, even though there has been rapid tourism development in Cuba, there has been little research related to the environmental and sociocultural impacts of this tourism growth (Rutty & Richardson, 2019 ).

In some international tourism contexts, studies have found that residents are generally resentful toward tourism because it fuels inequality and exacerbates racist attitudes and discrimination (Cabezas, 2004 ; Jamal & Camargo, 2014 ; Mbaiwa, 2005 ). Other studies revealed similar narratives and recorded statements of exclusion and socioeconomic stratification (Sanchez & Adams, 2008 ). Local residents often must navigate the gaps in the racialized, gendered, and sexualized structures imposed by the global tourism industry and host-country governments (Cabezas, 2004 ).

However, during times of economic crisis, residents may develop a more permissive view as their perceptions of the costs of tourism development decrease (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ). This increased positive attitude is not based on an increase in the perception of positive impacts of tourism, but rather on a decrease in the perception of the negative impacts.

There is a growing body of research on Indigenous and Aboriginal tourism that emphasizes justice issues such as human rights and self-empowerment, control, and participation of traditional owners in comanagement of destinations (Jamal & Camargo, 2014 ; Ryan & Huyton, 2000 ; Whyte, 2010 ).

Sustainability of Tourism

A process or system is said to be sustainable to the extent that it is robust, resilient, and adaptive (Anderies et al., 2013 ). By most measures, the global tourism system does not meet these criteria for sustainability. Tourism is not robust in that it cannot resist threats and perturbations, such as economic shocks, public health pandemics, war, and other disruptions. Tourism is not resilient in that it does not easily recover from failures, such as natural disasters or civil unrest. Furthermore, tourism is not adaptive in that it is often unable to change in response to external conditions. One example that underscores the failure to meet all three criteria is the dependence of tourism on fossil fuels for transportation and energy, which are key inputs for tourism development. This dependence itself is not sustainable (Wheeller, 2007 ), and thus the sustainability of tourism is questionable.

Liu ( 2003 ) notes that research related to the role of tourism in sustainable development has emphasized supply-side concepts such as sustaining tourism resources and ignored the demand side, which is particularly vulnerable to social and economic shocks. Tourism is vulnerable to both localized and global shocks. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to localized shocks include disaster vulnerability in coastal Thailand (Calgaro & Lloyd, 2008 ), bushfires in northeast Victoria in Australia (Cioccio & Michael, 2007 ), forest fires in British Columbia, Canada (Hystad & Keller, 2008 ); and outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom (Miller & Ritchie, 2003 ).

Like most other economic sectors, tourism is vulnerable to the impacts of earthquakes, particularly in areas where tourism infrastructure may not be resilient to such shocks. Numerous studies have examined the impacts of earthquake events on tourism, including studies of the aftermath of the 1997 earthquake in central Italy (Mazzocchi & Montini, 2001 ), the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan (Huan et al., 2004 ; Huang & Min, 2002 ), and the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in western Sichuan, China (Yang et al., 2011 ), among others.

Tourism is vulnerable to extreme weather events. Regional economic strength has been found to be associated with lower vulnerability to natural disasters. Kim and Marcoullier ( 2015 ) examined the vulnerability and resilience of 10 tourism-based regional economies that included U.S. national parks or protected seashores situated on the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean coastline that were affected by several hurricanes over a 26-year period. Regions with stronger economic characteristics prior to natural disasters were found to have lower disaster losses than regions with weaker economies.

Tourism is extremely sensitive to oil spills, whatever their origin, and the volume of oil released need not be large to generate significant economic losses (Cirer-Costa, 2015 ). Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to the localized shock of an oil spill include research on the impacts of oil spills in Alaska (Coddington, 2015 ), Brazil (Ribeiro et al., 2020 ), Spain (Castanedo et al., 2009 ), affected regions in the United States along the Gulf of Mexico (Pennington-Gray et al., 2011 ; Ritchie et al., 2013 ), and the Republic of Korea (Cheong, 2012 ), among others. Future research on the vulnerability of tourist destinations to oil spills should also incorporate freshwater environments, such as lakes, rivers, and streams, where the rupture of oil pipelines is more frequent.

Significant attention has been paid to assessing the vulnerability of tourist destinations to acts of terrorism and the impacts of terrorist attacks on regional tourist economies (Liu & Pratt, 2017 ). Such studies include analyses of the impacts of terrorist attacks on three European countries, Greece, Italy, and Austria (Enders et al., 1992 ); the impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States (Goodrich, 2002 ); terrorism and tourism in Nepal (Bhattarai et al., 2005 ); vulnerability of tourism livelihoods in Bali (Baker & Coulter, 2007 ); the impact of terrorism on tourist preferences for destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands (Arana & León, 2008 ); the 2011 massacres in Olso and Utøya, Norway (Wolff & Larsen, 2014 ); terrorism and political violence in Tunisia (Lanouar & Goaied, 2019 ); and the impact of terrorism on European tourism (Corbet et al., 2019 ), among others. Pizam and Fleischer ( 2002 ) studied the impact of acts of terrorism on tourism demand in Israel between May 1991 and May 2001 , and they confirmed that the frequency of acts of terrorism had caused a larger decline in international tourist arrivals than the severity of these acts. Most of these are ex post studies, and future assessments of the underlying conditions of destinations could reveal a deeper understanding of the vulnerability of tourism to terrorism.

Tourism is vulnerable to economic crisis, both local economic shocks (Okumus & Karamustafa, 2005 ; Stylidis & Terzidou, 2014 ) and global economic crisis (Papatheodorou et al., 2010 ; Smeral, 2010 ). Okumus and Karamustafa ( 2005 ) evaluated the impact of the February 2001 economic crisis in Turkey on tourism, and they found that the tourism industry was poorly prepared for the economic crisis despite having suffered previous impacts related to the Gulf War in the early 1990s, terrorism in Turkey in the 1990s, the civil war in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, an internal economic crisis in 1994 , and two earthquakes in the northwest region of Turkey in 1999 . In a study of the attitudes and perceptions of citizens of Greece, Stylidis and Terzidou ( 2014 ) found that economic crisis is associated with increased support for tourism development, particularly out of self-interest. Economic crisis diminishes residents’ concern for environmental issues. In a study of the behavior of European tourists amid an economic crisis, Eugenio-Martin and Campos-Soria ( 2014 ) found that the probability of households cutting back on travel expenditures depends largely on the climate and economic conditions of tourists’ home countries, and households that do reduce travel spending engage in tourism closer to home.

Becken and Lennox ( 2012 ) studied the implications of a long-term increase in oil prices for tourism in New Zealand, and they estimate that a doubling of oil prices is associated with a 1.7% decrease in real gross national disposable income and a 9% reduction in the real value of tourism exports. Chatziantoniou et al. ( 2013 ) investigated the relationship among oil price shocks, tourism variables, and economic indicators in four European Mediterranean countries and found that aggregate demand oil price shocks generated a lagged effect on tourism-generated income and economic growth. Kisswani et al. ( 2020 ) examined the asymmetric effect of oil prices on tourism receipts and the sensitive susceptibility of tourism to oil price changes using nonlinear analysis. The findings document a long-run asymmetrical effect for most countries, after incorporating the structural breaks, suggesting that governments and tourism businesses and organizations should interpret oil price fluctuations cautiously.

Finally, the sustainability of tourism has been shown to be vulnerable to the outbreak of infectious diseases, including the impact of the Ebola virus on tourism in sub-Saharan Africa (Maphanga & Henama, 2019 ; Novelli et al., 2018 ) and in the United States (Cahyanto et al., 2016 ). The literature also includes studies of the impact of swine flu on tourism demand in Brunei (Haque & Haque, 2018 ), Mexico (Monterrubio, 2010 ), and the United Kingdom (Page et al., 2012 ), among others. In addition, rapid assessments of the impacts of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 have documented severe disruptions and cessations of tourism because of unprecedented global travel restrictions and widespread restrictions on public gatherings (Gössling et al., 2020 ; Qiu et al., 2020 ; Sharma & Nicolau, 2020 ). Hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and car rentals have all experienced a significant decrease globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shock to the industry is significant enough to warrant concerns about the long-term outlook (Sharma & Nicolau, 2020 ). Qiu et al. ( 2020 ) estimated the social costs of the pandemic to tourism in three cities in China (Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Wuhan), and they found that most respondents were willing to pay for risk reduction and action in responding to the pandemic crisis; there was no significant difference between residents’ willingness to pay in the three cities. Some research has emphasized how lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can prepare global tourism for an economic transformation that is needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change (Brouder, 2020 ; Prideaux et al., 2020 ).

It is clear that tourism has contributed significantly to economic development globally, but its role in sustainable development is uncertain, contested, and potentially paradoxical. This is due, in part, to the contested nature of sustainable development itself. Tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, nonextractive option for economic development, particularly for developing countries (Gössling, 2000 ), and many countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through development of international tourism. Tourism development has been viewed as an important sector for investment to enhance economic growth, poverty alleviation, and food security, and the sector provides an alternative opportunity to large-scale development projects and extractive industries that contribute to emissions of pollutants and threaten biodiversity and cultural values. However, global evidence from research on the economic impacts of tourism has shown that this potential has rarely been realized (Liu, 2003 ).

The role of tourism in sustainable development has been studied extensively and with a variety of perspectives, including the conceptualization of alternative or responsible forms of tourism and the examination of economic, environmental, and social impacts of tourism development. The research has generally concluded that tourism development has contributed to sustainable development in some cases where it is demonstrated to have provided support for biodiversity conservation initiatives and livelihood development strategies. As an economic sector, tourism is considered to be labor intensive, providing opportunities for poor households to enhance their livelihood through the sale of goods and services to foreign tourists.

Nature-based tourism approaches such as ecotourism and community-based tourism have been successful at attracting tourists to parks and protected areas, and their spending provides financial support for biodiversity conservation, livelihoods, and economic growth in developing countries. Nevertheless, studies of the impacts of tourism development have documented negative environmental impacts locally in terms of land use, food and water consumption, and congestion, and globally in terms of the contribution of tourism to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases related to transportation and other tourist activities. Studies of the social impacts of tourism have documented experiences of discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, race, sex, and national identity.

The sustainability of tourism as an economic sector has been examined in terms of its vulnerability to civil conflict, economic shocks, natural disasters, and public health pandemics. Most studies conclude that tourism may have positive impacts for regional development and environmental conservation, but there is evidence that tourism inherently generates negative environmental impacts, primarily through pollutions stemming from transportation. The regional benefits of tourism development must be considered alongside the global impacts of increased transportation and tourism participation. Global tourism has also been shown to be vulnerable to economic crises, oil price shocks, and global outbreaks of infectious diseases. Given that tourism is dependent on energy, the movement of people, and the consumption of resources, virtually all tourism activities have significant economic, environmental, and sustainable impacts. As such, the role of tourism in sustainable development is highly questionable. Future research on the role of tourism in sustainable development should focus on reducing the negative impacts of tourism development, both regionally and globally.

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1. One megatonne (Mt) is equal to 1 million (10 6 ) metric tons.

2. One megajoule (MJ) is equal to 1 million (10 6 ) joules, or approximately the kinetic energy of a 1-megagram (tonne) vehicle moving at 161 km/h.

3. One gigatonne (Gt) is equal to 1 billion (10 9 ) metric tons.

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A United Vision for Nature - 'Nature Positive' Report Marks New Collaborative Era in Travel & Tourism

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  • 22 Apr 2024

WTTC, UN Tourism and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance join forces to support Nature Positive Tourism

UN Tourism

The leading players of Travel & Tourism globally have published a landmark joint report setting out their joint plan to help halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Launched on Earth Day 2024, "Nature Positive Travel & Tourism in Action" is the creation of the high-level 'Nature Positive Tourism Partnership, made up of the World Travel & Tourism Council ( WTTC ), the World Tourism Organization ( UN Tourism ) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance ( the Alliance ).

For years, UN Tourism has been at the forefront of integrating tourism into the broader UN biodiversity agenda, including supporting the work of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Developed in collaboration with specialist consultancy ANIMONDIAL, the report is the sector's pledge to support the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), the UN's Biodiversity Plan.

It presents more than 30 case studies of inspiring and progressive actions from around the world involving large and small businesses, national and local government agencies, civil society groups, and inter-sectoral partnerships.

By offering actionable guidance and insights, this report not only highlights the intrinsic link between biodiversity and tourism's resilience, but also empowers businesses to become stewards of nature.

Historic partnership for nature

Ms. Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO , said: "This historic partnership with Travel & Tourism heavyweights is a significant step in our collective journey towards a more sustainable and responsible sector. This report is not merely a publication but a movement towards integrating environmental stewardship into the core of travel experiences. As we celebrate Earth Day, let us heed the call to nurture and protect our destinations. Our sector's reliance on nature, coupled with our expertise in creating inspiring and memorable experiences, means we are ideally placed to be guardians of nature."

Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism , said: "For years, UN Tourism has been at the forefront of integrating tourism into the broader UN biodiversity agenda, including supporting the work of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This pivotal new collaboration among key global players sets a robust framework for sustainable practices that not only drive significant impact but also exemplify the power of united efforts in conserving biodiversity. This report is a testimony to what we can achieve together for nature's preservation, inspiring a global movement towards more sustainable and resilient tourism."

Mr. Glenn Mandziuk, Sustainable Hotel Alliance CEO , said: "This report is a milestone for Travel and Tourism, representing our commitment as an industry to protect and conserve nature. The Alliance is proud to contribute to and collaborate on this insightful and action-orientated report which will bring tangible change to destinations around the world, supporting biodiversity.  Nature underpins our society, economies and indeed our very existence. The hospitality industry is today a leader amongst industries in its Nature Positive approach and this report signifies how much our industry understands the true value of nature."  

Expert-led coalition

Recognising that the sector has a critical role to play in protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Nature Positive Tourism approach is designed to be a touchstone for actionable change. It focuses on equipping the sector with the tools and insights needed to nurture and protect destinations upon which it depends.

The commitment of the Partnership to work towards "net positive for nature" draws on extensive consultation with experts from business, government, academia and civil society, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).

The report, which follows the 2022 WTTC report "Nature Positive Travel & Tourism", includes practical frameworks and real-world examples that encourage both travel providers and travellers to embark on journeys that contribute to the conservation of our natural treasures.

Related links

  • Download News Release on PDF
  • Report “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”
  • UN Tourism Biodiversity
  • Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

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impact of tourism development on environment

Description

Publications.

Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment, while being closely linked to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of many countries, especially developing countries. Maritime or ocean-related tourism, as well as coastal tourism, are for example vital sectors of the economy in small island developing States (SIDS) and coastal least developed countries (LDCs) (see also: The Potential of the Blue Economy report as well as the Community of Ocean Action on sustainable blue economy).

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities".

Based on General assembly resolution 70/193, 2017 was declared as the  International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development SDG target 8.9, aims to “by 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”. The importance of sustainable tourism is also highlighted in SDG target 12.b. which aims to “develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”.

Tourism is also identified as one of the tools to “by 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries” as comprised in SDG target 14.7.

In the Rio+20 outcome document The Future We want, sustainable tourism is defined by paragraph 130 as a significant contributor “to the three dimensions of sustainable development” thanks to its close linkages to other sectors and its ability to create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities. Therefore, Member States recognize “the need to support sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment, respect wildlife, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural diversity, and improve the welfare and livelihoods of local communities by supporting their local economies and the human and natural environment as a whole. ” In paragraph 130, Member States also “call for enhanced support for sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building in developing countries in order to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development”.

In paragraph 131, Member States “encourage the promotion of investment in sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which may include creating small- and medium-sized enterprises and facilitating access to finance, including through microcredit initiatives for the poor, indigenous peoples and local communities in areas with high eco-tourism potential”. In this regard, Member States also “underline the importance of establishing, where necessary, appropriate guidelines and regulations in accordance with national priorities and legislation for promoting and supporting sustainable tourism”.

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg called for the promotion of sustainable tourism development, including non-consumptive and eco-tourism, in Chapter IV, paragraph 43 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

At the Johannesburg Summit, the launch of the “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) initiative was announced. The initiative was inaugurated by the World Tourism Organization, in collaboration with UNCTAD, in order to develop sustainable tourism as a force for poverty alleviation.

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) last reviewed the issue of sustainable tourism in 2001, when it was acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Johannesburg Summit.

The importance of sustainable tourism was also mentioned in Agenda 21.

For more information and documents on this topic,  please visit this link

UNWTO Annual Report 2015

2015 was a landmark year for the global community. In September, the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal agenda for planet and people. Among the 17 SDGs and 169 associated targets, tourism is explicitly featured in Goa...

