The Pros and Cons of Tourism

Steve Russell - February 7, 2022

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The tourism industry is one of the most lucrative and essential industries for the global economy since it can provide revenue almost year-round. It allows people to spend time in places they want to explore and enjoy. Every year, people from all over the world visit destinations like Paris, Hawaii, Mexico and Japan to experience a new culture through food, sightseeing and adventures. 

Tourism provides thousands of jobs each year and allows people to explore the world at their leisure. It’s excellent for both the people touring an area themselves for happiness and well-being, and it’s great for the country’s population as a whole. 

However, the disadvantages of tourism should be addressed, especially concerning the environment. Tourism industries in some countries often ignore these cons because they want to continue providing revenue for the peoples’ livelihoods. It’s easy to overlook the negative aspects when tourism has brought enormous wealth to developing countries. 

If developing nations only rely on tourism and dismiss other aspects, like the environment, society and infrastructure development, the cons can quickly outweigh the pros. Fortunately, there are ways to be sustainable in the tourism industry. Here are the pros and cons of tourism. 

The Pros of Tourism

From stimulating job growth to bridging cultural divides, tourism has many benefits for people, the economy and the environment. Below are five advantages of tourism. 

1. Creates Jobs

One of the most significant benefits of tourism is creating jobs for people who may have previously been unemployed. Tourism accounts for about 10% of employment worldwide, whether directly or indirectly. 

The tourism industry encompasses retailers, restaurant workers, transportation industries, entertainment facilities and hospitality workers. It can even include medical workers as some people travel for cosmetic surgery or medical advice and medications. This leads to the reduction of unemployment in many countries, which reduces the burden on the government.

2. Develops Countries

As more people get jobs in developing countries, they can further progress. The government can get the funds needed to advance their nation. The tourism industry offers more security and financial stability. Plus, the government can carry out various infrastructure projects to continue its progression by building roads, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment businesses to allow more people to stay, generating more jobs and wealth. 

3. Conserves the Environment

Some of the primary attractions in countries are the historical sights and beautiful landscapes. Often, countries try to conserve these sights and attractions to continue bringing in more tourists. Governments and private entities often use tourism money to maintain historical sight and protect the environment.  

4. Broadens Knowledge and Appreciation of Nature

An airboat ride through the Florida Everglades delivers more than the perfect photo opportunity. Airboat captains share stories about the river’s history, wildlife facts, environmental issues plaguing the ecosystem, and how the average person can make a difference. Travel experiences like this are crucial for broadening one’s knowledge and deepening their appreciation for the natural world. The hope is for tourists to impart their knowledge to someone else and spark an interest in conservation and sustainable habits.

5. Encourages Culture-Learning

Finally, tourism encourages the learning of different cultures. It helps to create a sense of unity among people from various cultures and countries. Tourism encourages people of all backgrounds to visit a particular place, so tourist destinations become a melting pot of other cultures. People can begin to understand one another and may even make friends with people from other countries. 

The Cons of Tourism

While welcoming visitors to explore a particular area has benefits — especially within the eco-tourism subsector — it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Unfortunately, there are some cons of tourism that often get overlooked, such as the following.

1. Damages the Environment

Although countries do their best to conserve the environment, including animals, plants and natural scenes, tourists can still be disrespectful. As people flock to one place, waste and pollution accumulate. Sometimes, tours offer animal experiences as well, which put animals through suffering. Further, land is needed to accommodate tourists, so countries will destroy habitats to build hotels and restaurants. 

2. Puts Pressure on Natural Resources

Another con of the tourism industry is that it puts an immense amount of pressure on natural resources. Anytime someone stays in an area, they inevitably use the area’s natural resources, like water and food. Cities and countries around the world have faced droughts. Additionally, tourism puts stress on the local land use, leading to soil erosion which can cause damage to infrastructure. 

3. Strains Infrastructure

Too many tourists in one location can significantly strain infrastructure, including roadways, water resources and waste disposal. For instance, nearly 30 million tourists visit Venice, Italy, annually, crowding narrow canals and limited roadways. In the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda is among the most frequently vacationed and water-stressed countries, with under 1000 cubic meter of freshwater resources per capita. Without a municipal wastewater treatment center, most households rely on poorly built septic tanks.

4. Encourages Dependence on Tourism

It’s not a good thing to be solely dependent on tourism. Regions known for their tourist destinations learned that lesson once COVID-19 spread throughout the world. When people could no longer travel, the tourism industry in countries that depended on it had a more difficult time recovering and getting the necessary resources that locals needed to survive. Without tourists, those countries would receive no more income, which affects the entire country.

5. Leads to Loss of Cultural Identity

Often, locals in a tourist destination will begin copying the lifestyles of tourists and leave their local and cultural traditions behind. Instead of shops filled with daily necessities for the locals, they are filled with things tourists need, like travel-sized toiletries and souvenirs. Fast-food chains have taken over local cuisine as well. And unfortunately, tourism has led to a growth in prostitution and human trafficking. 

Making Tourism a More Sustainable Industry

Tourism is a necessary part of the economy, but the adverse effects often go unnoticed. Fortunately, there are ways to make it a more sustainable industry. Tourists should support the local economy, avoid single-use plastics, take more eco-friendly modes of transportation and avoid all of the traditional “tourist” excursions. The next time you travel, make sustainability a priority.

This post was last updated on April 9, 2024 to provide more current information.

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About the author

Steve Russell

Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.