Discuss the environmental and social impacts of tourism in the UK and consider whether the benefits exceed the costs. Tourism is a fast growing industry and a valuable sector, contributing significantly to the economy (“The Social & Cultural Impacts of Tourism”, n. d. ). It has been generally accepted that tourism is, for the most part and with relatively few exceptions, beneficial to both generating and destination countries (Holloway, 2009, p. 114).
Some researchers are less sure that this is the case. This essay will discuss the environmental and social impacts of tourism in the UK considering whether the benefits exceed the costs. The socio-cultural impacts on host communities are the result of direct and indirect relations with tourists and of interaction with the tourism industry. For a variety of reasons, host communities often are the weaker party in interactions with their guests and service providers (“Socio-cultural impacts”, n. d. ).
It is very difficult to measure the way in which the presence of large number of tourists affects the society and culture of host areas. In many cases, the effects are gradual, invisible and complex. (Davidson, 1993, p. 165). The impacts can be positive, such as the case where tourism enhances the cultural exchange between two distinct populations. The impacts can also be negative, such as the commercialisation of arts and crafts and ceremonies/rituals of the host populations (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill, 1998).
Some of the beneficial impacts of tourism on society include the following: the creation of employment, the revitalisation of poor or non-industrialized regions, the rebirth of local arts and crafts and traditional cultural activities, the revival of social and cultural life of the local population, the renewal of local architectural traditions, and the promotion of the need to conserve area of outstanding beauty which have aesthetic and cultural value (Mason, 2003, p. 43).
In Britain, for example, many great buildings from eighteen and nineteen century would have been lost had it not been possible to convert these factories, mills and warehouses into living museums for the tourist (Holloway, 2002). With the increasing secularization of Western societies, it is also tourists who will ensure that great cathedrals survive as the costs of maintaining these buildings for dwindling numbers of worshippers can no longer be borne by the ecclesiastical authorities alone(Holloway, 2009, p. 114).
Whole inner-city and dockland areas have been restored and developed to make them attractive as tourist sites. Moreover, London would be a poorer place without its tourists: 40 percent of West End theatre tickets are bought by tourists (Holloway, 2002, p. 354). Tourists’ use of public transport enables residents to enjoy a better and cheaper service than would otherwise be possible (Holloway, 2009, p. 114). Country crafts, pubs, even restoration of traditional pastimes such as Morris dancing, all owe their survival to the presence of the tourist (Holloway, 2003, p. 55). There is also the socio-cultural impact of tourism on the visitor population. For instance, the growth of UK tourists visiting Spain throughout the 1960s and 1970s resulted in culinary and beverage changes in the UK (paella and Rioja wine being two Spanish products that benefited from this exchange) (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill, 1998, p. 169). Visitors to Australia adopted the beach-based lifestyle and the barbecue when they returned home (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill, 1998).
However, tourism has the reputation for major detrimental effects on the society and culture of host areas (Mason, 2003, p. 43). Tourism can cause: change or loss of indigenous identity and values, culture clashes, social stress, ethical issues, crime, deteriorating working employment conditions (“Negative Socio-Cultural Impacts from Tourism”, n. d. ). Tourism can induce change or loss of local identity and values, brought about by several closely related influences: commercialization of local culture, standardisation or adaptation to tourists demands (“Socio-cultural impacts”, n. . ). For example, creating molas, which are the blouses worn by Kuna women in Columbia, is an art that began with design that reflected the conception of the world, of nature, and the spiritual life of the Kuna Nation. Now it is increasingly being transformed, through tourism, into a commercial trade which causes loss of its spiritual value and quality (“Negative Socio-Cultural Impacts from Tourism”, n. d. ). Cultural clashes may further arise from: economic inequality, irritation due to tourist behaviour like disregarding the dress code in Muslim countries, and job level friction.
Moreover, increased tourism flow is causing severe social stress to local communities. Stress evolves from: resource use conflicts, cultural deterioration, conflicts with traditional land-uses. Partly due to the above impacts, tourism can create more serious situations where ethical and even criminal issues are involved: child labour, prostitution and sex tourism (“Socio-cultural impacts”, n. d. ). There is growing concern of the global spread of AIDS and increasing impact of tropical and sexual diseases on more adventurous mass tourists (Holloway, 2009, p. 14). Over the last few years second-home tourism has become more popular, emerging as an important part of the tourism sector in a number of countries. Second homes are usually located near attractive locations, such as the sea, lakes, mountains or rural areas and often have a connection to their owners’ origins (Pedro, n. d. ). Surveys revealed that half a million English households owns second homes outside of the UK.
Sometimes incomers ‘blend in’ and little conflict or damage results, but where larger groups settle may transform local culture and undermine traditions (Holloway, 2009). Tourism also impacts a key factor in tourism: the environment. The environment is made up of both natural and human features (Mason, 2003, p. 52). As soon as tourism activity takes place, the environment is inevitably changed or modified either to facilitate tourism or during the tourism process (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill, 1998, p. 150). The impact can be positive or negative.