UNWTO Annual Report 2016

In December 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This is a unique opportunity to devote a year to activities that promote the transformational power of tourism to help us reach a better future. This important cele...

Emerging Issues for Small Island Developing States

The 2012 UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Global Environmental Issues primarily identified emerging environmental issues and possible solutions on a global scale and perspective. In 2013, UNEP carried out a similar exercise to identify priority emerging environmental issues that are of concern to ...

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom, We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for su...

15 Years of the UNWTO World Tourism Network on Child Protection: A Compilation of Good Practices

Although it is widely recognized that tourism is not the cause of child exploitation, it can aggravate the problem when parts of its infrastructure, such as transport networks and accommodation facilities, are exploited by child abusers for nefarious ends. Additionally, many other factors that contr...

Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa

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  • January 2015 Targets 8.9, 12 b,14.7 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development commits Member States, through Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.9 to “devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”. The importance of sustainable tourism, as a driver for jobs creation and the promotion of local culture and products, is also highlighted in Sustainable Development Goal target 12.b. Tourism is also identified as one of the tools to “increase [by 2030] the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries”, through Sustainable Development Goals Target 14.7.
  • January 2012 Future We Want (Para 130-131) Sustainable tourism is defined as a significant contributor “to the three dimensions of sustainable development” thanks to its close linkages to other sectors and its ability to create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities. Therefore, Member States recognize “the need to support sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment, respect wildlife, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural diversity, and improve the welfare and livelihoods of local communities” as well as to “encourage the promotion of investment in sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which may include creating small and medium sized enterprises and facilitating access to finance, including through microcredit initiatives for the poor, indigenous peoples and local communities in areas with high eco-tourism potential”.
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  • January 1982 Acapulco Document Adopted in 1982, the Acapulco Document acknowledges the new dimension and role of tourism as a positive instrument towards the improvement of the quality of life for all peoples, as well as a significant force for peace and international understanding. The Acapulco Document also urges Member States to elaborate their policies, plans and programmes on tourism, in accordance with their national priorities and within the framework of the programme of work of the World Tourism Organization.

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  • Published: 29 March 2024

Studying tourism development and its impact on carbon emissions

  • Xiaochun Zhao 1 ,
  • Taiwei Li 1 &
  • Xin Duan 1  

Scientific Reports volume  14 , Article number:  7463 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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Metrics details

  • Environmental impact
  • Sustainability

Analyzing the influence of tourism on carbon emission has significant implications for promoting the sustainable development of tourism. Based on the panel data of 31 tourist cities in China from 2005 to 2022, this study utilizes a structural equation model to explore the carbon reduction effect of tourism development and its influencing mechanism. The results show that: (1) The overall carbon emission efficiency of tourism cities first decreased and then increased, rised to a peak of 0.923 in 2022. (2) Tourism development has a significant positive impact on carbon emission efficiency, and there are three influence paths: tourism → environmental regulation → carbon emission efficiency, tourism → environmental regulation → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency, and tourism → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency. (3) The influence of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency mainly depends on the direct effect, and the development of tourism also indirectly affect the industrial structure. Environmental regulation also mainly depends on the direct effect on carbon emission efficiency. (4) Foreign direct investment lead to the reduction of carbon emission efficiency in both direct and indirect aspects.

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Introduction.

Global climate change has become one of the major challenges of humanity, bringing a series of harms, including an increase in extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes. According to the report of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by 2080, the average global temperature will increase by more than 1 °C 1 . Global warming is not merely a natural phenomenon, but also a result of human activity. In various sectors of the economy, the tourism industry has experienced rapid growth. According to data from the World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry accounts for 10.4% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides 313 million job opportunities 2 . However, the rapid development of the tourism industry has also resulted in intensified impacts on the environment. Tourism industry has become one of the main sources of global carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 5% of the total global carbon emissions. China is one of the largest tourism markets in the world, and the tourism industry plays a vital role in China's economy. In China's 14th Five-Year Plan, the concept of green and low-carbon development is emphasized, highlighting the need for environmentally friendly tourism and carbon emission reduction. Balancing tourism industry development with carbon emission reduction is a major challenge for the tourism industry. Existing studies on tourism and carbon emissions mainly focus on the carbon emission efficiency of tourism development itself and the impact of tourism on carbon emissions. However, these studies fail to analyze the mechanism behind tourism's impact on carbon emission efficiency. While some studies have analyzed the impact mechanism of tourism development and carbon emissions 3 , they primarily focused on the impact of tourism on carbon emission intensity rather than carbon efficiency. Carbon intensity is typically measured as a ratio of carbon emissions to GDP. In contrast, carbon efficiency provides a more comprehensive assessment of a city's environmental performance and sustainability. Comprehensive analyzing the mechanism of the influence of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency is essential for formulating environmental protection policies to promote the green development of tourism. Therefore, this paper aims to study the influence mechanism of tourism on carbon emission efficiency s of tourism development. Using 31 tourist cities in China as research samples, the paper adopts the entropy weight method and the Slacks-Based Measure (SBM), introduces the Structural Equation Model (SEM), and uses panel data of 31 tourist cities to analyze the influence of tourism industry on carbon emission. The findings of this study are hoped to provide inspiration for the transformation of tourism cities.

The remainder of this study is divided into four sections. The first section is the literature review, which examines the carbon emission efficiency of the tourism industry itself and the impact of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency from a tourism research perspective. The second section is the research design, where the paper utilizes the entropy weight method and the super-efficiency SBM model to measure the development level of the tourism industry and carbon emission efficiency, respectively. This section also constructs a structural equation model to explore the mechanism of the impact of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency. The third section presents the research results and the last section concludes this study and provides suggestions based on research findings.

Literature review

Tourism plays a vital role in economic growth by creating jobs 4 . Scholars have conducted extensive research and achieved significant academic results. The current research on the tourism industry and carbon emission efficiency primarily revolves around two aspects.

Firstly, scholars focus on the carbon emission efficiency of the tourism industry. For example, Gössling et al. 5 analyzed the economic benefits and environmental effect of tourism, evaluating the ecological efficiency of the tourism industry by using carbon dioxide emissions and economic benefits. Osorio et al. 6 compared the carbon emission efficiency of the Spanish tourism industry before and after the pandemic of COVID-19, and found that the carbon emission efficiency in 2020 improved compared before COVID-19 pandemic. Ghaderi et al. 7 conducted research on the carbon emission efficiency of tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa, this study indicated that tourist arrivals can reduce carbon emissions, while energy consumption and trade openness are contributors to carbon emissions.

Secondly, scholars focus on the impact of tourism on carbon emission. However, the consensus among scholars has not yet been reached on whether the tourism industry promotes carbon emission. Some scholars have analyzed the impact of tourism activities on carbon emissions in Mediterranean countries and concluded that tourism revenue does not have direct impact on carbon emissions 8 . Voumik et al. 9 studied tourism industry in 40 Asian countries and found that while tourism helps slow down the deterioration of environment, factors such as population growth, energy use, and economic development still contribute to increasing carbon emission, which is consistent with the conclusions of Guo et al. 10 . Erdoğan et al. 11 focused on the impact of international tourism on carbon emissions and found that international tourism leads to the increase of carbon emissions, but eco-friendly innovation in the transportation sector can mitigate the negative impact on the environment. Ahmad et al. 12 revealed an inverted U-shaped curve in the impact of international tourism development on carbon emissions in China, with the negative impact of technological innovation being strongest in highly developed provinces and weakest in moderately developed provinces. Ghosh et al. 13 found tourism industry can alleviate environmental degradation, policy direction that promote tourism, renewable energy, economic growth and urbanization have a significant effect on the environment, which is consistent with the conclusion of Zikirya et al. 14 . Rahman et al. 15 shifted their focus to Malaysia and found a positive correlation between the number of tourists and carbon emissions.

In summary, existing studies primarily focus on the carbon emission efficiency of tourism and the impact of tourism on carbon emission. However, there is a lack of focus on how tourism affects carbon emission efficiency. This study aims to address this gap by taking 31 tourist cities in China as research samples. This study constructs an indicator system to assess tourism industry and carbon emission efficiency. Furthermore, this study introduces a structural equation model to analyze the mechanisms about how tourism industry affects carbon emission efficiency, to provide inspiration for promoting the green development of tourism.

Research Design

Analyzing the influence mechanism of tourism on carbon emission.

The tourism industry is considered a smokeless and green industry, due to its significant advantages in resource utilization and environmental protection. The development of the tourism industry can not only promote the growth of employment rate in the destination, but also increase the income of tourist destinations. Compared with the secondary industry, the tourism industry is more environmentally friendly in terms of resource consumption and pollution emission. Especially in tourism cities, the proportion of tourism economy in GDP is larger, tourism has a bigger impact on the green development of the tourism city. Consequently, the influence mechanism of tourism on carbon emissions is analyzed as follows:

Firstly, a good natural ecological environment is a fundamental requirement for the development of the tourism industry. Tourism cities typically implement strict governance measures on the local environment and ecology. The development of tourism can incentive the local government to introduce more stringent environmental policies, thereby improving the ecological environment 16 . Additionally, stricter environmental regulations often impact carbon emission efficiency 17 , 18 . Simultaneously, intensified environmental regulations can limit the development space of heavily polluting industries and influence the industrial structure of the destination, ultimately affecting carbon emission efficiency 19 .

Secondly, the development of tourism also affects the industrial structure of cities 20 . The growth of tourism promotes the rise of related industries. Numerous supporting industries, such as hotels, catering, transportation, tour guides, and others, are needed to meet the demands of tourists and create numerous employment opportunities. Consequently, tourism development can attract individuals to switch from other industries to the tourism sector, which in turn impacts the industrial structure and has a significant effect on carbon emissions 21 .

Finally, foreign direct investment is an important factor that affects carbon emission efficiency 22 . This study draws on the conclusion of Bakhsh et al. 23 , which suggests that including foreign direct investment in analysis can improves the overall fit of the structural equation model. On one hand, foreign direct investment can bring advanced production technology, thereby directly improving carbon emission efficiency 24 . On the other hand, foreign investment also leads to pollution transfer, negatively impacting the environment and reducing carbon emission efficiency 25 . At the same time, foreign direct investment can indirectly affect carbon emission efficiency by influencing the local industrial structure. Moreover, the advanced technologies brought about by foreign direct investment also have an impact on technological innovation, thereby indirectly affecting carbon emissions.

Based on above analysis, this study builds a structural equation model about the influence of tourism on carbon emission (see Fig. 1 ).

figure 1

The influence mechanism of tourism on carbon emission.

Research method

  • Structural equation model

The Structural Equation Model (SEM), first proposed by Jöreskog 26 , is used to study complex relationships among different variables, including multiple causal relationships. When examining the impact of tourism on carbon emissions, it is important to consider that this impact is not a single direct effect. Instead, there are complex internal mechanisms, including indirect effects and interactions among variables 27 . Therefore, this study chooses to employ SEM to analyze the internal mechanism of how tourism affects carbon emission efficiency.

Entropy weight method

In this study, the entropy weight method is utilized to calculate the Tourism Development (TD) level. The entropy weight method is a quantitative approach based on the concept of entropy in information theory. It helps determine the weight of indicators by calculating the entropy and difference coefficient of each index. This calculation process reflects the importance of each index in the overall assessment. By multiplying and summing the standardized index with the entropy weight, the assessment results can be obtained 28 . The specific calculation process is as follows:

Firstly, the raw data needs to be standardized, see formula ( 1 ) and formula ( 2 ) for details.

Positive indicator:

Negative indicator:

Among them, \({ }x_{ij} { }\) represents the data of the indicator, \(i{ }\) represents city. \(j{ }\) represents index, \(r_{ij}^{ + }\) and \(r_{ij}^{ - }\) represents standardized data.

Secondly, calculate the weight of \(j\) index by using formula ( 3 ).

Thirdly, calculate the entropy of \(j\) by using formula ( 4 ).

Fourthly, calculate information entropy redundancy by using formula ( 5 ).

Fifthly, calculate index weight by using formula ( 6 ).

Finally, calculate the assess results by using formula ( 7 ).

Non-expected output super efficiency SBM model

Tone 29 proposed a super-efficient model based on the traditional SBM model, which combines the advantages of both the traditional SBM model and the super efficiency model. This model not only considers the influence of unexpected output, but also solves the problem that the traditional SBM model cannot evaluate the Decision-Making Unit (DMU) with the efficiency value of 1 on the front plane. By recalculating the DMUs with an efficiency value of 1, the model enables the comparison of effective DMUs. The specific formulas are as follows:

Designing index system for tourism and carbon emission efficiency, variable explaining and data source

Designing index system and variable interpretation.

This study utilizing the entropy weight method to calculate the Tourism Development level(TD). To evaluate the development level of tourism, this paper designs the index system of tourism development (see Table 1 ). Firstly, the number of tourists is an important indicator that represents the development of tourism, as it reflects the scale of tourism and market demand 30 . Secondly, tourism income is a crucial index for measuring the economic benefit of tourism, as it represents the economic benefit and profit level of tourism. Tourism income directly impacts the sustainable development of tourism and related industries. Finally, the proportion of tourism revenue to GDP is an essential indicator for measuring the contribution and impact of tourism on the overall economy. On the basis of previous studies, this study constructs the evaluation index system of tourism development level.

The essence of Carbon Emission Efficiency (CEE) is the result of the joint action of capital, labor, energy, and other inputs and outputs in economic activities. Therefore, adopting a multi-input and multi-output perspective, this study uses MATLAB software to measure the carbon emission efficiency of 31 tourist cities. Acknowledging that efficiency values are influenced by both inputs and outputs, this study selects five indicators: labor input, capital input, energy input, expected output, and undesirable output to measure carbon emission efficiency (see Table 2 ). Firstly, the total number of employees in enterprises and public institutions reflects the economic scale of state-owned enterprises and public institutions, while the total number of urban private self-employed employees highlights the scale of the development of the private and individual economy 31 . Therefore, the sum of the total number of employees in enterprises and public institutions and the total number of private and individual employees in cities and towns is chosen as the representative of labor input, which fully reflects the employment scale and labor supply of a country or region. Secondly, electricity is widely used as an energy source in cities, and its consumption largely reflects a city's energy consumption 32 . The total electricity consumption of the city is selected to represent the energy input. Thirdly, investments in fixed assets reflects the investment of a country or region in capital goods such as production equipment and buildings over a certain period, and it is an important measure of capital formation 33 . The capital stock of the city is calculated based on the investment in fixed assets to represent the capital input. Fourthly, GDP is the sum of all the market value created by all the residents of a country or region in a certain period, and it is the most important macroeconomic indicator for measuring the overall economic performance of a country or region 34 . Fifthly, undesirable outputs usually denote by-products or negative effects that occur during the production process, which are not the desired outcomes of manufacturing activities. Carbon dioxide emissions are selected as the undesirable outputs. Finally, this paper takes 2005 as the base period to calculate the capital stock and GDP, to enhance the comparability of data between different years.

Variables involved in structural equation model

Based on the existing research and data availability, proxy variables for the structural equation model are set up (see Table 3 ). (1) Tourism, calculated by entropy weight method, reflects the development level of urban tourism; (2) Carbon emission efficiency, calculated by the non-expected output super efficiency SBM, reflects the carbon emission and resource utilization efficiency of the city; (3) Environmental regulation. Currently, there are three quantitative methods for environmental regulation, which are single index method 35 , scoring method 36 and comprehensive index method 37 . This paper uses the proportion of investment in environmental pollution control in GDP(Gross Domestic Product) as a proxy variable for environmental regulation. (4) Industrial structure, the proportion of the output value of the tertiary industry and the output value of the secondary industry are used as the proxy variable,(5) Foreign direct investment, some scholars believe that foreign direct investment has a negative impact on the environment, supporting the pollution paradise hypothesis, while other scholars believe that foreign direct investment has an improving effect on the environment, supporting the pollution halo hypothesis. Because of fact that the stock of foreign investment can more accurately reflect the impact of foreign investment on environmental pollution, this paper adopts the proportion of foreign direct investment in regional GDP as a proxy variable by referring to the practice of Afi et al. 38 . (6) Urban innovation, referring to the research of Cheng et al. 39 , China's urban innovation index is adopted as a proxy variable. The index is mainly based on two parts of data, namely patent data of the State Intellectual Property Office and enterprise registered capital data of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, including innovation output and patent value.

Research sample and data source

This study selects Chinese tourism cities as research samples to explore the influence of tourism on carbon emission efficiency. This study refers to the research of Zhang et al. 40 and Huang et al. 41 , a total of 31 tourism cities were selected as research samples. These cities include Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang, Dalian, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Xiamen, Jinan, Qingdao, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Guilin, Haikou, Wenzhou, Changchun, Harbin, Huangshan, Wuhan, Changsha, Luoyang, Zhangjiajie, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming and Xi 'an.

