2 | Mass Tourism and its Effect on the Coastal Environment

Crowded beach

Let's take a closer look at the damage that mass tourism does to the coastal environment, and why this damage occurs.

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Tourism: The Figures

International tourist arrivals by world region

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that internationally there were just 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950. 66 years later this number has increased to 1.2 billion international arrivals per year. This is a 49-fold increase. Europe remains the biggest single destination: in 2016, half of all tourists arrived in Europe.

Source: ourworldindata.org/tourism

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Some Visible Effects of Mass Tourism

Environmental stresses from human activity include litter, pollution, overcrowding and congestion.

Litter strewn coastal resort
Traffic jams at crowded beach
Sewage pipe discharging onto a beach
Contaminated beach sign
Seabird with plastic bottle
Dead fish lying on polluted beach
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What's Driving All This Damage?

A typical mass tourism coastal resort has the following characteristics:

High Reliance on Package Tours

Package tours yield a high concentration of low spending tourists. The number of tourists is high - but the receipts from tourism are low.

Heavy Pressure from the High Numbers

The high number of tourists causes heavy pressure on the coastal land and beaches, environment, water, energy and sanitation.

Profits Taken Out of the Local Economy

Tourism marginalises traditional economic activities. The development of tourism has increased employment opportunities but employment benefits, and the profits from tourism, have not gone equally to the local population.

Crowded beach with sign to tourists

Source: Article: The Sustainability of Coastal Tourism
Photo credit: travelwirenews.com

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Question 3:

Can you guess from the graph above what is the predicted number of tourists globally by 2030?

1.0 billion
1.4 billion
1.8 billion
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What are the Dynamics?

Causal loop diagram: tourism and environmental quality

Tourists increase the Degeneration Rate

Tourists bring with them many threats to environmental quality, such as litter and pollution. The more tourists, the greater the damage.

Degeneration Rate becomes greater than Regeneration Rate

When the outflow is greater than the inflow, the stock level will go down.
The natural balance is disturbed, and the Degeneration Rate is now greater than the Regeneration rate, so the Environmental Quality declines.

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Explore for yourself:

Use the dial to increase the number of Tourists. What's the effect on Environmental Quality?


Number of Tourists (1000s)

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Question 4:

In the simulation, what happens as the number of tourists increases?

Environmental quality increases
Environmental quality decreases
Environmental quality stays the same

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