13 Impact of Tourism on the Environment

Both positive and negative effects of tourism are felt in popular tourist areas.

Economic, sociocultural, and environmental dimensions are the typical categories used to define the impacts of tourism.

A higher standard of life, greater job opportunities, and increased tax and personal income are just a few of the positive economic consequences of tourism.

Interactions between people from different cultural backgrounds, attitudes and behaviors, and links to material possessions are all examples of sociocultural influences.

Degradation of habitat, vegetation, air quality, water bodies, the water table, wildlife, and changes to natural phenomena are examples of direct environmental impacts.

Indirect effects include increased harvesting of natural resources for food, indirect air pollution, and changes to natural phenomena (including flights, transport, and the manufacture of food and souvenirs for tourists).

In recent years, the impact of tourism on the environment has been a critical topic that needs to be discussed in our time as climate change is what we see and there are various ways in which our environment and climate are changing.

Tourists and stakeholders alike are now acknowledging the importance of environmental management in the tourism industry due to the development of sustainable tourism and the increase in initiatives for being environmentally friendly.

What is Tourism?

United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates that in 2008

Traveling outside one’s typical area for personal, business, or professional reasons is known as tourism, and it is a social, cultural, and economic phenomenon.

Visitors—tourists, excursionists, residents, or non-residents—are these individuals, and tourism has to do with their activities, some of which imply spending on tourism.

Spending time away from home in search of leisure, relaxation, and pleasure while utilizing the commercial provision of services is referred to as tourism.

Since the satisfaction, safety, and enjoyment of consumers are particularly important to the businesses in the tourism sector, it is a dynamic and competitive industry that necessitates the ability to adapt continuously to the changing demands and desires of customers.

13 Impact of Tourism on the Environment

There are both positive and negative impacts of tourism on the environment

Positive Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

In general, the positive impacts of tourism on the environment are

  • Provides foreign currency to manage natural resources
  • Financial and employment prospects
  • Encourages conservation efforts
  • Supports environmentally responsible growth
  • Increasing awareness of and sensitivity to possibilities for sustainable tourism
  • The adoption and application of legal requirements
  • Conservation of Endangered species

1. Provides foreign currency to manage natural resources

The management of natural resources is generally greatly aided by tourism. It may take the form of preserving natural areas or even species.

As tourists seek out outdoor adventures, we are now creating numerous natural parks and reserves.

Additionally, they bring in foreign currency to support the maintenance of these reserves.

For instance, all visitors to the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa are required to pay the conservation charge either when making reservations or after checking out.

After that, we use this money to manage wildlife, with a focus on stopping rhino poaching.

Additionally, travelers and tour guides might charge extra for conservation efforts.

Governments may also impose levies on certain conservation efforts.

2. Financial and employment prospects

Indirectly or directly, the tourist sector supports one in ten employment globally.

Even in rural or distant places, tourism generates decent employment prospects and economic progress.

Women work in the tourism industry, which is frequently a young person’s first job experience.

The money generated by tourism is therefore frequently invested in enhancing local infrastructure as well as in the sustainable management and preservation of the world’s natural beauties.

The environment benefits from improved infrastructure and services. They are centered on managing and consuming resources.

Modern wastewater treatment facilities conserve water and encourage its more effective usage.

Instead of simply dumping waste into the ocean or landfills, waste management facilities emphasize recycling items.

To protect and maintain its extraordinarily diverse rainforests while also generating cash from tourism, Costa Rica has one of the most effective rainforest conservation methods.

A portion of this cash is used to maintain, research, and professionally train park rangers in rainforest protection.

The remainder supports the local economy and offers residents chances for a balanced quality of life.

3. Encourages conservation efforts

Utilizing resources sustainably is referred to as conservation. In essence, tourism is reliant on the environment.

As a result, several locations are increasingly enticing tourists by utilizing their resources sustainably.

As a result, as more travelers visit natural regions, conservation efforts in tourism locations are encouraged.

If not, governments might plunder the resources or even raze the land to make way for development.


Africa is a perfect example of a nation where tourism has benefited the preservation of wildlife.

3.6 million people are employed by wildlife tourism in Africa, which accounts for over 36% of the continent’s total tourism revenue and over $29 billion in economic output.

What Africa is most known for is the chance to observe wild creatures in their natural habitat.