The study period was from 2005 to 2022. The data in this study were obtained from China Urban Statistical Yearbook (2006–2022), China Energy Statistical Yearbook (2006–2022), statistical yearbooks and statistical bulletins of provinces and cities.

Research results

Evaluation results of carbon emission efficiency and tourism development in tourist cities.

This study measured the carbon emission efficiency of 31 tourist cities from 2005 to 2022 and revealed its evolution characteristics. The calculation results are shown in Table 4 .

According to Table 4 , a clear upward trend is evident in the tourism development level of 31 tourist cities from 2005 to 2019, with the level increasing from 0.125 in 2005 to 0.499 in 2019, thereby reaching its peak. From 2020 to 2022, due to the impact of COVID-19, the number of tourists decreased, and the development level of tourism dropped significantly. From 2005 to 2022, the carbon emission efficiency of 31 tourism cities generally showed a fluctuating upward trend. The overall efficiency decreased year by year from 2005 to 2011, reaching its lowest at 0.707. But then it began to fluctuate and rise and reached a peak of 0.923 in 2022.

Analyzing the influence of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency and its influencing mechanism

Analysis the influence of tourism industry on carbon emission and its influencing mechanism based on all samples.

Based on the structural equation model, the required variables were introduced into the STATA software. The parameters of the constructed model were then estimated using the maximum likelihood estimation method, yielding the estimated results for standardized estimation coefficients, standard errors, Z-values, and P-values. The specific results are shown in Table 5 and Fig.  2 .

figure 2

Structural equation model estimation results.

For all the tourist city samples, the structural equation model was estimated using the STATA software through the maximum likelihood estimation method. The estimated results included standardized estimation coefficients, standard errors, Z-values, and P-values. In terms of the overall fit of the model, the comparative fit index (CFI) is 0.902, slightly greater than 0.9, and the standardized residual root mean square (SRMR) is 0.07, slightly higher than 0.05 but less than 0.08 threshold, indicating that the overall fit of the model is good.

Logarithmic likelihood: − 8623.74;Likelihood ratio test of saturation model: chi-square(4) = 71.00, Prob > chi-square = 0.0000; The index of fit degree:RMSEA:0.109;AIC:14,115.030; BIC:16,023.930; CFI:0.902;SRMR: 0.070.

Table 5 and Fig.  2 demonstrate the mechanism of tourism's influence on carbon emission efficiency as follows: Firstly, a 1% increase in tourism development level leads to a direct increase of 0.1148% carbon emission efficiency, which passes the 1% significance level test. This indicates that the development of urban tourism significantly promotes the improvement in carbon emission efficiency. This indicates that tourism development can improve carbon emission efficiency, which is consistent with the study conducted by Si et al. 42 . On one hand, tourism stimulates local economic development,on the other hand, it consumes resources and emits less pollution compared to other industries. This implies that tourism development directly affects carbon emission efficiency and there is a mechanism of tourism → carbon emission efficiency. Secondly, the sustainable development of tourism imposes stricter demands on the ecological environment quality. As a result, the development of tourism prompts governments to introduce more rigorous environmental policies. The greater the intensity of urban environmental regulation, the more significant its impact on carbon emission efficiency. Each 1% increase in the level of tourism development would directly increase the intensity of environmental regulation by 0.1280%. There is a direct between environmental regulation and emission efficiency. Every 1% increase in environmental regulation, there is a corresponding 0.8% increase in carbon emission efficiency. This finding supports the conclusion that environmental regulation plays an effective role in reducing carbon emissions 43 . This finding also suggests that there is a mechanism of tourism → environmental regulation → carbon emission efficiency. Thirdly, empirical results reveal an influence effect of tourism → environmental regulation → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency. Each 1% increase in environmental regulation would change the industrial structure by 0.1524%, and each 1% increase in industrial structure would increase carbon emission efficiency by 0.2048%. This suggests that the tourism industry impacts the local industrial structure by strengthening environmental regulations, thereby driving the improvement of carbon emission efficiency. Fourth, a 1% increase in tourism development level changes the industrial structure by 0.7597%, indicating that tourism development has a significant impact on the local industrial structure. Additionally, the estimated coefficient of industrial structure on carbon emission efficiency is 0.0664, meaning that the transformation of industrial structure promotes the improvement of carbon emission efficiency. In other words, tourism influences local carbon emission efficiency by influencing the industrial structure. There is a mechanism of tourism → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency.

The mechanisms through which foreign direct investment influences carbon emission efficiency can be summarized in three aspects. Firstly, foreign direct investment has negative impacts on carbon emission efficiency. This indicates in tourist cities, FDI may intensify local energy consumption and production activities and becomes a refuge for heavily polluting enterprises. These findings are in line with the research conducted by Wang et al. 44 . Secondly, foreign direct investment significantly and positively affects the local industrial structure, indicating that the production technology brought by foreign direct investment has changed the industrial structure of the city. The results reveal an influence path of foreign direct investment → industrial structure. Empirical findings demonstrate that the industrial structure impacts carbon emission efficiency, resulting in a path of foreign direct investment → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency. Thirdly, the impact of foreign direct investment on the innovation ability of cities did not pass the significance test (P = 0.603), indicating that there is no influence path of foreign direct investment → urban innovation → carbon emission efficiency.

Further analysis based on effect decomposition

Based on the above estimation results, this study further decomposed the direct, indirect, and total effects of each factor affecting carbon emission efficiency, the results are shown in Table 6 .

As shown in Table 6 , the total effect of tourism on carbon emission efficiency is 0.0624, with a direct effect of 0.1148, accounting for 54.36% of the total effect. The direct effect passed the significance test but the indirect effect failed. This indicates that the influence of tourism on carbon emission mainly stems from the direct impact of tourism development on carbon emission efficiency, rather than the indirect effect. This empirical result aligns with the current reality in China. Cities can achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions by focusing on green tourism and low-carbon tourism, promoting the use of environmentally friendly transportation modes in tourism, and improving the energy efficiency of tourism facilities. Furthermore, the estimates results reveal other important factors and pathways influencing carbon efficiency. Firstly, a higher intensity of environmental regulations can directly improve carbon emission efficiency. Every 1% increase in environmental regulation intensity would directly increase carbon emission efficiency by 0.2048%. Secondly, the direct effect of foreign direct investment on carbon emission efficiency is − 0.1379, and the indirect effect is − 0.0098, indicating that foreign direct investment has a negative impact on carbon emission efficiency in both direct and indirect aspects. Foreign investors may transfer polluting enterprises to tourist cities, resulting in increased carbon emissions and decreased carbon emission efficiency. Finally, changes in industrial structure have a positively effect on carbon emission efficiency. Every 1% change in industrial structure will reduce carbon emission efficiency by 0.0664%.

Conclusion and discussion

Based on panel data from 31 tourist cities between 2005 and 2022, this study utilizes a structural equation model to analyze the influence of tourism on carbon emissions. The research findings indicate the following:

The carbon emission efficiency of tourism cities first decreased and then increased, reaching a peak of 0.923 in 2022. Second, tourism has a significant positive effect on carbon efficiency in the estimation of all samples. This influence can be summarized into three paths: tourism development → environmental regulation → carbon emission efficiency; Tourism development → environmental regulation → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency; Tourism development → industrial structure → carbon emission efficiency. Thirdly, the influence of local tourism development on carbon emission efficiency mainly depends on the direct effect, which is consistent with the reality of China, and the development of tourism will also indirectly affect the local industrial structure. Environmental regulation also mainly depends on the direct effect on carbon emission efficiency, and foreign direct investment will lead to the reduction of carbon emission efficiency in both direct and indirect aspects.

Based on these research findings, this study proposes several suggestions: Firstly, tourism affects carbon emission efficiency through environmental regulation and industrial structure. To strengthen environmental regulation, local governments should increase supervision over enterprises, improve environmental standards, and take strict actions against environmental violations. These measures can enhance carbon emission efficiency and accelerate urban green transformation. Secondly, considering the negative impact of foreign direct investment on carbon emission efficiency, local governments should carefully evaluate potential environmental problems when dealing with foreign investments. Preferably, eco-friendly foreign direct investments should be prioritized. Thirdly, the influence of tourism on carbon emission efficiency mainly depends on the direct effect. Therefore, in the process of tourism development, the goal of improving carbon emission efficiency should be integrated to promote the development of tourism in the direction of eco-tourism and green tourism.

The content of this study is to analyze the influence of tourism on carbon efficiency, using 31 tourist cities as case studies. It introduces mechanism that explains how tourism development impacts carbon emission efficiency through considerations of environmental regulation and industrial structure. Nonetheless, it is important to acknowledge that this study also has certain limitations when compared to previous research. Firstly although this study considers the impact of environmental regulations on carbon emission efficiency, it did not conduct an in-depth analysis of different dimensions of environmental regulations. It is worth noting that the intensity and enforcement of environmental regulations may have significant differences in their impact on carbon emission efficiency as highlighted by Lin et al. 45 . Therefore, it is suggested that future studies incorporate the intensity and enforcement of environmental regulations into the model. By doing so, a more accurate assessment can be made regarding their impact on carbon efficiency. Secondly, this study suggests a pathway for tourism development to have an impact on carbon emission efficiency by influencing industrial structure. However, it does not delve deeply into the specific methods of adjusting industrial structure. Ahmad et al. 12 have demonstrated that tourism's alternative impact on traditional manufacturing and high-carbon industries is a crucial approach to reducing carbon emissions. Future studies can potentially further analyze the contribution of tourism to the low-carbon transformation of industrial structure. Thirdly, this study suggests that FDI has a negative impact on carbon emission efficiency, but it does not fully discuss its potential positive effects. Zhang et al. 47 have found that foreign direct investment can introduce advanced environmental protection technology and management experience, thereby improving the city's carbon emission efficiency. Therefore, future studies should how to achieve a positive impact on carbon emission efficiency through policy guidance and optimization of FDI structure.

Data availability

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding authors.

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This research was supported by the Major Research Project of Philosophy and Social Sciences of Ministry of Education (23JZD019).

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Zhao, X., Li, T. & Duan, X. Studying tourism development and its impact on carbon emissions. Sci Rep 14 , 7463 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-58262-w

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Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a suggested framework for sustainable ecotourism

Qadar bakhsh baloch.

1 Abasyn University, Peshawar, Pakistan

Syed Naseeb Shah

Nadeem iqbal.

2 Air University School of Management, Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Muhammad Sheeraz

3 Department of Commerce, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan

Muhammad Asadullah

4 IBA, Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan

Sourath Mahar

5 University of Sialkot, Sialkot, Pakistan

Asia Umar Khan

6 Islamia College University Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan

Associated Data

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available on request.

The empirical research investigated the relationship between tourism development and environmental suitability to propose a framework for sustainable ecotourism. The framework suggested a balance between business and environmental interests in maintaining an ecological system with the moderating help of government support and policy interventions. The study population encompasses tourism stakeholders, including tourists, representatives from local communities, members of civil administration, hoteliers, and tour operators serving the areas. A total of 650 questionnaires were distributed to respondents, along with a brief description of key study variables to develop a better understanding. After verifying the instrument’s reliability and validity, data analysis was conducted via hierarchical regression. The study findings revealed that a substantial number of people perceive socio-economic benefits, including employment and business openings, infrastructure development from tourism development, and growth. However, the state of the natural and environmental capital was found to be gradually degrading. Alongside the social environment, social vulnerability is reported due to the overutilization of land, intrusion from external cultures, and pollution in air and water due to traffic congestion, accumulation of solid waste, sewage, and carbon emissions. The study suggested a model framework for the development of sustained ecotourism, including supportive government policy interventions to ensure effective conservation of environmental and natural resources without compromising the economic viability and social well-beings of the locals. Furthermore, the variables and the constructs researched can be replicated to other destinations to seek valuable inputs for sustainable destination management elsewhere.

Introduction

Tourism is a vibrant force that stimulates travel to explore nature, adventures, wonders, and societies, discover cultures, meet people, interact with values, and experience new traditions and events. Tourism development attracts tourists to a particular destination to develop and sustain a tourism industry. Moreover, environmental sustainability is the future-based conscious effort aimed at conserving socio-cultural heritage and preserving natural resources to protect environmental ecosystems through supporting people’s health and economic well-being. Environment sustainability can be reflected in clean and green natural landscaping, thriving biodiversity, virgin sea beaches, long stretches of desert steppes, socio-cultural values, and archeological heritage that epitomize tourists’ degree of motivation and willingness of the local community to welcome the visitors. In this context, tourism growth and environmental sustainability are considered interdependent constructs; therefore, the increase in tourism development and tourists’ arrivals directly affects the quality of sustained and green tourism (Azam et al. 2018 ; Hassan et al.  2020 ; Sun et al. 2021 ).

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries, contributing more than 10% to the global GDP (UNWTO 2017; Mikayilov et al. 2019 ). Twenty-five million international tourists in 1950 grew to 166 million in 1970, reaching 1.442 billion in 2018 and projected to be 1.8 billion by 2030. Mobilizing such a substantial human tourist’s mass is most likely to trickle environmental pollution along with its positive effects on employment, wealth creation, and the economy. The local pollution at tourist destinations may include air emissions, noise, solid waste, littering, sewage, oil and chemicals, architectural/visual pollution, heating, car use, and many more. In addition, an uncontrolled, overcrowded, and ill-planned tourist population has substantial adverse effects on the quality of the environment. It results in the over-consumption of natural resources, degradation of service quality, and an exponential increase in wastage and pollution. Furthermore, tourism arrivals beyond capacity bring problems rather than a blessing, such as leaving behind soil erosion, attrition of natural resources, accumulation of waste and air pollution, and endangering biodiversity, decomposition of socio-cultural habitats, and virginity of land and sea (Kostić et al. 2016 ; Shaheen et al. 2019 ; Andlib and Salcedo-Castro  2021 ).

Tourism growth and environmental pollution have been witnessed around the globe in different regions. The ASEAN countries referred to as heaven for air pollution, climate change, and global warming are experiencing economic tourism and pollution (Azam et al. 2018 ; Guzel and Okumus 2020 ). In China, more than fifty-eight major Chinese tourism destinations are inviting immediate policy measures to mitigate air pollution and improve environmental sustainability (Zhang et al. 2020 ). Similarly, Singapore, being a top-visited country, is facing negative ecological footprints and calling for a trade-off between tourism development and environmental sustainability (Khoi et al. 2021 ). The prior studies established that international tourism and the tourism-led growth surge tourists’ arrival, energy consumption, carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions, and air pollution resultantly cause climate change (Aslan et al. 2021 ). South Asian countries, more specifically Sri Lanka and Pakistan, are on the verge of tourism growth and environmental pollution compared to other countries (Chishti et al. 2020 ; Tiwari et al. 2021 ).

Pakistan is acknowledged in the tourism world because of its magnificent mountains with the densest concentration of high peaks in the world, scenic beauty of Neelum Valley, Murree, Chitral, and swat Valleys’, Kaghan, Naran, Hunza, Gilgit Baltistan (Baloch 2007 ), sacred shrines of Sikhism, archeological sites of the Gandhara and Indus Valley civilizations such as Mohenjo-Daro, Taxila including pre-Islamic Kalasha community (Baloch and Rehman 2015 ). In addition, Pakistan’s hospitable and multicultural society offers rich traditions, customs, and festivals for the tourists to explore, commemorate, cherish, and enjoy. Pakistan’s geographical and socio-cultural environment represents its resource and an opportunity (Baloch and Rehman 2015 ); therefore, Pakistan is looking to capitalize on it as a promising source of the foreign reserve to compensate for its mounting trade deficit (Baloch et al. 2020 ).

Tourism expansion has been established as a very deleterious ecological cost vis-à-vis the socio-economic benefits it passes to the host communities (Pulido-Fernández et al. 2019 ; Simo-Kengne 2022 ). In this context, the research is motivated to investigate the relationships between Pakistan’s tourism development activities and environmental sustainability. Drawing from the arguments of Pulido-Fernández et al. ( 2019 ) and Simo-Kengne ( 2022 ), it is feared that Pakistan’s ongoing determination to tourism development is likely to cause environmental degradation in two ways. Firstly, the tourism infrastructure developmental process would consume natural resources in the form of air and water pollution, loss of nature, and biodiversity. Secondly, the proliferation of tourism-related energy-consuming activities harms the environment by adding CO 2  emissions (Andlib and Saceldo-Castro 2021 ; Chien et al. 2021a ). Therefore, to tape this tourism-rich potential without compromising the sustainability of the natural and socio-cultural environment in the area, there is a dire need to develop Pakistan’s tourism areas into environment-friendly destinations.

