Unsustainable Tourism Development
24 Jan 2022
The tourism industry is one of the world's fastest expanding sectors. Tourism has long been an important part of the economic, social, and cultural transformation that has shaped the global city system during the last two decades. Tourism has emerged as a powerful sector that is causing both positive and negative economic, sociocultural, and environmental developments. The tourism industry's growth is critical for a country's economy, particularly in less developed countries, as it increases foreign exchange profits and creates jobs.
With increased pollution, waste generation, resource depletion, and deterioration at tourist attractions, the tourism industry has an alarmingly large ecological impact that is rapidly worsening. It is also a big contributor to global warming: if the tourism industry were a country, it would rank third in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, trailing only the United States and China.
The government, lured by the chance for the country to make revenue from tourism development, is overlooking the industry's negative sides. The commercial aspects of tourism expansion have received the majority of focus, while environmental and socio-cultural issues have been pushed to the second plan.
When we consider the effects of tourism on a more local level, pollution, resource depletion, and degradation stand out. Although a number of tourist hotspots have managed to keep them under control, there are an equal number of areas where environmental difficulties have arisen as a result of the huge influx of vacationers.
Take, for example, Ladakh. Residents have adjusted to living with fewer than 25 litres of water per day in this freezing desert with little water supplies, yet tourists spend 75 to 100 litres per day. Every year, almost 700 hotels in Ladakh accommodate around a quarter of a million tourists (roughly equivalent to the region's population), putting enormous strain on the region's water supplies. Although Leh drills into the Indus riverbed and bores into aquifers for water, the growing number of borewells has a direct impact on the springs that the local community relies on for both drinking water and agriculture. Ladakh can no longer withstand such high tourism pressure.
Environmental science teaches us that every region has a carrying capacity, which is determined by the availability of resources and the governing systems' ability to manage them. When this capacity is exceeded, environmental destruction and degradation occur.
In a nutshell, existing tourism practices, when combined with their rapidly increasing carbon footprint, are unsustainable. If we want to keep the industry alive in the long run, we'll have to take tough measures, such as limiting the number of visitors to burdened areas. Tourism is undeniably important for people to have the opportunity to learn about various cultures and ecosystems. Another obvious truth is that the tourism sector relies on appealing surroundings to attract visitors—but current methods, ironically, are damaging the exact ecosystem that it depends on.
The onus is especially upon developing countries like ours where the need to strike a balance between environmental conservation and tourism is high. In view of the present necessity in developing countries to strike a balance between environmental conservation and tourism expansion, tourism items should be ecolabeling.
Ecolabeling refers to portraying tourism products and firms in a way that encourages tourists to be environmentally conscious in all their actions. Besides, through ecolabeling, tourism companies educate tourists concerning the effects of their actions on the environment, in so doing making them adopt environmentally friendly actions.
This will enable travelers in making well-informed decisions about which tourism products and services to employ while visiting a country. Furthermore, ecolabels would prevent tourists from doing business with ecologically unfriendly tourism companies. As a result, ecolabeling would assist developing countries in conserving the environment while also achieving sustainable tourism.
Environmental degradation is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several other problems that create permanent damages and go unnoticed until the damage is done.
Locals frequently begin to mimic tourists' habits. They dress up as tourists, talk and act like them, which could lead to the loss of native customs and traditions.
Locals are frequently forced to adapt their traditional way of life in order to meet the wants of tourists. Because of the demand, shops are stocked with tourist items, hotels are developed and built in a “western” manner, and tiny family restaurants are transformed into pubs. Slowly, a tranquil little hamlet transforms into a never-ending celebration. And the residents of the area have no choice but to adapt.
We all know that tourist areas tend to be more expensive than in other places. While it’s good for the business owners, this can negatively affect the locals. Small business owners frequently have to close their services because they cannot afford to pay high rent. The same is true for young enterprises who want to build a store or café in a tourist area but can't afford to pay the rent. Instead, foreign businessmen buy the property and the business, leaving the locals with nothing.
Tourists have been known to cause damage to historical monuments and natural landmarks. Some of them do it unintentionally. However, there is a sizable percentage of people who deliberately commit acts of vandalism.
Making graffiti in a national park, as well as leaving a signature "B+A=Love '' on a stone or statue, is considered vandalism. There are a number of popular heritage sites where it's very common to find colourful walls, thanks to the sprinkle of tobacco marks. How many times have you seen people climbing a statue or a part of a monument to take a photo causing irreversible damage?
Unfortunately, a considerable number of historical sites have already been desecrated by irresponsible tourists.
Sustainable tourism is not just the responsibility of the governing body or local residents. As tourists and travel enthusiasts it is as much our responsibility to make sure the heritage and cultural richness of a place is not degraded because of our negligence and lack of respect for local traditions. It would be a great contribution in the long run if we could just remember to dispose our waste properly and use local resources judiciously.
-By Gargi Khandwe