growing industries in the world. On a local, national, and international level, tourism is economically and environmentally significant. Tourism has the capacity to help build communities and instigate positive environmental change. Sustainable and ecotourism has gained popularity in the industry but there are still many ways humans make their mark as tourists .
If the number of tourists in a given area is greater than the capacity of the local environment, then negative impacts quickly arise. As we embark on new adventures in new places it’s important to realize what environmental impacts our presence poses to the ecosystem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the three main environmental issues of tourism are: the depletion of natural resources, pollution and physical degradation.
- The Depletion of Natural Resources
The tourism industry can also put pressure on land resources such as minerals, fossil fuels, fertile soil, forests, wetlands and wildlife. More and more tourism and recreational facilities are being built, but their construction can pose a threat to wildlife and local ecosystems. Land resources, such as forests, are also impacted when used for building materials or collected for fuel. Tourist attractions and accommodations are also heavily reliant on energy resources for heating, hot water and electricity.
Improper disposal of waste is also a form of pollution, especially in places with high volumes of tourists. Solid waste and littering can degrade ecosystems and alter the physical appearance of the landscape. Not only that, but marine litter can harm marine mammals or potentially lead to their death. As more tourism facilities are built, sewage pollution also increases. Sewage runoff in seas and lakes can damage wildlife and ecosystems such as coral reefs. This can also stimulate growth of algae and alter salinity and siltation of water bodies. Sewage pollution not only poses health risks to the environment but also humans.
- Physical Degradation
Construction and infrastructure development can include extensive paving, sand mining, wetland draining, marine development and deforestation. Unsustainable land use practices can lead to sand dune and soil erosion and the deterioration of the landscape.
Not only is the physical environment under threat, but living organisms and their natural cycles are also altered. Ecosystem disturbance can lead to destruction in the long term. Poor building regulations and land use planning can also alter the aesthetic appeal of the local environment. This puts a strain on both the natural environment and indigenous structures of the area.
Around the world there are many ecotourism activities and sustainable tourism businesses that keep environmental values at the heart of their business practices. Conventional tourism businesses on the other hand don’t always consider natural resources, pollution and environmental degradation.
Before you jet off on your next travel adventure be sure to take some environmental values with you. To reduce your ecological footprint as a tourist be sure to conserve the amount of water you use, dispose of waste appropriately, tread lightly on the land, and become aware of the local ecosystems you choose to visit. Wherever you may go in the world do your best to support green businesses and minimize your impact on the environment.