Against the backdrop of a widening level of trade deficit, Pakistan’s rich tourism potential is being perceived as an immediate alternative for earning revenue to compensate for the current account gap. However, the developing large-scale tourism industry is considered a threat to deforestation, and air and water pollution, endangering biodiversity trading on resilient ecological credentials. The research study attempts to find an all-inclusive and comprehensive answer to the socio-ecological environmental concerns of tourism development and growth. Therefore, the research investigates the relationship between tourism development and its environmental sustainability to suggest a model framework for the development and growth of Sustainable Ecotourism in Pakistan along with its most visited destinations.

Literature review

Tourism development and growth.

Tourism is considered a force of sound as it benefits travelers and communities in urban and suburban areas. Tourism development is the process of forming and sustaining a business for a particular or mix of segments of tourists’ as per their motivation in a particular area or at a specific destination. Primarily, tourism development refers to the all-encompassing process of planning, pursuing, and executing strategies to establish, develop, promote, and encourage tourism in a particular area or destination (Mandić et al. 2018 ; Ratnasari et al. 2020 ). A tourism destination may serve as a single motivation for a group of tourists or a mix of purposes, i.e., natural tourism, socio-cultural or religious tourism, adventure or business tourism, or a combination of two or more. Andlib and Salcedo-Castro ( 2021 ), drawing from an analysis approach, contended that tourism destinations in Pakistan offer a mix of promising and negative consequences concerning their socio-economic and environmental impressions on the host community. The promising socio-economic impacts for the local community are perceived in the form of employment and business opportunities, improved standard of living, and infrastructural development in the area. The adverse environmental outcomes include overcrowding, traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, environmental degradation, and encroachment of landscaping for the local community and the tourists. An extensive review of the literature exercise suggests the following benefits that the local community and the tourists accrue from the tour are as follows:

  • Generate revenue and monetary support for people and the community through local arts and culture commercialization.
  • Improve local resource infrastructure and quality of life, including employment generation and access to improved civic facilities.
  • Help to create awareness and understanding of different ethnic cultures, social values, and traditions, connecting them and preserving cultures.
  • Rehabilitate and conserve socio-cultural and historical heritage, including archeological and natural sites.
  • Establishment of natural parks, protracted areas, and scenic beauty spots.
  • Conservation of nature, biodiversity, and endangered species with control over animal poaching.
  • Improved water and air quality through afforestation, littering control, land and soil conservation, and recycling of used water and waste.

Tourism and hospitality business incorporates various business activities such as travel and transportation through the air or other modes of travel, lodging, messing, restaurants, and tourism destinations (Szpilko 2017 ; Bakhriddinovna and Qizi 2020 ). A tourist’s tourism experience is aimed at leisure, experiencing adventure, learning the culture or history of a particular area or ethnic entity, traveling for business or health, education, or religious purposes. The chain of activities adds value to the Tourism experience. Every activity contributes toward economic stimulation, job creation, revenue generation, and tourism development encompassing infrastructure for all activities involved in the tourism process. Tourism growth expresses the number of arrivals and the time of their stay/trips over a period of time. Tourism growth is measured through the interplay between tourists’ arrivals, tourism receipts, and travel time duration (Song et al. 2010 ; Arifin et al. 2019 ). The following factors drive the degree and level of tourism development and growth:

  • Environmental factors include scenic beauty, green spaces, snowy mountains, towering peaks, good climate and weather, the interconnectivity of destination, quality of infrastructure, etc.
  • Socio-economic factors: the distinctiveness of community, uniqueness of culture and social values, hospitality and adaptability, accessibility, accommodation, facilities and amenities, cost-effectiveness, price index, and enabling business environment.
  • Historical, cultural, and religious factors include historical and cultural heritage, religious sites, and cultural values and experiences.

The tourism development process and its different dynamics revolve around the nature of tourism planned for a particular destination or area, which can be specified as ecotourism, sustainable tourism, green tourism or regenerative tourism, etc. Ecotourism is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (Cheia, 2013 ; TIES, 2015). According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), ecotourism involves “ Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past, and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples ”. Moreover, Blangy and Wood ( 1993 ) defined it as “ responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people ” (p. 32). The concept of ecotourism is grounded upon a well-defined set of principles including “environmental conservation and education, cultural preservation and experience, and economic benefits” (Cobbinah 2015 ; De Grosbois and Fennell 2021 ).

Ecotourism minimizes tourism’s impact on the tourism resources of a specific destination, including lessening physical, social, interactive, and psychosomatic impacts. Ecotourism is also about demonstrating a positive and responsible attitude from the tourists and hosts toward protecting and preserving all components of the environmental ecosystem. Ecotourism reflects a purpose-oriented mindset, responsible for creating and delivering value for the destination with a high degree of kindliness for local environmental, political, or social issues. Ecotourism generally differs from mass tourism because of its following features (Liang et al. 2018 ; Ding and Cao 2019 ; Confente and Scarpi 2021 ):

  • Conscientious behavior focuses on the low impact on the environment.
  • Sensitivity and warmth for local cultures, values, and biodiversity.
  • Supporting the sustenance of efforts for the conservation of local resources.
  • Sharing and delivering tourism benefits to the local communities.
  • Local participation as a tourism stakeholder in the decision-making process.
  • Educating the tourist and locals about the sensitivity and care of the environment because tourism without proper arrangement can endanger the ecosystems and indigenous cultures and lead to significant ecological degradation.

Sustainability aims to recognize all impacts of tourism, minimize the adverse impacts, and maximize the encouraging ones. Sustainable tourism involves sustainable practices to maintain viable support for the ecology of the tourism environment in and around the destination. Sustainable tourism is natural resource-based tourism that resembles ecotourism and focuses on creating travel openings with marginal impact and encouraging learning about nature having a low impact, conservation, and valuable consideration for the local community’s well-being (Fennell 2001 & 2020 ; Butowski 2021 ). On the other hand, ecotourism inspires tourists to learn and care about the environment and effectively participate in the conservation of nature and cultural activities. Therefore, ecotourism is inclusive of sustainable tourism, whereas the focus of sustainable tourism includes the following responsibilities:

  • Caring, protecting, and conserving the environment, natural capital, biodiversity, and wildlife.
  • Delivering socio-economic welfare for the people living in and around tourists' destinations.
  • Identifying, rehabilitating, conserving, and promoting cultural and historical heritage for visitors learning experiences.
  • Bringing tourists and local groups together for shared benefits.
  • Creating wide-ranging and reachable opportunities for tourists.

Environment and sustainability of ecosystem

The term “environment” is all-inclusive of all the natural, organic living, inorganic, and non-natural things. The environment also denotes the interface among all breathing species with the natural resources and other constituents of the environment. Humans’ activities are mainly responsible for environmental damage as people and nations have contemplated modifying the environment to suit their expediencies. Deforestation, overpopulation, exhaustion of natural capital, and accumulation of solid waste and sewage are the major human activities that result in polluted air and water, acid rain, amplified carbon dioxide levels, depletion of the ozone, climate change, global warming, extermination of species, etc. A clean, green, and hygienic fit environment has clean air, clean water, clean energy, and moderate temperature for the healthy living of humans, animals, and biodiversity as nature is destined for them by their creatures. Maintaining and sustaining a clean environment is indispensable for human and biodiversity existence, fostering growth and development for conducting business and creating wealth. The environment can be sustained through conservation, preservation, and appropriate management to provide clean air, water, and food safe from toxic contamination, waste, and sewage disposal, saving endangered species and land conservation.

The globalization process, known for building socio-economic partnerships across countries, is also charged with encouraging environmental degradation through the over-consumption of natural resources and energy consumption, deforestation, land erosion, and weakening (Adebayo and Kirikkaleli 2021 ; Sun et al. 2021 ). Chien et al. ( 2021b ), while studying the causality of environmental degradation in Pakistan, empirically confirmed the existence of a significant connection between CO 2  emissions and GDP growth, renewable energy, technological innovation, and globalization. However, Chien et al. ( 2021a ) suggested using solar energy as a source of economic intervention to control CO 2  emissions and improve environmental quality in China. The danger of air pollution is hard to escape as microscopic air pollutants pierce through the human respiratory and cardiovascular system, injuring the lungs, heart, and brain. Ill-planned and uncontrolled human activities negatively affect ecosystems, causing climate change, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, habitation loss, eutrophication, air pollution, contaminants, and extinction of endangered species ( Albrich et al. 2020 ) .

Humans have a more significant effect on their physical environment in numerous ways, such as pollution, contamination, overpopulation, deforestation, burning fossil fuels and driving to soil erosion, polluting air and water quality, climate change, etc. UNO Agenda for 2030 “Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) mirrors the common premise that a healthy environment and human health are interlaced as integral to the satisfaction of fundamental human rights, i.e., right to life, well-being, food, water and sanitation, quality of life and biodiversity to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (SDG3)—which includes air quality that is dependent upon terrestrial ecosystems (SDG15), oceans (SDG14), cities (SDG11), water, cleanliness, and hygiene (SDG6) (Swain 2018 ; Opoku 2019 ; Scharlemann et al. 2020 ). The UNEP stated that 58% of diarrhea cases in developing economies is due to the non-provision of clean water and inadequate sanitation facilities resulting in 3.5 million deaths globally (Desai 2016 ; Ekins and Gupta 2019 ).

Climate change overwhelmingly alters ecosystems’ ability to moderate life-threatening happenings, such as maintaining water quality, regulating water flows, unbalancing the temporal weather and maintaining glaciers, displacing or extinction biodiversity, wildfire, and drought (Zhu et al. 2019 ; Marengo et al. 2021 ). Research studies advocate that exposure to natural environments is correlated with mental health, and proximity to green space is associated with lowering stress and minimizing depression and anxiety (Noordzij et al. 2020 ; Slater et al. 2020 ; Callaghan et al. 2021 ). Furthermore, the Ecosystem is affected by pollution, over-exploitation of natural resources, climate change, invasive and displacing species, etc. Hence, providing clean air and water, hygienic places, and green spaces enriches the quality of life: condensed mortality, healthier value-added productivity, and is vital to maintaining mental health. On the other hand, climate change aggravates environment-related health hazards through adverse deviations to terrestrial ecology, oceans, biodiversity, and access to fresh and clean water.

Tourism development denotes all activities linked with creating and processing facilities providing services for the tourists on and around a destination. Infrastructure development is vital for developing a tourism destination to advance tourists’ living conditions and preserve natural and cultural heritage by constructing new tourist facilities, the destinations administrative and supporting echelons, including community living, etc. Development for tourism infrastructure and land use often burdens natural capital through over-consumption, leading to soil erosion, augmented pollution, loss of natural habitats, and endangered species. Development of tourism infrastructure and construction work has profound implications on environmental degradation, reduction in green spaces, deforestation, solid waste and sewage, overutilization of air and water, emission of CO 2 and other gases contributing to air and water pollution, climate change, loss and displacement of biodiversity, and the degradation of ecosystems. These negative consequences of tourism development result in many problems for the tourists and the indigenous people in the foreseeable future (Azam et al. 2018 ; Hoang et al. 2020 ).

A report published by UNEP titled “Infrastructure for climate action” has suggested governments introduce sustainable infrastructure as the prevailing one is responsible for causing 79% of all greenhouse gas emissions in struggling climate change, alleviation, and adaptation efforts. Sustainable infrastructure signifies that structures’ planning, construction, and functioning do not weaken the social, economic, and ecological systems (UNEP 2021 ; Krampe 2021 ). Sustainable infrastructure is the only solution that ensures societies, nature, and the environment flourish together. Therefore, Sustainable Ecotourism supports adapting pro-environment and nature-based climate change strategies that help resilient biodiversity and ecosystem to impact climate change. The proposed strategy is to focus on the conservation and restoration of ecosystems to combat climate hazards, fluctuating rainfalls, soil erosion, temperature variations, floods, and extreme wind storms (Niedziółka 2014 ; Setini 2021 )

Pakistan’s tourism infrastructure suffered a colossal amount of damage during the earthquake of October 8, 2005, which left widespread demolition and destruction to its human, economic assets, and infrastructure networks, especially in Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's tourism areas. The tourism-related infrastructure, including hotels, destination facilities of social service delivery and commerce, water channels, and communications networks, were either drained or virtually destroyed. The destruction in the aftermath of the earthquake was further added by the war against terror in tourism-hit areas, resulting in the redundancy of tourists and tourism facilities for a long time (Akbar et al. 2017 ; Zakaria and Ahmed 2019 ). The tourism revival activities during the post-earth quack, post-terrorism scenario, and COVID-19 period called for various entrepreneurial activities, including the construction of infrastructure, hotels, road networks, community living, etc. Development and reconstruction of the livelihood and hospitality infrastructure through entrepreneurship were undertaken intensively through a public-private partnership from national and international findings (Qamar and Baloch 2017 ; Sadiq 2021 ; Dogar et al. 2021 ).

The revival and reinvigoration of infrastructure in tourism areas were backed up by extensive deforestation, use of local green land, rebuilding of the road network, displacement of biodiversity, and overtaxing the consumption of water and other natural resources. The deforestation, extensive use of green land, and over-consumption of water and other natural resources have depleted the tourism value of the area on the one hand and degraded the environment on the other. However, it was the focused rehabilitation activities of earthquake and Pakistan’s Government’s socio-environment conservation strategy of the Billion Trees plantation program in the province, including dominating tourism areas. The afforestation and loss of green tops are being reclaimed through these efforts, and the tourism environment is soon expected to regenerate (Qamar and Baloch 2017 ; Rauf et al. 2019 ; Siddiqui and Siddiqui 2019 ).

Government support and policy interventions

Tourism generates wide-ranging benefits for the economy, community, and people. Tourism contributes to the economy through revenue generation and shares responsibility with the Government to alleviate poverty alleviation, create opportunities for job placements, protect environments, and conserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity. It is assumed that if the tourism industry is left to its own, it will most likely prefer its business interests over environments or biodiversity. Governments, custodians of the life and well-being of their subjects, are directly responsible for providing a clean environment, nature, and Ecosystem. Therefore, national and local governments are responsible for preparing and implementing tourism development plans and enforcing values and standards for tourism development in conformity with the prerequisites of environmental sustainability. Through institutional governance, governments help tourism development by providing financial and budgetary support, regulatory framework, land, physical resources, infrastructure, etc. Provision and facilitation for Sustainability of Ecotourism and conservation of environment and biodiversity are dependent upon Government-supported interventions as follows:

  • The regulatory framework for setting up tourism-related entrepreneurship and quality standards can support ecotourism and prevent environmental degradation on any account.
  • Provision of budgetary support for ecosystem conservation and regeneration of bio-diversity-related projects.
  • Plan, rehabilitate if needed, promote conservation and protection of socio-cultural, historic, antique, and natural endowments in coordination with other public and private agencies, and deal with the defaulters, if any.
  • Promoting and undertaking afforestation alongside land conservation and discouraging deforestation, soil erosion, accumulation of solid waste, littering, and any direct or indirect loss or threat to biodiversity.
  • Setting restrictions for over-tourism beyond capacity and quality standards for transportation, restaurants, hotels, food and drinking water, etc.
  • Placing enforcement mechanism necessary to ensure application of the regulatory framework and quality standards applicable along with all activities inclusive to the Ecotourism value chain.

Theoretical support and hypothesis development

According to the social disruption theory, rapidly expanding societies usually experience a period of widespread crisis and a loss of their conventional routines and attitudes. The crisis impacts people whose mental health, worldviews, behavioral patterns, and social networks may all be impacted (Çalişkan and Özer 2021 ). According to the social disruption theory, fast community change brought on by population growth will result in a variety of social issues that are signs of a generally disorganized community (Smith et al. 2001 ). Because some types of tourism communities experience rapid expansion accompanied by intensive development and rapid social change over a relatively short period of time, they seem to be great settings for studying various postulations of the social disruption theory.

Place change and social disruption theory are closely connected. According to this assumption, when a community undergoes fast expansion, it tends to experience a generalized crisis that might culminate in several social issues as changes spread throughout the community and among individuals (Rasoolimanesh et al. 2019 ). Place change can result from fundamental community restructuring due to economic development, new class divides, and migration of both long-term and temporary people (Nelson 2001 ). Social unrest, though, is not enduring. Instead, it is transitory; societies gradually adjust to these changes (Deery et al.  2012 ).

The standard of living may initially deteriorate, but due to the adaptability of people and communities, they will gradually reinvigorate and strengthen themselves accordingly. Furthermore, the social disruption proposition reinforces one of the challenges in analyzing the effects of tourism, particularly in emerging nations, since it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the effects of tourism and the overall ongoing development (Park and Stokowski 2009 ) (Fig. ​ (Fig.1 1 ).