By giving them work, this type of tourism lowers poverty and empowers women, but it also indirectly does so by funding the construction of essential infrastructures like schools and hospitals.

The significance of their untamed natural areas is becoming more and more important across Africa, Asia, South America, and the South Pacific.

Even new national and wildlife parks that link sustainable tourism with biodiversity preservation have emerged along with the expansion of tourism.

4. Supports environmentally responsible growth

Tourism companies must adopt ecologically friendly methods as customers become more concerned about the environment.

Undoubtedly, many tourist destinations use a variety of green techniques to attract visitors.

Utilizing renewable energy sources and utilizing natural drainage ponds are two examples.

The tourism industry is reorganizing itself to be more sustainable.

As tourists become more aware of their effects, there is less disruption in natural areas.

Hotels are making investments in cutting-edge equipment like automatic bathrooms to reduce waste.

Food wholesalers are supporting planting and farming organically.

5. Increasing awareness of and sensitivity to possibilities for sustainable tourism

Tourism has gradually raised awareness about the need to preserve, protect, and maintain the ecosystem’s fragile, unusual, and frequently almost extinct, flora and wildlife.

Ahead of the sustainable tourism agenda, organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, UN Environment Programme, and Nature Conservancy have established plans, policies, and programs.

Tourists from abroad and locally, as well as residents, are more conscious of the importance of protecting and sustaining the environment.

6. The adoption and application of legal requirements

The government has been able to counteract a lot of harmful environmental effects by implementing regulations to limit the potential negative features of tourism.

These efforts include regulating the number of tourists that visit, establishing protected regions and imposing access restrictions there, and enacting stringent environmental regulations like carbon offset schemes.

Maintaining the vitality and integrity of tourist destinations as well as the protection of the local ecosystems and natural resources has been simpler with the implementation of these rules.

7. Conservation of Endangered species

Countries start to understand that their endangered and unique animals serve as their national emblem in the eyes of foreign tourists who are frequently drawn to the area because of them.

Wild creatures, untamed forests, and an array of exotic plants with vivid colors are becoming uncommon sights in a world with a developed economy.

Nature reserves and other protected places are frequently used as the few remaining locations where this fading world can still be found.

The endangered species that live there are better protected as a result.

Negative Impact of Tourism on the Environment

The following are a few detrimental effects of unsustainable tourism activities that need to be highlighted:

  • Natural Resource Depletion
  • Increased Waste Generation
  • Sewage contamination rises when more tourism-related amenities are constructed.
  • Pollution
  • Contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to global warming
  • Land degradation and soil erosion
  • Physical ecosystem deterioration and biodiversity loss

1. Natural Resource Depletion

The environment of a region will suffer if tourism is promoted there in the absence of suitable resources.

The native flora and wildlife may lack the resources they require to survive in such locations.

For instance, using a lot of water to run hotels, swimming pools, maintain golf courses, and other tourist-related operations.

As a result, there may be less water available for local people, plants, and animals, and the quality of the water may deteriorate.

Resources other than water are also being depleted.

Other resources like food, energy, and other resources may be under stress as a result of the tourism industry’s unsustainable activities.

2. Increased Waste Generation

What does a pleasant vacation in a lovely seaside town often look like?

Good meals, beach drinks, little refreshments, beautiful scenery, and a range of unwinding activities are all available.

Most of us wish to forget about our daily obligations when on vacation.

This involves organizing our meals, keeping a refillable water bottle on hand, and using long-lasting products like comfortable slippers or reusable shopping bags.

Many people rely on disposable single-use plastic goods when engaging in that novel experience.

Compared to long-term inhabitants, tourists can generate twice as much waste every day.

According to estimates, the amount of marine debris in the Mediterranean rises by up to 40% during the busiest months.

According to UNEP, a visitor to a new location might produce between 1 and 12 kg of solid garbage each day.

Numerous variables, including location, lodging type, personal preferences, and the nature of the trip, affect the numbers.

If nations do not embrace sustainable practices of addressing product cycle and trash disposal, we will anticipate an increase in solid waste output due to tourism of 251% by 2050.

Ecosystems can suffer from solid waste and trash, which can also change the way the area looks.

Marine debris damages marine life, frequently resulting in their demise and deteriorates delicate, distinctive, yet crucial ecosystems.