The positive environmental impacts associated with tourism include: the preservation/restoration of ancient monuments, sites and historic buildings, such as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids (Egypt), the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and Warwick Castle (UK); the creation of national parks and wildlife parks, such as Yellowstone Park (USA), Fjord Land National Park (New Zealand); protection of reefs and beaches, the Great Barrier Reef (Australia); the maintenance of forests such as the New Forest (UK) (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill, 1998, p. 151).
The world is full of examples of individual buildings and whole areas which have been given a new lease of life by the tourism industry (Davidson, 1993, p. 131). The following have been regarded as negative environmental impacts: pollution, congestion, erosion (Holloway, 2002). Much of the damage done to the environment is caused by volume of visitors arriving at destinations which are not used to supporting people in such great numbers (Davidson, 1993). The technological complexity of contemporary living has led to various forms of pollution: air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution.
Air pollution can be a cause of large-scale tourist movement using mass transportation and fuel burn from aircrafts (Holloway, 2002). Untreated sewage, fuel spillage and rubbish from pleasure boats contribute to water pollution (Davidson, 1993). Noise, too, must be considered a form of pollution. Aircrafts taking off and landing at busy airports can severely disturb local residents, as well as noise from vehicles or tourist attractions: bars, discos, etc. Visual pollution can be ascribed to insensitivity in the design of buildings for tourism.
For example, British towns are losing their local character, as builders choose to build in ubiquitous London brick rather than the materials available locally (Holloway, 2002, p. 356). The worst examples of this are the solid rows of hotels which are often developed along coastlines, to the extent that the beach and the sea are almost blocked from the view of those living in the original coastal towns (Davidson, 1993, p136). Perhaps the most significant problem created by mass tourism is that of congestion (Holloway, 2002, p. 358).
Congestion on the streets, queues in shops and overcrowding on buses and trains are the inevitable consequences of the mass influx of tourists into towns and cities (Davidson, 1993, p. 137). Many popular rural sites such as National parks are at risk from the number of visitors they receive. Over 100 million visitors visit the UK’s National Parks each year (Holloway, 2002). Vegetation also suffers in area of high tourist intensity as constant trampling and crushing by feet and car wheels can lead to erosion and to disappearance of fragile species.
Many footpaths in Britain are being widened to such an extent that the surrounding areas are suffering serious erosion (Davidson, 1993, p. 133). In conclusion, there is clear evidence that host communities perceive both costs and benefits (Nickerson & Jennings, 2006, p. 195) and it is commonly observed that the environmental and social impacts are less desirable (Jafari, 2003, p. 297). Measurements of the various types of impacts of tourism are undertaken using very different methods and indicators (Jafari, 2003).
For example, environmentalists may measure the volume of global travel and its impacts (Holloway, 2009), and social impacts may be examined through questionnaire surveys. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to combine the results of such studies to ascertain if the benefits exceed the costs (Jafari, 2003, p. 297). Mark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides, said during one interview in 2007 that: “It is hard to say the positive impact travelling has can ever outweigh the damage done by simply travelling to the destination.
Balancing all the positives and negatives, I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a responsible or ethical holiday”. Bibliography Cooper, C. , Fletcher, J. , Gilbert, D. , Wanhill, S. (1998). Tourism: Principles and Practices. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Davidson, R. (1993). Tourism (2nd Edition). Harlow: Longman Group Limited. Holloway, C. (2002). The Business of Tourism (6th Edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Holloway, C. (2009). The Business of Tourism (8th edition). [Electronic version]. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Jafari, J. (2003). Encyclopedia of tourism. [Electronic Version]. Oxon: Routledge Mason, P. (2003). Tourism Impacts, Planning and Management. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann. Negative Socio-Cultural Impacts from Tourism (n. d. ). Retrieved December 8, 2010, from UNEP website: http://www. unep. fr/scp/tourism/sustain/impacts/sociocultural/negative. htm Nickerson, N. , Jennings, G. (2006). Quality tourism experiences. [Electronic version]. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann Page, S. , (2003). Tourism Management: managing for a change. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Pedro, A. (n. d. ). Urbanization and second-home tourism. Retrieved December, 8, 2010, from: http://www. download-it. org/free_files/filePages%20from%2010%20Urbanization%20and%20second-home%20tourism. pdf Socio-cultural impacts. (n. d. ). Retrieved 6 December, 2010, from Sustainable Tourism website: http://www. coastlearn. org/tourism/why_socioimpacts. html The Social & Cultural Impacts of Tourism. (n. d. ). Retrieved December 6, 2010, from: http://www. gawler. sa. gov. au/webdata/resources/files/5_Gawler_Impacts_Tourism. PDF
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