  • Tourism development and growth significantly affect natural environment resources.
  • Tourism development and growth significantly affect environmental pollution.
  • Tourism development and growth significantly affect the physical ecosystem of the environment.
  • Tourism development and growth significantly affect the socio-cultural environment.
  • Tourism development and growth significantly affect the economic environment of people and the community.
  • Government policy and support significantly moderate the relationship between tourism development and growth and the environmental factors.

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Conceptual framework

Methodology

The study aimed to investigate the association of tourism development and its impact on environmental factors. Therefore, a survey method was employed to collect data by including all the relevant people in the locality. The study is based on stakeholders’ opinions from Pakistan’s most visited tourist areas, including Murree, Swat, Chitral, Naran, Kaghan, Neelum Valley, Malam Jabba, Ayubia, and Nathia Gali. A total of 650 stakeholders were contacted from the above-mentioned tourist destinations through survey. The distribution of the sample is mentioned in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Sample configuration

Field survey—2021

Using quantitative techniques, hierarchical linear regression analysis was employed to investigate the possible relationships between tourism growth and various dimensions of environmental sustainability. The results below reveal that tourism development translates into environmental deterioration, and the relationship between tourism and environmental sustainability is bidirectional.

Tourism growth and development were measured through a five-item scale. The environment was measured through 16 items combined scale with sub-dimensions; depletion of Natural Resources=3 items, Polluting Environment=3 items, Physical Effects on Ecosystem=4 items, Socio-Cultural Degradation=3 items, and Economic Environment=3-items. Similarly, our moderating variable, Government Interventions and Support, was measured using a 5-item scale. Table ​ Table2 2 below presents the details of the instruments.

Instrument reliability

Analysis and results

Data were analyzed using SPSS Version 26. It includes correlation, linear regression, and stepwise hierarchal regression analysis.

Table ​ Table3 3 above shows that our Tourism Growth and Development has significant and positive relationship with Polluting Environment ( r = 0.20**), Physical Effects on Ecosystem ( r = 0.19**), Depletion of Natural Resource ( r = 0.24**), Socio-Cultural Degradation ( r = 0.18**). However, Tourism Growth and Development has positive relationship with Economic Environment ( r = 0.29**) and Government Interventions and Support ( r = 0.13**).

Correlation matrix

* p  < 0.05; ** p  < 0.01

Results of linear regression analysis at Table ​ Table4 4 above depict that tourism growth and development predicts 4.1% variance in Depletion of Natural Resources ( β = 0.20, p <0.01), 3.9% variance in pollution ( β = 0.19, p <0.01), 6% variance in Physical Effects on Ecosystem ( β = 0.24, p <0.01), 3.6% variance in Socio-Cultural Degradation ( β = 0.18, p <0.01), and 8.8% variance in Economic Environment ( β = 0.29, p <0.01).

Regression analysis for H1–H5

** p  < 0.01

The study analyzes the applied two-step hierarchal regression. In the first step, Tourism Growth and Government Interventions were treated as independent variables, and their significant impact was measured. In the second step, the interaction term Tourism and Growth× Government Interventions was added, and its impact was measured. The results suggest that Government Interventions and Support moderate the relationship between Tourism Growth and the Environmental variables (Table ​ (Table5 5 ).

Moderation analysis

* p  < 0.05;** p  < 0.01

The study has reported unique findings regarding tourism and its environmental impacts. We found that tourism growth and development generate economic activity on the one hand. However, it has specific adverse environmental and socio-cultural outcomes on the other hand as well. Our study revealed that tourism growth and development predict a 4.1% variance in Depletion of Natural Resources ( β = 0.202*, p <0.01). This suggests that due to the expansion of tourism in the country, natural resources are continuously depleted to meet the needs of tourists. Studies also supported our findings and suggested that revival and reinvigoration of infrastructure in tourism areas were backed up by extensive deforestation, use of local green land, rebuilding of the road network, displacement of biodiversity, and overtaxing the consumption of water and other natural resources (Qamar and Baloch 2017 ; Sadiq 2021 ; Dogar et al. 2021 ). The prior studies are consistent with our hypothesis that “tourism development and growth significantly affect natural environment resources.”

We further found that tourism growth and development predict a 3.9% variance in pollution ( β = 0.198*, p <0.01), suggesting that tourism expansion may pollute the natural environment. Furthermore, recent national statistics depict that major human activities at local tourism destinations such as Kalam, Sawat, Muree, and Northern Areas have accumulated solid waste and sewage, resulting in polluted air and water. Further, research also suggests that the overflow of tourists to tourist destinations may adversely affect the environment due to human activities (Noordzij et al. 2020 ; Slater et al. 2020 ; Andlib and Salcedo-Castro  2021 ; Callaghan et al. 2021 ). Thus, it is safe to argue that the growth of tourism has a particularly detrimental effect on the environment. These findings also support our hypothesis, “Tourism development and growth significantly contribute to environmental pollution.”

The results reported that tourism growth and development predict a 6% variance in Physical Effects on the Ecosystem ( β = 0.245*, p <0.01). Studies have reported that deforestation and alteration in species’ natural environment for tourism facilities construction may adversely affect environmental health (Kuvan, 2010 ; Azam et al. 2018 ; Hoang et al. 2020 ; Andlib and Salcedo-Castro  2021 ). During post-terrorism and post-Covid-19 times in Pakistan, millions of local tourists moved to popular tourist destinations that required new infrastructure to accommodate these tourists. Consequently, colossal deforestation and other detrimental human activities have negatively affected ecosystem. These findings also support our hypothesis that tourism development and growth significantly affect the physical ecosystem of the environment.

The study reported a total of 3.6% variance in socio-cultural degradation ( β = 0.189*, p <0.01) due to tourism growth and development. These findings suggest that tourism’s growth and development may lead the inhabitants to imitate the foreign tourists regarding their living standards, which may endanger their traditional culture. Thus, our hypothesis that “tourism development and growth significantly affect the socio-cultural environment” is confirmed.

Further, it was found that tourism growth and development predict an 8.8% variance in the economic environment ( β = 0.297*, p <0.01). It is established from the literature that tourism growth and development generate economic activity in the country. Development projects such as the construction of infrastructure, hotels, and road networks generate economic activity to facilitate international and indigenous tourists, positively affecting the community’s living standard (Baloch et al. 2020 ). Thus, our hypothesis, “tourism development and growth significantly affect economic environment of people and community,” is confirmed.

Due to tourism growth and development, our study reported a 1.8% variance in Government Support and Interventions ( β = .133*, p <0.01). However, more recently, the Government of Pakistan has devised specific interventions that may help curb the adverse impacts of detrimental environmental factors. For example, developmental schemes such as the Billion Trees Plantation drive and Road-Infrastructure Network Development under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative may prove moderators to curb the negative impacts of tourism growth on the environment (Qamar and Baloch 2017 ; Rauf et al. 2019 ; Siddiqui and Siddiqui 2019 ). Therefore, the hypothesis, Government policy and support, significantly moderates the relationship between tourism development and growth with the environment is confirmed based on these findings.

Suggested model for ecotourism framework

Through its detailed review of existing literature, prevailing tourism policies, and empirical inputs from the stakeholders’ perspectives, the study has identified a wide range of obstacles limiting the development and growth of ecotourism in Pakistan. The study suggests National Tourism Management authorities carefully invest in ecotourism destination’s planning and development in coordination with the environment development agency. The suggested model for ecotourism framework is initially meant for the tourism destinations specifically designated for ecotourism. However, selected points can also be extended to the quality management parameters set for the National Parks, Conservation and Protracted Areas, Museums, National or International event sites, etc. The national tourism authorities are to lay particular emphasis in their forthcoming National Tourism Policy on the development and promotion of Sustainable Ecotourism having, with focus on the following key areas:

  • Identify and classify four to five ecotourism destinations, including ecotourism-centered activities of value chains for priority development, which are administratively possible within budgetary constraints. However, the development plan shall consider the integral benefits of other developmental schemes such as the Billion Trees Plantation drive, Road-Infrastructure Network Development under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative, International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) programs in the area.
  • While staying within the alignment of UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) calling for ‘environmental sustainability’ and the development vision of each designated destination, the Tourists Management System shall take into cognizance of issues like managing capacity of the place, quality parameters for the conservation of the environment, and allowable activities thereof.
  • Identify degenerated destinations of religious, socio-cultural, or historical significance for their rehabilitation under the Regenerated tourism program.
  • i. To deflect the tourist pressure upon these destinations, the potential tourists from nearby cities and metropolitan areas be provided with nearby alternative destinations for leisure tourism as stay-tourism sites.
  • ii. To prevent the environment from air pollution, the traffic load on the destination be curtailed through an effective traffic management strategy, provision of off-destination parking for combustion engine vehicles, and encouraging electric driven or hybrid vehicles for nearby parking.
  • iii. Provision of clean drinking water through public infiltration plants, public toilets, solid waste carriers, and recycling of sewage and used water is recommended in the most visited areas of the destination.
  • iv. Signposting at appropriate places, giving social messages encouraging to maintain cleanliness, avoid littering, ensure nature conservation, and humility toward biodiversity.
  • Develop all-inclusive, comprehensive execution plans to expedite the investments for the sustainable ecotourism, encouraging public–private cooperation, community involvement, and infrastructure mapping guaranteeing environmental conservation and safeguards.
  • Develop and place on the ground an all-inclusive program of capacity building for sustainable ecotourism, regenerative and green tourism services.
  • Develop and launch Pakistan tourism profile and Sustaining Ecotourism obligatory framework “to promote tourism on the one hand and nurture conscious ecological behavior among the potential tourists of the area”.
  • In order to fetch local ownership for the ecotourism center developments, all efforts shall be made to share the socio-economic benefits integral to the development scheme with the local population for community development.
  • As part of the destination management planning, identify complementary value chains and livelihood activities that could be developed as part of the overall ecotourism destination package.
  • i. Setting new quality standards facilitating the promotion of ecotourism and environmental sustainability through acts of various bodies operating in the Ecotourism value chain, such as:
  • Revision of Private hotels Management Act (1976) and Tourists Operators Act (1976) alongside introduction and promulgation of a new “Tourism Destination Management Act” incorporating new quality standards as of today.
  • Promulgating laws to make all new construction/development projects responsible from any agency in the area, incorporating quality standards needed for environmental sustainability, and promoting ecotourism.
  • Set measures for the preservation of the local biodiversity and preservation of endangered species, including seeking support from internationally active environment conservation agencies, declaring local hunting illegal, introducing licensing programs for hunting of certain selected animals/ birds on the payment of a handsome amount to be used for the welfare of the local community.
  • Create awareness programs against deforestation, land conservation, and biodiversity, and maintain cleanliness, inculcating a culture of respecting and enjoying nature instead of spoiling it.

Conclusion, implications, and limitations of the study

The study premise was based on the contention that sustenance of ecotourism focuses on the economic viability of the business interests alongside the conservation and preservation of natural ecosystems, including ethical fairness to the socio-cultural environment of the host community. Ecotourism is a phenomenon that contributes to environmental sustainability through well-planned and careful destination management capable of balancing conflicting interests of business growth and environmental sustainability. Tourism-environment paradox suggests that the sustainability and survival of both are dependent upon the flourishing mode of each other. Quality of environment and sustainability of bio-ecosystem stimulates tourists’ arrivals and over-tourism beyond capacity with irresponsible behavior from tourists negatively influencing the environment and harming the ecosystem of nature. Ecotourism is not inevitably sustainable unless it is economically sustainable and environmentally maintainable besides being socio-culturally acceptable. Socio-culturally intolerable ecotourism means the activity which does not benefit locals and their socio-cultural values. Hence, the study concludes that ecotourism has to positively interplay between economy, environment, and culture without compromising one over others. The pursuit of sustainable ecotourism is not an end in meeting the little comforts of the business interests but rather a means to end the sustainability issues created due to ill-conceived tourism development and unmanageable growth.

Practical implications

Drawing from the findings and conclusions of the research, the study extends the following practical implications for effectively managing the process of tourism development and environmental sustainability in line with the dictates of the philosophy behind ecotourism:

  • Paradoxically tourism necessitates ecological capitals as primary ingredients for the creation of tourism experiences on the one hand. However, it is also contingent upon the conservation and preservation of ecological integrity on the other. The study suggests that unbalancing this “resource paradox” results in the harshness and tenacity of adversarial climate change, natural calamities, environmental pollution, and endangered biodiversity.
  • The research findings and the suggested framework for ecotourism imply that sustainable ecotourism principles-based planning is mandatory for destination management to assure effective trade-off between the business interests’ sustainability of the environmental ecosystem.
  • Tourism development and growth shall be steered through ecotourism principles as its sustainable model offers enduring social, environmental and economic, ecological integrity, and social and cultural benefits for the local community. Therefore, ecotourism is a recipe for preventing environmental degradation and guarantees sustainability of ecosystems nature and its biodiversity. Hence, ecotourism shall stand central priority focus for strategic management to nurture quality experiences from sustainable tourism.
  • To revive back the sustainability of the environment, in the areas where over-tourism has degraded the environment, schemes for regenerated tourism shall be immediately launched to mitigate the negative footprints on the sustainability of destinations, including reinforcing protracted conservation sites, biodiversity, and recouping endangered species, afforestation drives, recycling of water and solid waste, refurnishing of landscaping, preservation, and rehabilitation of cultural heritage and refurbishing of depleted infrastructure accordingly. Furthermore, to regenerate and sustain the tourism infrastructure of the destinations experiencing over-tourism, capacity building measures like capacity, recycling of water and solid waste, preventive measures to control air and water pollution, traffic control management, and spread of entertainment facilities shall be the focus of the regeneration plans.
  • The study implies that government authorities and policymakers have a special role in placing their moderating intervention in terms of policy guidelines, regulatory framework, and budgetary support, provision of inter-organizational synergy in planning and implementation of ecotourism strategies, protection of environmental resource base and conservation of natural and biological ecosystem, sustenance of socio-cultural value of local community over and above their economic and social well-being/quality life for the long run.
  • The study also implies that public and private policymakers lay down threshold criteria for responsible travel and tourism standards for destination management and its related supply chain. The laid criterion would facilitate management in nurturing “responsible behavior” to plan, protect, conserve, preserve, and sustain natural and cultural resources and responsible socio-economic development without compromising the sustainability of the environment and long-term well-being of the hoist community. The deep-seated adherence to social responsibility protocols by the tourism supply chain network can significantly increase the capacity of tourism destinations and improve the conscious awareness of green consumers along the tourism supply chain. Furthermore, the consciously responsible behavior among stakeholders and legislatures can strike a needed balance between the business interests and environments in favor of sustainability of socio-cultural, economic, and natural capital.
  • The study elucidates that responsible behavior necessitates purpose-built eco-friendly infrastructure and policy parameters to support the sustainability of environments across destinations. The strategic planning aligned with the sustainability-focused objectives dictates the need for artistic, innovative, and talented people and quality intuitions in harnessing quality tourism services and responsible tourism behavior. Furthermore, the study encourages community involvement in the developmental process, enactment of structural policies, preservation of socio-cultural heritage, and conservation of natural biodiversity as it would foster emotional bondage between the people of the host community and the tourism undertakings. Therefore, community and value chain managers shall collaborate to maximize the perceived benefits of responsible tourism while developing cultural exchanges and planning opportunities for leisure and tourism.
  • Regulatory measures help offset negative impacts; for instance, controls on the number of tourist activities and movement of visitors within protected areas can limit impacts on the ecosystem and help maintain the integrity and vitality of the site. Limits should be established after an in-depth analysis of the maximum sustainable visitor capacity. Furthermore, the variables and the constructs researched can be replicated to other destinations to seek valuable inputs for sustainable destination management elsewhere.

Study limitation

Besides the functional, practical applications, the study has some limitations. Besides having integral disadvantages of cross-sectional research, the respondents selected for the study were visitors on peak days with the highest tourist arrivals, thereby having experiences of a higher degree of environmental pollution and natural disorder. Furthermore, the research is limited to stakeholders’ perspectives instead of any scientifically generated data or mathematical or econometric model.

Author contribution

QBB: conceptualization, methodology, writing—original draft. SNS: data curation and supervision. NI: visualization, editing, proofreading. MS: review and editing. MA: review and editing. SM: editing, data curation. AUK: review and editing.

Data availability

Declarations.

The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose. We also declare that we do not have human participants, data, or tissue.

We do not have any person’s data in any form.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Publisher's note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Contributor Information

Qadar Bakhsh Baloch, Email: moc.liamg@bqhcolabrd .