3. Sewage contamination rises when more tourism-related amenities are constructed.

Sewage overflow in lakes and oceans harms aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, particularly delicate coral reefs that are frequently a location’s main draw.

Any form of waterway pollution can cause eutrophication, excessive algal growth, and changes to the salinity and siltation of water bodies.

Native plants and animals find it difficult to thrive as a result of these environmental changes.

3. Pollution

Over time, tourism as a whole and particular visitor behaviors, such as littering and other forms of environmental degradation, have hurt the destination locations’ air, land, water, and soil quality.

Some visitors leave trash or waste, such as plastic wrappers and cigarette butts, in the area, which pollutes the soil, the plastic environment, and the air, respectively.

Recreational boating-related water contamination has also been documented.

For example, Ocean Conservancy estimates that cruise ships in the Caribbean emit 70,000 tons of effluent annually, which has an impact on the natural habitat of marine life.

When hiking and camping routes are made, bushes are cut down, and wood fuel is obtained, this can sometimes result in soil erosion, which is another form of land degradation.

Due to the high noise levels from recreational vehicles, buses, planes, and holiday celebrations, which can disturb wildlife and even change their regular activity patterns, tourism is also strongly linked to noise pollution at these times.

Additionally, given that tourism accounts for more than 60% of global air travel, it also contributes significantly to air pollution through travel-related air emissions.

4. Contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to global warming

Climate change and rising global temperatures are mostly caused by greenhouse gases, which are emitted into the atmosphere in large quantities by the tourism industry.

This is simply because tourism involves individuals moving from their homes to new locations.

Environmental experts blame increased greenhouse gas emissions, which trap sunlight, for the continuously rising global temperatures.

Carbon dioxide is one of the principal greenhouse gases, and it is primarily emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and natural gas to produce power, in industries, and vehicles.

Over 55% of all traffic movements worldwide are related to tourism, which accounts for an estimated 3% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

As the number of visitors increases over time, emissions will also increase, which will likely worsen the effects of climate change.

5. Land degradation and soil erosion

Reckless development and rapid infrastructure expansion, insufficient infrastructure (such as a lack of parking spaces or overcrowded natural areas), and deviating from the course can all quickly initiate erosive processes and hasten site degradation.

Recreational and tourism activities frequently alter soil characteristics, particularly when the number of visitors exceeds the ecosystem’s capacity to handle them.

In the most popular locations, visitors trample the vegetation around trails, gradually resulting in wider sections of a surface devoid of vegetation.

Erosion is largely caused by the construction of new resorts or their expansion into nearby natural regions, coastlines, or mountain sites.

The first step in many projects is the removal of vegetation, which reduces the soils’ capacity to absorb water and frequently leaves the soils exposed and susceptible for years before the project is complete.

Roads, parking lots, and the area around lodging units all have impervious surfaces that prevent water from penetrating the ground.

Because of the increased surface runoff, soil fragments are removed even more quickly.

6. Physical ecosystem deterioration and biodiversity loss

According to estimates, the average rate of tourism growth in industrialized countries is 3 percent, but it can reach 8 percent in developing nations.

The sector has a significant physical impact on the area where growth occurs, and more transient tourists stop by to enjoy the location.

Numerous well-known tourist attractions are situated close to fragile ecosystems.

Ecosystems like rain forests, wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and alpine regions are frequently in danger as a result of their appeal to developers and visitors seeking the unique experience of being near nature’s beauties.

Deforestation, extensive pavement, sand mining, wetland drainage, and coastal development are all examples of construction and infrastructure development.

Unsustainable land use techniques can cause soil and dune erosion as well as the degradation of the environment.


In conclusion, it is good to know that tourism has both negative and positive impacts on the environment and so, we should try as much as possible to minimize our impact on the environment be it from tourism or any other action.

 Impact of Tourism on the Environment – FAQs

How does Tourism affect Environment?

Tourism contributes to better water quality control, environmental preservation, and local natural resource management in a variety of locations. It could produce more money to spend on environmental services and infrastructure. Tourism significantly impacts local land use, which can result in soil erosion, increased pollution, the loss of natural habitats, and greater stress on endangered species. The environmental resources that tourism itself depends on may eventually be destroyed by these impacts.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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