All tourism can have positive or negative
economic, environmental and social impacts on the destination involved. The
Cape Town Declaration (2002) includes as one of its principles for responsible
tourism that it should minimize negative impacts. But what are some of these
impacts? Let’s start by analyzing the environmental benefits and costs.
Some environmental benefits of tourism include
building awareness of the need to protect natural environments and restore
damaged habitats. Tourists can also be watchdogs, letting responsible
authorities know each time they observe harmful practices in the places they
However, there can also be environmental costs
such as the increase of buildings for visitors, generation of wastes, and some
impacts of tourist activities. For instance, wildlife observation can interfere
with animal populations if certain standards are not applied and feeding wild
animals can make them depend on humans.
Hiking can also damage the soil if visitors do
not stick to established trails. Also, occasionally visitors can introduce
exotic species, such as domestic animals or grasses that can become invasive
and compete with native plants and animals.
How can these environmental costs be avoided? By
adequate planning in the tourism destinations and through environmental
interpretation and education to visitors following, at least, the Code of Ethics for the Responsible Tourist and Traveler prepared by the United Nations
World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
This entry was originally posted by the author on June 30, 2011.