Syed Naseeb Shah, Email: moc.liamtoh@hahs_beesan .

Nadeem Iqbal, Email: moc.oohay@1labqimeedanrd .

Muhammad Sheeraz, Email: [email protected] .

Muhammad Asadullah, Email: moc.liamg@apmdasa .

Sourath Mahar, Email: moc.oohay@mhtaros .

Asia Umar Khan, Email: kp.ude.pci@ramu-aisa .

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A Year Without Travel

For Planet Earth, No Tourism Is a Curse and a Blessing

From the rise in poaching to the waning of noise pollution, travel’s shutdown is having profound effects. Which will remain, and which will vanish?

impact of tourism development on environment

By Lisa W. Foderaro

For the planet, the year without tourists was a curse and a blessing.

With flights canceled, cruise ships mothballed and vacations largely scrapped, carbon emissions plummeted. Wildlife that usually kept a low profile amid a crush of tourists in vacation hot spots suddenly emerged. And a lack of cruise ships in places like Alaska meant that humpback whales could hear each other’s calls without the din of engines.

That’s the good news. On the flip side, the disappearance of travelers wreaked its own strange havoc, not only on those who make their living in the tourism industry, but on wildlife itself, especially in developing countries. Many governments pay for conservation and enforcement through fees associated with tourism. As that revenue dried up, budgets were cut, resulting in increased poaching and illegal fishing in some areas. Illicit logging rose too, presenting a double-whammy for the environment. Because trees absorb and store carbon, cutting them down not only hurt wildlife habitats, but contributed to climate change.

“We have seen many financial hits to the protection of nature,” said Joe Walston, executive vice president of global conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society. “But even where that hasn’t happened, in a lot of places people haven’t been able to get into the field to do their jobs because of Covid.”

From the rise in rhino poaching in Botswana to the waning of noise pollution in Alaska, the lack of tourism has had a profound effect around the world. The question moving forward is which impacts will remain, and which will vanish, in the recovery.

A change in the air

While the pandemic’s impact on wildlife has varied widely from continent to continent, and country to country, its effect on air quality was felt more broadly.

In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions last year fell more than 10 percent , as state and local governments imposed lockdowns and people stayed home, according to a report in January by the Rhodium Group, a research and consulting firm.

The most dramatic results came from the transportation sector, which posted a 14.7 percent decrease. It’s impossible to tease out how much of that drop is from lost tourism versus business travel. And there is every expectation that as the pandemic loosens its grip, tourism will resume — likely with a vengeance.

Still, the pandemic helped push American emissions below 1990 levels for the first time. Globally, carbon dioxide emissions fell 7 percent , or 2.6 billion metric tons, according to new data from international climate researchers. In terms of output, that is about double the annual emissions of Japan.

“It’s a lot and it’s a little,” said Jason Smerdon, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory . “Historically, it’s a lot. It’s the largest single reduction percent-wise over the last 100 years. But when you think about the 7 percent in the context of what we need to do to mitigate climate change, it’s a little.”

In late 2019, the United Nations Environment Program cautioned that global greenhouse gases would need to drop 7.6 percent every year between 2020 and 2030. That would keep the world on its trajectory of meeting the temperature goals set under the Paris Agreement, the 2016 accord signed by nearly 200 nations.

“The 7 percent drop last year is on par with what we would need to do year after year,” Dr. Smerdon said. “Of course we wouldn’t want to do it the same way. A global pandemic and locking ourselves in our apartments is not the way to go about this.”

Interestingly, the drop in other types of air pollution during the pandemic muddied the climate picture. Industrial aerosols, made up of soot, sulfates, nitrates and mineral dust, reflect sunlight back into space, thus cooling the planet. While their reduction was good for respiratory health, it had the effect of offsetting some of the climate benefits of cascading carbon emissions.

For the climate activist Bill McKibben , one of the first to sound the alarm about global warming in his 1989 book, “The End of Nature,” the pandemic underscored that the climate crisis won’t be averted one plane ride or gallon of gas at a time.

“We’ve come through this pandemic year when our lives changed more than any of us imagined they ever would,” Mr. McKibben said during a Zoom webinar hosted in February by the nonprofit Green Mountain Club of Vermont.

“Everybody stopped flying; everybody stopped commuting,” he added. “Everybody just stayed at home. And emissions did go down, but they didn’t go down that much, maybe 10 percent with that incredible shift in our lifestyles. It means that most of the damage is located in the guts of our systems and we need to reach in and rip out the coal and gas and oil and stick in the efficiency, conservation and sun and wind.”

Wildlife regroups

Just as the impact of the pandemic on air quality is peppered with caveats, so too is its influence on wildlife.

Animals slithered, crawled and stomped out of hiding across the globe, sometimes in farcical fashion. Last spring, a herd of Great Orme Kashmiri goats was spotted ambling through empty streets in Llandudno, a coastal town in northern Wales. And hundreds of monkeys — normally fed by tourists — were involved in a disturbing brawl outside of Bangkok, apparently fighting over food scraps.

In meaningful ways, however, the pandemic revealed that wildlife will regroup if given the chance. In Thailand, where tourism plummeted after authorities banned international flights, leatherback turtles laid their eggs on the usually mobbed Phuket Beach. It was the first time nests were seen there in years, as the endangered sea turtles, the largest in the world, prefer to nest in seclusion.

Similarly, in Koh Samui, Thailand’s second largest island, hawksbill turtles took over beaches that in 2018 hosted nearly three million tourists. The hatchlings were documented emerging from their nests and furiously moving their flippers toward the sea.

For Petch Manopawitr, a marine conservation manager of the Wildlife Conservation Society Thailand, the sightings were proof that natural landscapes can recover quickly. “Both Ko Samui and Phuket have been overrun with tourists for so many years,” he said in a phone interview. “Many people had written off the turtles and thought they would not return. After Covid, there is talk about sustainability and how it needs to be embedded in tourism, and not just a niche market but all kinds of tourism.”

In addition to the sea turtles, elephants, leaf monkeys and dugongs (related to manatees) all made cameos in unlikely places in Thailand. “Dugongs are more visible because there is less boat traffic,” Mr. Manopawitr said. “The area that we were surprised to see dugongs was the eastern province of Bangkok. We didn’t know dugongs still existed there.”

He and other conservationists believe that countries in the cross hairs of international tourism need to mitigate the myriad effects on the natural world, from plastic pollution to trampled parks.

That message apparently reached the top levels of the Thai government. In September, the nation’s natural resources and environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, said he planned to shutter national parks in stages each year, from two to four months. The idea, he told Bloomberg News , is to set the stage so that “nature can rehabilitate itself.”

An increase in poaching

In other parts of Asia and across Africa, the disappearance of tourists has had nearly the opposite result. With safari tours scuttled and enforcement budgets decimated, poachers have plied their nefarious trade with impunity. At the same time, hungry villagers have streamed into protected areas to hunt and fish.

There were reports of increased poaching of leopards and tigers in India, an uptick in the smuggling of falcons in Pakistan, and a surge in trafficking of rhino horns in South Africa and Botswana.

Jim Sano, the World Wildlife Fund’s vice president for travel, tourism and conservation, said that in sub-Saharan Africa, the presence of tourists was a powerful deterrent. “It’s not only the game guards,” he said. “It’s the travelers wandering around with the guides that are omnipresent in these game areas. If the guides see poachers with automatic weapons, they report it.”

In the Republic of Congo, the Wildlife Conservation Society has noticed an increase in trapping and hunting in and around protected areas. Emma J. Stokes, regional director of the Central Africa program for the organization, said that in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, monkeys and forest antelopes were being targeted for bushmeat.

“It’s more expensive and difficult to get food during the pandemic and there is a lot of wildlife up there,” she said by phone. “We obviously want to deter people from hunting in the park, but we also have to understand what’s driving that because it’s more complex.”

The Society and the Congolese government jointly manage the park, which spans 1,544 square miles of lowland rainforest — larger than Rhode Island. Because of the virus, the government imposed a national lockdown, halting public transportation. But the organization was able to arrange rides to markets since the park is considered an essential service. “We have also kept all 300 of our park staff employed,” she added.

Largely absent: the whir of propellers, the hum of engines

While animals around the world were subject to rifles and snares during the pandemic, one thing was missing: noise. The whir of helicopters diminished as some air tours were suspended. And cruise ships from the Adriatic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico were largely absent. That meant marine mammals and fish had a break from the rumble of engines and propellers.

So did research scientists. Michelle Fournet is a marine ecologist who uses hydrophones (essentially aquatic microphones) to listen in on whales. Although the total number of cruise ships (a few hundred) pales in comparison to the total number of cargo ships (tens of thousands), Dr. Fournet says they have an outsize role in creating underwater racket. That is especially true in Alaska, a magnet for tourists in search of natural splendor.

“Cargo ships are trying to make the most efficient run from point A to point B and they are going across open ocean where any animal they encounter, they encounter for a matter of hours,” she said. “But when you think about the concentration of cruise ships along coastal areas, especially in southeast Alaska, you basically have five months of near-constant vessel noise. We have a population of whales listening to them all the time.”

Man-made noise during the pandemic dissipated in the waters near the capital of Juneau, as well as in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve . Dr. Fournet, a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University, observed a threefold decrease in ambient noise in Glacier Bay between 2019 and 2020. “That’s a really big drop in noise,” she said, “and all of that is associated with the cessation of these cruise ships.”

Covid-19 opened a window onto whale sounds in Juneau as well. Last July, Dr. Fournet, who also directs the Sound Science Research Collective , a marine conservation nonprofit, had her team lower a hydrophone in the North Pass, a popular whale-watching destination. “In previous years,” she said, “you wouldn’t have been able to hear anything — just boats. This year we heard whales producing feeding calls, whales producing contact calls. We heard sound types that I have never heard before.”

Farther south in Puget Sound, near Seattle, whale-watching tours were down 75 percent last year. Tour operators like Jeff Friedman, owner of Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching , insist that their presence on the water benefits whales since the captains make recreational boaters aware of whale activity and radio them to slow down. Whale-watching companies also donate to conservation groups and report sightings to researchers.

“During the pandemic, there was a huge increase in the number of recreational boats out there,” said Mr. Friedman, who is also president of the Pacific Whale Watch Association . “It was similar to R.V.s. People decided to buy an R.V. or a boat. The majority of the time, boaters are not aware that the whales are present unless we let them know.”

Two years ago, in a move to protect Puget Sound’s tiny population of Southern Resident killer whales, which number just 75, Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law reducing boat speeds to 7 knots within a half nautical mile of the whales and increasing a buffer zone around them, among other things.

Many cheered the protections. But environmental activists like Catherine W. Kilduff, a senior attorney in the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity, believe they did not go far enough. She wants the respite from noise that whales enjoyed during the pandemic to continue.

“The best tourism is whale-watching from shore,” she said.

Looking Ahead

Debates like this are likely to continue as the world emerges from the pandemic and leisure travel resumes. Already, conservationists and business leaders are sharing their visions for a more sustainable future.

Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines’ chief executive, last year laid out a plan to become carbon neutral by spending $1 billion over 10 years on an assortment of strategies. Only 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions are traced to aviation, but a 2019 study suggested that could triple by midcentury.

In the meantime, climate change activists are calling on the flying public to use their carbon budgets judiciously.

Tom L. Green, a senior climate policy adviser with the David Suzuki Foundation , an environmental organization in Canada, said tourists might consider booking a flight only once every few years, saving their carbon footprint (and money) for a special journey. “Instead of taking many short trips, we could occasionally go away for a month or more and really get to know a place,” he said.

For Mr. Walston of the Wildlife Conservation Society, tourists would be wise to put more effort into booking their next resort or cruise, looking at the operator’s commitment to sustainability.

“My hope is not that we stop traveling to some of these wonderful places, because they will continue to inspire us to conserve nature globally,” he said. “But I would encourage anyone to do their homework. Spend as much time choosing a tour group or guide as a restaurant. The important thing is to build back the kind of tourism that supports nature.”

Lisa W. Foderaro is a former reporter for The New York Times whose work has also appeared in National Geographic and Audubon Magazine.

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Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a suggested framework for sustainable ecotourism

Affiliations.

  • 1 Abasyn University, Peshawar, Pakistan.
  • 2 Air University School of Management, Air University, Islamabad, Pakistan. [email protected].
  • 3 Department of Commerce, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan.
  • 4 IBA, Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan.
  • 5 University of Sialkot, Sialkot, Pakistan.
  • 6 Islamia College University Peshawar, Peshawar, Pakistan.
  • PMID: 35984561
  • PMCID: PMC9389488
  • DOI: 10.1007/s11356-022-22496-w

The empirical research investigated the relationship between tourism development and environmental suitability to propose a framework for sustainable ecotourism. The framework suggested a balance between business and environmental interests in maintaining an ecological system with the moderating help of government support and policy interventions. The study population encompasses tourism stakeholders, including tourists, representatives from local communities, members of civil administration, hoteliers, and tour operators serving the areas. A total of 650 questionnaires were distributed to respondents, along with a brief description of key study variables to develop a better understanding. After verifying the instrument's reliability and validity, data analysis was conducted via hierarchical regression. The study findings revealed that a substantial number of people perceive socio-economic benefits, including employment and business openings, infrastructure development from tourism development, and growth. However, the state of the natural and environmental capital was found to be gradually degrading. Alongside the social environment, social vulnerability is reported due to the overutilization of land, intrusion from external cultures, and pollution in air and water due to traffic congestion, accumulation of solid waste, sewage, and carbon emissions. The study suggested a model framework for the development of sustained ecotourism, including supportive government policy interventions to ensure effective conservation of environmental and natural resources without compromising the economic viability and social well-beings of the locals. Furthermore, the variables and the constructs researched can be replicated to other destinations to seek valuable inputs for sustainable destination management elsewhere.

Keywords: Ecosystem and biodiversity; Ecotourism framework; Environmental sustainability and degradation; Natural environment; Tourism development and growth.

© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

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  • Environmental Pollution
  • Reproducibility of Results

Tourism Teacher

14 important environmental impacts of tourism + explanations + examples

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The environmental impacts of tourism have gained increasing attention in recent years.

With the rise in sustainable tourism and an increased number of initiatives for being environmentally friendly, tourists and stakeholders alike are now recognising the importance of environmental management in the tourism industry.

In this post, I will explain why the environmental impacts of tourism are an important consideration and what the commonly noted positive and negative environmental impacts of tourism are.

Why the environment is so important to tourism

Positive environmental impacts of tourism, water resources, land degradation , local resources , air pollution and noise , solid waste and littering , aesthetic pollution, construction activities and infrastructure development, deforestation and intensified or unsustainable use of land , marina development, coral reefs, anchoring and other marine activities , alteration of ecosystems by tourist activities , environmental impacts of tourism: conclusion, environmental impacts of tourism reading list.

yellow mountains Huangshan

The quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential to tourism. However, tourism’s relationship with the environment is complex and many activities can have adverse environmental effects if careful tourism planning and management is not undertaken.

It is ironic really, that tourism often destroys the very things that it relies on!

Many of the negative environmental impacts that result from tourism are linked with the construction of general infrastructure such as roads and airports, and of tourism facilities, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, golf courses and marinas. The negative impacts of tourism development can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which it depends.

It’s not ALL negative, however!

Tourism has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to environmental protection and conservation. It is a way to raise awareness of environmental values and it can serve as a tool to finance protection of natural areas and increase their economic importance.

In this article I have outlined exactly how we can both protect and destroy the environment through tourism. I have also created a new YouTube video on the environmental impacts of tourism, you can see this below. (by the way- you can help me to be able to keep content like this free for everyone to access by subscribing to my YouTube channel! And don’t forget to leave me a comment to say hi too!).

Although there are not as many (far from it!) positive environmental impacts of tourism as there are negative, it is important to note that tourism CAN help preserve the environment!

The most commonly noted positive environmental impact of tourism is raised awareness. Many destinations promote ecotourism and sustainable tourism and this can help to educate people about the environmental impacts of tourism. Destinations such as Costa Rica and The Gambia have fantastic ecotourism initiatives that promote environmentally-friendly activities and resources. There are also many national parks, game reserves and conservation areas around the world that help to promote positive environmental impacts of tourism.

Positive environmental impacts can also be induced through the NEED for the environment. Tourism can often not succeed without the environment due the fact that it relies on it (after all we can’t go on a beach holiday without a beach or go skiing without a mountain, can we?).

In many destinations they have organised operations for tasks such as cleaning the beach in order to keep the destination aesthetically pleasant and thus keep the tourists happy. Some destinations have taken this further and put restrictions in place for the number of tourists that can visit at one time.

