Systems Thinking
for Sustainable Tourism


Deck chairs and tourist small hotels on beach

Why is mass coastal tourism a problem? What damage does it do? What are the alternatives?

What is sustainable tourism, and how can we achieve it?

How can Systems Thinking help to understand and inform our choices?

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The appeal of Sun, Sea and Sand

From this...

Unspoilt Greek bay

To this:

Overcrowded tourist beach

Since the 1950s, there has been a huge increase in the numbers of tourists seeking a seaside holiday. Over 500 million tourist arrivals in the Mediterranean are expected by 2030. Over time, many beach resorts become over-crowded and eventually lose their original natural attractiveness.

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Why is Mass Coastal Tourism a Problem?

Effects can include:

  • Destruction of habitats
  • Damage to ecosystems
  • Huge increases in waste and litter
  • Huge increase in demand on local services such as water and waste treatment
  • Increased traffic congestion
  • Increased urbanisation of the coastline
  • Decline of traditional local industries like fishing and farming
  • Reduction in local quality of life

Mass coastal tourism development consumes ever more of the coastline. For example, 43% of the Italian coastline is now completely urbanised.

Greek proverb

Yet, managed properly, coastal tourism can actively preserve the local environment, provide long-term jobs and an economic boost to coastal communities, and a valuable service to holidaymakers.

How can Systems Thinking Help?

The Human-Ocean System is a complex system. Systems Thinking provides major insights for tackling complex, practical problems like these.

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First, tell us a bit about yourself

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35-44 45-54 55-64 Over 65
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