“Sustainable” continues to serve as an important buzzword in a wide variety of fields, one of the newest lying in tourism. Tourism, by its very nature, creates an impact on our society and the environment of the site visited. Unfortunately, many of these impacts serve to degrade the nature of the site, harm the environment, and produce problems for people living there.
In recent years, experts have studied the impact of tourism and are working to find ways to mitigate its impact.
What Is Sustainable Tourism?
Sustainable tourism policies seek to find ways to reduce the harmful impact of tourism. UNESCO defines it as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment.” Studies done on sustainable tourism rely heavily on case studies to illustrate the scope of the impact while searching for solutions to mitigate it.
Why We Should Value Sustainable Tourism
Sustainable tourism includes a number of important aspects. First, large numbers of people have a powerful impact on the environment. The use of vehicles to move them around produces pollution. Inevitably, any group of people includes irresponsible individuals who choose to litter rather than throw items in the trash. Even then, many areas have trouble dealing with trash, even when it's responsibly disposed of.
Also important, when an area gets overexposed to tourism it can become less attractive as a destination. Many tourists do not want to go to a locale with a glut of people. If a destination gets that reputation, it could lead to overall drops in visits.
Threats of Overtourism to Key Destinations
Overtourism creates a number of challenges to governments and others maintaining popular sites. While more people can bring higher revenues to certain businesses and other organizations, overall it can create serious costs. The Olympics is one example of an event that can have a major negative impact on the environment and costs more than the total revenues created.
Other destinations, such as historical sites, natural scenery, and oceanfronts sometimes combine to create a fragile environment with the onrush of tourists. Finding ways to strike and maintain a balance is critical.
Tourism and Pollution
One major way in which experts have examined the impact of tourism lies in studying the site’s environment. Vehicular and garbage pollution create tremendous impacts on various sites. Southern California, for example, has served as a major tourist destination for generations but for decades, has grown notorious for its smog. The internet recently featured viral pictures of piles of garbage left on Virginia Beach after a local Memorial Day shore party.
Experts at theSustainability Leaders Project speculate that education and information could help tourists make more informed decisions. If one can study up on food, lodging, and other points of interest while making vacation decisions, why not also include information on pollution as well? If visitors knew that air pollution served as a problem at a certain time of year, they might visit during a time of less environmental strain.
Finding Ways That Tourism Can Produce Positive Impacts
Tourism does not have to only produce negative impacts. Different policies can help to mitigate the impact of tourism, helping to fund programs, make it more manageable, and help tourist sites to retain their unique and interesting qualities.
Some sustainability policies are long-standing. Most states charge hunting and fishing license fees that fund projects to maintain the wild and wonderful character of natural sites. Other areas, such as North Carolina’s Outer Banks, have used restricted development to keep the level of tourism and its impact manageable. With most of the islands in federal hands, the Outer Banks has a small tourism impact relative to areas such as the New Jersey shoreline.
Experts will continue to search for ways to sustain responsible tourism through management and regulation. This should help to preserve these important sites for generations to come. Having worked with organizations across industries, we can help you create strategic initiatives for sustainability to help with tourism in your area. Contact Aiphoria Consulting to learn more about what's possible.