Not too long ago the island of Borocay in the Philippines was closed to tourists to allow time for it to recover from the negative environmental impacts that had resulted from large-scale tourism in recent years. Whilst inconvenient for tourists who had planned to travel here, this is a positive example of tourism environmental management and we are beginning to see more examples such as this around the world.

Negative environmental impacts of tourism

glass bottle on empty sandy beach

Negative environmental impacts of tourism occur when the level of visitor use is greater than the environment’s ability to cope with this use.

Uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas around the world. It can put enormous pressure on an area and lead to impacts such as: soil erosion , increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss, increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires. It often puts a strain on water resources, and it can force local populations to compete for the use of critical resources.

I will explain each of these negative environmental impacts of tourism below.

Depletion of natural resources

seagull in clear sky over sea

Tourism development can put pressure on natural resources when it increases consumption in areas where resources are already scarce. Some of the most common noted examples include using up water resources, land degradation and the depletion of other local resources.

The tourism industry generally overuses water resources for hotels, swimming pools, golf courses and personal use of water by tourists. This can result in water shortages and degradation of water supplies, as well as generating a greater volume of waste water.

In drier regions, like the Mediterranean, the issue of water scarcity is of particular concern. Because of the hot climate and the tendency for tourists to consume more water when on holiday than they do at home, the amount used can run up to 440 litres a day. This is almost double what the inhabitants of an average Spanish city use. 

impact of tourism development on environment

Golf course maintenance can also deplete fresh water resources.

In recent years golf tourism has increased in popularity and the number of golf courses has grown rapidly.

Golf courses require an enormous amount of water every day and this can result in water scarcity. Furthermore, golf resorts are more and more often situated in or near protected areas or areas where resources are limited, exacerbating their impacts.

An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1500kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers.

brown rock formation under white and blue cloudy sky

Important land resources include fertile soil, forests , wetlands and wildlife. Unfortunately, tourism often contributes to the degradation of said resources. Increased construction of tourism facilities has increased the pressure on these resources and on scenic landscapes.

Animals are often displaced when their homes are destroyed or when they are disturbed by noise. This may result in increased animals deaths, for example road-kill deaths. It may also contribute to changes in behaviour.

Animals may become a nuisance, by entering areas that they wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) usually go into, such as people’s homes. It may also contribute towards aggressive behaviour when animals try to protect their young or savage for food that has become scarce as a result of tourism development.

Picturesque landscapes are often destroyed by tourism. Whilst many destinations nowadays have limits and restrictions on what development can occur and in what style, many do not impose any such rules. High rise hotels and buildings which are not in character with the surrounding architecture or landscape contribute to a lack of atheistic appeal.

Forests often suffer negative impacts of tourism in the form of deforestation caused by fuel wood collection and land clearing. For example, one trekking tourist in Nepal can use four to five kilograms of wood a day!

There are also many cases of erosion, whereby tourists may trek the same path or ski the same slope so frequently that it erodes the natural landscape. Sites such as Machu Pichu have been forced to introduce restrictions on tourist numbers to limit the damage caused.

picturesque scenery of grassy field in village

Tourism can create great pressure on local resources like energy, food, and other raw materials that may already be in short supply. Greater extraction and transport of these resources exacerbates the physical impacts associated with their exploitation.

Because of the seasonal character of the industry, many destinations have ten times more inhabitants in the high season as in the low season.

A high demand is placed upon these resources to meet the high expectations tourists often have (proper heating, hot water, etc.). This can put significant pressure on the local resources and infrastructure, often resulting in the local people going without in order to feed the tourism industry.

Tourism can cause the same forms of pollution as any other industry: Air emissions; noise pollution; solid waste and littering; sewage; oil and chemicals. The tourism industry also contributes to forms of architectural/visual pollution.

jet cloud landing aircraft

Transport by air, road, and rail is continuously increasing in response to the rising number of tourists and their greater mobility. In fact, tourism accounts for more than 60% of all air travel.

One study estimated that a single transatlantic return flight emits almost half the CO2 emissions produced by all other sources (lighting, heating, car use, etc.) consumed by an average person yearly- that’s a pretty shocking statistic!

I remember asking my class to calculate their carbon footprint one lesson only to be very embarrassed that my emissions were A LOT higher than theirs due to the amount of flights I took each year compared to them. Point proven I guess….

Anyway, air pollution from tourist transportation has impacts on a global level, especially from CO2 emissions related to transportation energy use. This can contribute to severe local air pollution . It also contributes towards climate change.

Fortunately, technological advancements in aviation are seeing more environmentally friendly aircraft and fuels being used worldwide, although the problem is far from being cured. If you really want to help save the environment, the answer is to seek alternative methods of transportation and avoid flying.

You can also look at ways to offset your carbon footprint .

impact of tourism development on environment

Noise pollution can also be a concern.

Noise pollution from aircraft, cars, buses, (+ snowmobiles and jet skis etc etc) can cause annoyance, stress, and even hearing loss for humans. It also causes distress to wildlife and can cause animals to alter their natural activity patterns. Having taught at a university near London Heathrow for several years, this was always a topic of interest to my students and made a popular choice of dissertation topic .

photo of trash lot on shore

In areas with high concentrations of tourist activities and appealing natural attractions, waste disposal is a serious problem, contributing significantly to the environmental impacts of tourism.

Improper waste disposal can be a major despoiler of the natural environment. Rivers, scenic areas, and roadsides are areas that are commonly found littered with waste, ranging from plastic bottles to sewage.

Cruise tourism in the Caribbean, for example, is a major contributor to this negative environmental impact of tourism. Cruise ships are estimated to produce more than 70,000 tons of waste each year. 

The Wider Caribbean Region, stretching from Florida to French Guiana, receives 63,000 port calls from ships each year, and they generate 82,000 tons of rubbish. About 77% of all ship waste comes from cruise vessels. On average, passengers on a cruise ship each account for 3.5 kilograms of rubbish daily – compared with the 0.8 kilograms each generated by the less well-endowed folk on shore.

Whilst it is generally an unwritten rule that you do not throw rubbish into the sea, this is difficult to enforce in the open ocean . In the past cruise ships would simply dump their waste while out at sea. Nowadays, fortunately, this is less commonly the case, however I am sure that there are still exceptions.

Solid waste and littering can degrade the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and cause the death of marine animals. Just take a look at the image below. This is a picture taken of the insides of a dead bird. Bird often mistake floating plastic for fish and eat it. They can not digest plastic so once their stomachs become full they starve to death. This is all but one sad example of the environmental impacts of tourism.

impact of tourism development on environment

Mountain areas also commonly suffer at the hands of the tourism industry. In mountain regions, trekking tourists generate a great deal of waste. Tourists on expedition frequently leave behind their rubbish, oxygen cylinders and even camping equipment. I have heard many stories of this and I also witnessed it first hand when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro .

agriculture animals asia buffalo

The construction of hotels, recreation and other facilities often leads to increased sewage pollution. 

Unfortunately, many destinations, particularly in the developing world, do not have strict law enrichments on sewage disposal. As a result, wastewater has polluted seas and lakes surrounding tourist attractions around the world. This damages the flora and fauna in the area and can cause serious damage to coral reefs.

Sewage pollution threatens the health of humans and animals.

I’ll never forget the time that I went on a school trip to climb Snowdonia in Wales. The water running down the streams was so clear and perfect that some of my friends had suggested we drink some. What’s purer than mountain fresh water right from the mountain, right?

A few minutes later we saw a huge pile of (human??) feaces in the water upstream!!

Often tourism fails to integrate its structures with the natural features and indigenous architecture of the destination. Large, dominating resorts of disparate design can look out of place in any natural environment and may clash with the indigenous structural design. 

A lack of land-use planning and building regulations in many destinations has facilitated sprawling developments along coastlines, valleys and scenic routes. The sprawl includes tourism facilities themselves and supporting infrastructure such as roads, employee housing, parking, service areas, and waste disposal. This can make a tourist destination less appealing and can contribute to a loss of appeal.

Physical impacts of tourism development

high rise buildings

Whilst the tourism industry itself has a number of negative environmental impacts. There are also a number of physical impacts that arise from the development of the tourism industry. This includes the construction of buildings, marinas, roads etc.

river with floating boats in sunny day

The development of tourism facilities can involve sand mining, beach and sand dune erosion and loss of wildlife habitats.

The tourist often will not see these side effects of tourism development, but they can have devastating consequences for the surrounding environment. Animals may displaced from their habitats and the noise from construction may upset them.

I remember reading a while ago (although I can’t seem to find where now) that in order to develop the resort of Kotu in The Gambia, a huge section of the coastline was demolished in order to be able to use the sand for building purposes. This would inevitably have had severe consequences for the wildlife living in the area.

abandoned forest industry nature

Construction of ski resort accommodation and facilities frequently requires clearing forested land.

Land may also be cleared to obtain materials used to build tourism sites, such as wood.

I’ll never forget the site when I flew over the Amazon Rainforest only to see huge areas of forest cleared. That was a sad reality to see.

Likewise, coastal wetlands are often drained due to lack of more suitable sites. Areas that would be home to a wide array of flora and fauna are turned into hotels, car parks and swimming pools.

old city port with moored ships and historical houses

The building of marinas and ports can also contribute to the negative environmental impacts of tourism.

Development of marinas and breakwaters can cause changes in currents and coastlines.

These changes can have vast impacts ranging from changes in temperatures to erosion spots to the wider ecosystem.

school of fish in water

Coral reefs are especially fragile marine ecosystems. They suffer worldwide from reef-based tourism developments and from tourist activity.

Evidence suggests a variety of impacts to coral result from shoreline development. Increased sediments in the water can affect growth. Trampling by tourists can damage or even kill coral. Ship groundings can scrape the bottom of the sea bed and kill the coral. Pollution from sewage can have adverse effects.

All of these factors contribute to a decline and reduction in the size of coral reefs worldwide. This then has a wider impact on the global marine life and ecosystem, as many animals rely on the coral for as their habitat and food source.

Physical impacts from tourist activities

The last point worth mentioning when discussing the environmental impacts of tourism is the way in which physical impacts can occur as a result of tourist activities.

This includes tramping, anchoring, cruising and diving. The more this occurs, the more damage that is caused. Natural, this is worse in areas with mass tourism and overtourism .

unrecognizable male traveler standing on hill against misty scenic highlands

Tourists using the same trail over and over again trample the vegetation and soil, eventually causing damage that can lead to loss of biodiversity and other impacts. 

Such damage can be even more extensive when visitors frequently stray off established trails. This is evidenced in Machu Pichu as well as other well known destinations and attractions, as I discussed earlier in this post.

white and black anchor with chain at daytime

 In marine areas many tourist activities occur in or around fragile ecosystems. 

Anchoring, scuba diving, yachting and cruising are some of the activities that can cause direct degradation of marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. As I said previously, this can have a significant knock on effect on the surrounding ecosystem.

wood animal cute tree

Habitats can be degraded by tourism leisure activities.

For example, wildlife viewing can bring about stress for the animals and alter their natural behaviour when tourists come too close. 

As I have articulated throughout this post, there are a range of environmental impacts that result from tourism. Whilst some are good, the majority unfortunately are bad. The answer to many of these problems boils down to careful tourism planning and management and the adoption of sustainable tourism principles.

Did you find this article helpful? Take a look at my posts on the social impacts of tourism and the economic impacts of tourism too! Oh, and follow me on social media !

If you are studying the environmental impacts of tourism or if you are interested in learning more about the environmental impacts of tourism, I have compiled a short reading list for you below.

  • The 3 types of travel and tourism organisations
  • 150 types of tourism! The ultimate tourism glossary
  • 50 fascinating facts about the travel and tourism industry

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TheWorldCounts logo

Number of tourist arrivals

Somewhere on Earth this year

TheWorldCounts logo

The World Counts • Impact through Awareness

The world counts impact through awareness, 45 arrivals every second.

There are over 1.4 billion tourists arriving at their destination every year. That’s 45 arrivals every single second.

Exponential growth of tourism

In 1950 there were 25 million international tourist arrivals, in 1970 the number was 166 million, and by 1990 it had grown to 435 million. From 1990 to 2018 numbers more than tripled reaching 1.442 billion. By 2030, 1.8 billion tourist arrivals are projected.

Negative environmental impacts of tourism

The negative environmental impacts of tourism are substantial. They include the depletion of local natural resources as well as pollution and waste problems. Tourism often puts pressure on natural resources through over-consumption, often in places where resources are already scarce.

Tourism puts enormous stress on local land use, and can lead to soil erosion, increased pollution, natural habitat loss, and more pressure on endangered species. These effects can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which tourism itself depends.

Tourism often leads to overuse of water

An average golf course in a tropical country, for example, uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers. It also uses 1500 kilos of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year.

Tourism and climate change

Tourism contributes to more than 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation accounting for 90 percent of this.

By 2030, a 25% increase in CO2-emissions from tourism compared to 2016 is expected. From 1,597 million tons to 1,998 million tons.

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394,730,543

Tons of waste dumped

Globally, this year

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Square kilometers of land area being degraded

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793,184,608,700

Tons of freshwater used

Worldwide, this year

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8,024,943,431

Tons of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere

The alternative: Eco-tourism

Eco-tourism offers a greener alternative. Eco-tourism is a rapidly growing industry, with potential benefits for both the environment and the economies of the tourist destinations.

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Number of eco-tourist arrivals

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Positive Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

impact of tourism development on environment

If you asked random people from different countries whether tourism has negative or positive impacts on the environment, none of the answers would most likely prevail since their opinion will be based on their personal experience from travels. Tourism and environment have important, yet controversial relationship, that needs to be in a perfect balance to benefit each other.

Beautiful natural landscapes or unique flora and fauna are the main drivers of tourism into an area. But when too many tourists visit natural sites, environment and its inhabitants rather suffer from the negative impacts, which easily outweigh all the benefits due to exceeding the natural carrying capacity of a place .

On the other hand, when the number of visitors is balanced with respect for the natural environment, tourism has great potential in supporting or even starting out new conservation projects that protect unique areas and benefit local residents.

Sustainable tourism helps protect the environment

Many countries around the world depend on tourism as their main industry in providing jobs in rural areas and bringing in funds that would be otherwise out of their reach. Financial resources and employment are critical for local livelihoods and security. But as more and more countries focus on expanding their tourism sites, they often encounter problems with overconsumption of their finite natural resources, pollution, and degradation. This easily spirals into undesirable situations of negative impacts on the local environment and society.

Tourism as a fast-growing industry must follow the principles of sustainability in order to last long term while maintaining positive impacts for an area. In terms of environment, this means consumption of natural resources within acceptable limits, protecting biodiversity and making sure that essential ecological processes can take place, while providing a pleasant experience to visiting tourists [1] .

A part of striving towards sustainability is also raising awareness about the unique natural features of an area and educating visitors about their sustainable management. This helps them to understand the rules set in place and respect differences.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to tourism

Tourism represents 10 percent of world GDP. The industry increasingly affects the environment, culture, and socio-economic development of a country. Due to such a great reach, it is a powerful tool in facilitating change.

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism contributes directly or indirectly to all the 17 goals of sustainable development (SDGs) that were defined together with additional 169 SDG targets to ensure safer future for life on Earth by 2030.

Since 2018, UNWTO operates even an online platform dedicated to achievement of SDGs through tourism. You can visit it here: https://tourism4sdgs.org/ . On the platform is detailed description of each sustainable development goal in relation to tourism. SDGs address areas ranging from the importance of biodiversity, protection of marine ecosystems to urgent call for sustainable production and consumption.

Following the guidelines, UNWTO has, for example, partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and launched a Global Tourism Plastics Initiative to mitigate the problem of plastic pollution in the industry.     

What are the positive impacts of tourism on the environment?

Sustainable tourism is the only way to go forward if the industry wants to grow. But throughout the last couple decades, tourism has been already growing and has introduced many new places to foreign visitors. In some regions, having the option of welcoming paying guests, tourism has brought many positive impacts on the environment. Let’s see their examples.     

#1 Awareness raising and first-hand experience

Beautiful landscapes, animals in their natural environment, exotic ecosystems attract visitors from around the world. They are the primary reason why people travel. To get rest from their daily blues and experience ultimate relaxation from the connection with natural world. Tourism is the best tool to raise awareness of environmental values.

You learn the best when you do get to experience something directly, when you see it, touch it, and when you witness what threatens to destroy it. Personal visit of natural areas introduces you to the values they have for life. It makes you care about them, since you get to enjoy their special feeling. And memories you will have will encourage you to be environmentally-conscious in travel and personal life.

In January 2021, alarming pictures of the most touristy beaches in Bali buried in plastic waste that washed up on the shore due to the monsoon weather, appeared on social media of travelers and in the news [2] . The images have drawn global attention and created a bad rep for single-use plastic items, making us (consumers) more aware of the true impact.

#2 Tourism for skills learning and education

This is a special side of tourism but plays also an important role in positive impacts of tourism on the environment. Visitors do not have to be drawn to places just for entertainment or relaxation, they may come with the primary mission of learning a new skill or gaining certain knowledge. Tourists come to see a special feature in an area and often pay for their stay, for food, or training, which is a nice way to support the work they came to admire. Additionally, they may also put the new knowledge to use for their own projects.   

One nice example of this form of tourism could be visiting a permaculture farm with the purpose to learn about the practices applied on the farm and exchange ideas on what might work at home. Another example, that could inspire many, is spending time on edible forest farms, learning about planting diversity of low maintenance plants on your piece of land. Or visiting villages excelling in agroforestry farming practices which have allowed them to harvest variety of products from their lands, while protecting sensitive mountainous environments, where intensive farming would not be an option.           

#3 Support of conservation and biodiversity protection activities

Africa is a prime example of a country where tourism has had a positive effect on wildlife protection. Wildlife tourism in Africa makes around 36 percent of the tourism industry, contributing over $29 billion to the continent’s economy and provides jobs to 3.6 million people [3] .

The opportunity of seeing wild animals in their natural environment is what Africa is the most known for. This form of tourism reduces poverty and helps to empower women directly by giving them jobs, but even indirectly by allocating funds to build infrastructure – schools, hospitals.

Africa, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific focus more and more on the value of their wild natural areas. With the growth of tourism appear even new national and wildlife parks that connect sustainable tourism with biodiversity preservation.

For example, iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa offers amazing experience for tourists who can choose between diving, snorkeling, kayaking or horseback riding in a landscape of 25,000 years old coastal dunes and swamp forests, while protecting the area’s sensitive ecosystems and unique species. The coastline is Africa’s only remaining nesting place of Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles [4] .

#4 Protection of endangered species

Countries begin to realize that their rare and endemic species are their symbol in the eyes of foreign visitors who are often attracted to the place because of them. Wild animals, virgin forests and a colorful palette of exotic plants are becoming an unusual sight in an economically developed world. The remaining spots that are still a home to this disappearing world are often turn to nature reserves and protected areas. This ensures better safety for endangered species that inhabit them.

Virunga National Park in East Africa has a story of conservation success to tell, even despite years of civil unrest and war in the surrounding areas, it has been declared an ecological pillar for the entire East and Central African biodiversity, having the largest concentration of birds and reptiles over other protected areas [5] .

Thanks to the initiative of the World Wildlife Fund and United Nations, the park has endured hard years and granted protection to endangered mountain gorillas, who were almost driven to extinction by human encroachment into their already limited habitat. Thanks to these extraordinary efforts and persistence, gorillas from the Virunga recovered and their number rose from 480 to over 600 [6] . The park is one of the most attractive tourist destinations, where you can see gorillas, chimpanzees, and many other iconic animals.

#5 Prevention of illegal trade and exploitation

Tourism brings new opportunities even to most remote places. The growing interest of tourists in visiting places where people live in connection with nature and animals gives chance to locals to sustain their families far from urban areas. In many cases, local communities quickly realize the need to protect what they have in order to attract tourists, as the stream of income from tourism is long-term and more advantageous than one-time sales of finite resources or poached animals.

A glimmer of hope sparked by the vision of attracting tourists takes place in two villages in Nepal that are known for being a transit points for illegal trade in pangolin meat and scales to Tibet and India.

The villages have joined a community-based pangolin conservation and education project . The goal of the project is to discourage local poachers from selling scales of pangolins to illegal traders, and thus interrupt the illegal trade pathway while protecting endangered pangolins . Participants of the project are also trained to help with long-term monitoring of pangolin population (species ecology, identification of threats and distribution).        

#6 Finance and job opportunities

One in ten jobs worldwide are directly or indirectly in the tourism industry. Tourism creates decent work opportunities and economic growth even in rural or remote areas. Tourism employs women and is often the first job experience of young people. Money from the tourism then often goes into improving local infrastructure, and sustainable management and protection of natural wonders that attract visitors.

Better infrastructure and services have a positive impact on the environment. They revolve around consumption of resources and their management. Modern infrastructure for wastewater cleaning saves water and promotes more efficient use of it. Waste management facilities focus on recycling materials rather than just dumping waste into sea or to landfills.

Tourism also directly helps to fund conservation activities of national parks, or other nature and wildlife preservation projects. Visitors are usually asked to pay entrance fees or a small tax that is meant to support the project.  

Costa Rica has one of the most successful rainforest conservation strategies, which enables the country to protect and care for its incredibly biodiversity rich rainforests, while at the same time generating income from tourism. A part of this income goes back to the rainforest conservation maintenance, research, and professional training of park guards. The rest sustains regional economy and creates balanced life opportunities for locals.       

#7 Adoption of sustainable practices and new legislation

We have partially tapped into this aspect already in the previous point. It is closely linked. More funds available to a region mean better possibilities to improve infrastructure and services. Modernization of infrastructure goes hand in hand with a transition to sustainable technologies and seeking of long-term solutions that will benefit people and the local environment.

Many travelers care about their impact on the environment. They are willing to pay for environmentally friendly services and accommodation when visiting a new place. Many destinations already follow the suit and are changing their approach to tourism by considering their environmental impact in their management.

Additionally, governments also respond to this pressure and often enforce regulations to further protect local natural resources by adopting sustainable practices in the industry.

You can see this trend in increasing numbers of eco-tourism lodges around the world; or recycling bins placed in public areas to collect different materials for more efficient waste management; in water saving measures and recommendations adopted by accommodation providers; or even large-scale renewable energy projects that power whole regions.

Several studies highlighted the benefits of renewable energy for maintaining healthy environment during the seasonal influx of tourists to island destinations. For example, a study of Mediterranean islands sees renewable energy projects as a tool to provide sufficient energy to residents and tourists during the periods of increased demand, while protecting already fragile and limited resources islands have.

Tourism and the environment could go well together

The success of tourism relies on good infrastructure and decent quality of services. The industry therefore helps the community development and brings new sources of inspiration and motivation for protection of biodiversity rich natural areas, wildlife, or whole ecosystems.

Many new conservation projects raise hope of local people in being able to sustain their families, while taking care of their home, of their legacy, of a place shaped by the nurturing hands of their ancestors. They hope that their effort will be appreciated and rewarded by respectful visitors.

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About greentumble.

Greentumble was founded in the summer of 2015 by us, Sara and Ovi . We are a couple of environmentalists who seek inspiration for life in simple values based on our love for nature. Our goal is to inspire people to change their attitudes and behaviors toward a more sustainable life. Read more about us .

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Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Impact

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30 questions, what is one way the tourism industry can decrease its impact on the environment, what is a major, long-term environmental problem in the tourism industry, what is a potential benefit of tourism for the environment, what is a key principle of sustainable consumption in the tourism industry, why is it important for the tourism industry to incorporate sustainable practices, what role can the tourism industry play in promoting environmental awareness, what is the approximate amount of solid waste generated by tourism annually, what percentage of total global emissions is attributed to the tourism sector's activities, what is one way tourism can promote conservation, what can tourism bring to natural and cultural resources, what is one benefit of sustainable tourism for host communities, how can tourism contribute to land management, what is a common focus of tourist activities in coastal areas, why is clean water important for tourist activities in coastal areas, what can be damaged by careless divers or entrepreneurs selling coral as souvenirs, what can lead to increased sewerage pollution in coastal areas, why are national parks often located in forested and mountainous areas, what can result from tourism development without management standards, what could be the outcome of promoting environmentally sustainable practices in tourism-related businesses, what motivates the creation of national parks and wildlife reserves in attractive natural areas, what has tourism contributed to in terms of wildlife preservation, why have many countries established wildlife reserves and enacted strict laws, what is a consequence of not protecting the environment and natural resources, where have tourism's positive effects on wildlife preservation been notable, what is a crucial concept in any strategy related to tourism, what is an example of an economic instrument for promoting sustainable tourism, what is the main goal of establishing destination management organizations, what is a challenge in promoting sustainable tourism practices, what is an example of a professional development tool for small and medium enterprises, what is the purpose of awards and marketing support to pioneers in sustainable tourism, description.

Learn about the importance of sustainable practices in the tourism industry, including green building, pollution prevention, and waste minimization techniques to reduce its environmental footprint. Understand the role of environmental awareness in tourism development. Test your knowledge on the ways to mitigate the negative impact of tourism on the environment.

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IMAGES

  1. Positive impacts of tourism on the environment

    impact of tourism development on environment

  2. 14 Important Environmental Impacts Of Tourism + Explanations + Examples

    impact of tourism development on environment

  3. The Environmental Impacts of Tourism

    impact of tourism development on environment

  4. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM

    impact of tourism development on environment

  5. What are the positive environmental impacts of tourism?

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  6. Environmental impact of tourism ppt

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VIDEO

  1. Tourism

  2. Japan’s Tourism Amid its Shrinking Economy (Germany passes Japan in GDP)

  3. Sustainable Tourism Development

  4. Impact of tourism on the environment

  5. Revenge tourism value co-destruction: The role of altruism and resilience

  6. The Turmoil in Paradise How Political Tensions Impact Tourism #history #automobile #briefhistory

COMMENTS

  1. Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a

    The empirical research investigated the relationship between tourism development and environmental suitability to propose a framework for sustainable ecotourism. The framework suggested a balance between business and environmental interests in maintaining an ecological system with the moderating help of government support and policy interventions. The study population encompasses tourism ...

  2. Role of Tourism in Sustainable Development

    Background. Tourism is one of the world's largest industries, and it has linkages with many of the prime sectors of the global economy (Fennell, 2020).As a global economic sector, tourism represents one of the largest generators of wealth, and it is an important agent of economic growth and development (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018).Tourism is a critical industry in many local and national ...

  3. Eco-tourism, climate change, and environmental policies ...

    In a new study, Li et al. studied the impacts of tourism development on life quality (as one of the sustainable development goals defined by the UN in 2015) in the case of Japan. They found that ...

  4. The carbon footprint of global tourism

    We find that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism's global carbon footprint has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO 2 e, four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global ...

  5. Distinguishing the impact of tourism development on ecosystem service

    For instance, tourism development can lead to the direct loss of vegetation (e.g., tourist trampling) (Jahani et al., 2020) and indirectly impact vegetation via tourism urbanization, which involves the expansion of population and built-up land (Liu et al., 2021b; Saha and Paul, 2021).

  6. Sustainable development

    Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective ...

  7. PDF Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a

    to the socio-ecological environmental concerns of tourism development and growth. Therefore, the research investi-gates the relationship between tourism development and its environmental sustainability to suggest a model framework for the development and growth of Sustainable Ecotourism in Pakistan along with its most visited destinations.

  8. How does tourism development affect environmental pollution?

    Abstract. Tourism development has often been considered as a growth pillar over recent decades; however, studies on whether and how it can contribute to pollution reduction are scant. This study fills the research gaps by exploring the role of tourism development in pollution emissions by investigating two influencing mechanisms—the industry ...

  9. A United Vision for Nature

    Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UN Tourism, said: "For years, UN Tourism has been at the forefront of integrating tourism into the broader UN biodiversity agenda, including supporting the work of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This pivotal new collaboration among key global players sets a robust ...

  10. Sustainable tourism

    Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment, while being closely linked to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of many countries, especially developing countries. Maritime or ocean-related tourism, as well as coastal tourism, are for example vital sectors of the economy in small island developing States ...

  11. Studying tourism development and its impact on carbon emissions

    Table 5 and Fig. 2 demonstrate the mechanism of tourism's influence on carbon emission efficiency as follows: Firstly, a 1% increase in tourism development level leads to a direct increase of 0. ...

  12. Tourism, institutional quality, and environmental sustainability

    The use of a simple indicator of the environment, i.e., CO 2 emissions or energy intensity, in evaluating the effects of tourism development on the environment can only show us one dimension of the impact. Tourism development may in fact use less energy and emit less CO 2 than other industrial sectors such as manufacturing; however, the tourism ...

  13. Coupling and Coordination between Tourism, the Environment and Carbon

    Studying the relationships among tourism, the environment and carbon emissions is key to understanding how tourism activity affects the sustainable development of tourism in the Tibetan Plateau. Using Lhasa, Tibet, as a case study, the coupling and coordination relationships among the three systems were analysed to explore the impact of tourism behaviour on sustainable tourism development ...

  14. Tourism

    In a 'business-as-usual' scenario, tourism would generate through 2050 an increase of 154% in energy consumption, 131% in greenhouse gas emissions, 152% in water consumption and 251% in solid waste disposal. This is why sustainability must now define tourism development in the 21 st century. UN Environment aims to mainstream sustainability ...

  15. Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a

    The tourism development process and its different dynamics revolve around the nature of tourism planned for a particular destination or area, which can be specified as ecotourism, sustainable tourism, green tourism or regenerative tourism, etc. Ecotourism is "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the ...

  16. Ecotourism or ecological concerns? Tracing the impact of economic

    The influence of tourism development and economic policy uncertainties on environmental sustainability is substantial. Promoting responsible tourism and using sustainable tourism practises, like offering eco-friendly lodging, is a key part of protecting natural habitats and lowering carbon footprints. Hence, this study tries to examine the relationship between tourism development, economic ...

  17. PDF THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM

    ThE ENvIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TOURISM 145 In other ecologically sensitive regions, such as the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica and Belize, the development of tourism is also controlled, and efforts are made to ensure that all visitors respect the natural environment. The pressures of demand are difficult to resist,

  18. Impact of Tourism on Environment: Responding to Global Challenges

    The sustainable development of tourism, which provides for natural and cultural and historical resource-saving and increase, observing the environmental standards becomes dominant and is a ...

  19. Tourism, Environment, and Sustainable Development

    Extract. In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the effects of tourism and related developments upon the environment of 'destination areas'. The increasing popularity of the concept of sustainable development has resulted in tourism being viewed as an activity which could easily be developed along those appropriate lines.

  20. For Planet Earth, No Tourism Is a Curse and a Blessing

    In late 2019, the United Nations Environment Program cautioned that global greenhouse gases would need to drop 7.6 percent every year between 2020 and 2030. That would keep the world on its ...

  21. Full article: Environmental impact of the tourism industry in China

    1. Introduction. Tourism is the fastest-growing sector in the economy that plays a vital role in creating employment opportunities and creates a huge number of foreign exchanges and ultimately results in the overall economic growth and social development of the countries (An, Razzaq, Haseeb et al. Citation 2021; Lee and Chang Citation 2008).According to the United Nations World Trade ...

  22. Impact of tourism development upon environmental sustainability: a

    The empirical research investigated the relationship between tourism development and environmental suitability to propose a framework for sustainable ecotourism. The framework suggested a balance between business and environmental interests in maintaining an ecological system with the moderating help of government support and policy interventions.

  23. 14 important environmental impacts of tourism

    Solid waste and littering. Sewage. Aesthetic Pollution. Physical impacts of tourism development. Construction activities and infrastructure development. Deforestation and intensified or unsustainable use of land. Marina development. Coral reefs. Physical impacts from tourist activities.

  24. The Negative Environmental Impacts of Tourism

    Tourism has the capacity to help support communities and instigate positive environmental change when done with the right approach towards the long-term sustainability in regions and complying with the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals that range from eradicating hunger, gender equality to addressing climate actions based on the specific ...

  25. Negative Environmental Impacts Of Tourism

    The negative environmental impacts of tourism are substantial. They include the depletion of local natural resources as well as pollution and waste problems. Tourism often puts pressure on natural resources through over-consumption, often in places where resources are already scarce. Tourism puts enormous stress on local land use, and can lead ...

  26. Positive Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

    What are the positive impacts of tourism on the environment? There are many. ... Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to tourism. Tourism represents 10 percent of world GDP. The industry increasingly affects the environment, culture, and socio-economic development of a country. Due to such a great reach, it is a powerful tool in ...

  27. Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Impact

    Learn about the importance of sustainable practices in the tourism industry, including green building, pollution prevention, and waste minimization techniques to reduce its environmental footprint. Understand the role of environmental awareness in tourism development. Test your knowledge on the ways to mitigate the negative impact of tourism on the environment.

  28. PDF To Develop National Master Plan and Policy Guidelines for Strengthening

    lead to development of Angola's national master plan and strengthen regulatory frameworks that would guide and promote environmental sustainability and enhance aquatic biodiversity conservation through minimizing the impacts of coastal, marine tourism; oil and gas exploration as well as mining activities.

  29. MBC Evening News Bulletin (April 27, 2024)

    MBC Evening News Bulletin (April 27, 2024)