5 | Uncontrolled Growth

Mediterranean coastal resort

So far, we have explored the effects of tourists and advertising on environmental quality. Here we add to our model hotels and profits from tourism.

What happens if more and more tourists come, as more and more hotels are built? In other words, if the goal is unlimited, uncontrolled growth?

Note: we use the term 'hotels' to include not only hotels, but the general infrastructure associated with tourism.

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Understanding the dynamics

Causal loop diagram: Reinvesting profits into more hotels

We have introduced Income from Tourism and Hotels into the diagram.

  • Tourists are now attracted by 3 factors: Advertising, Hotels & Environmental Quality
  • In this model, all profits from tourism are re-invested in tourism

Notice also that we have marked two loops, showing circular causality.

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A Closer Look at the Feedback Loops

The Positive Feedback Loop

Positive feedback loop

Follow the green arrows (from Tourists) to see how reinvesting profits from tourism into building more hotels causes runaway growth in tourists.

The Negative Feedback Loop

Negative feedback loop

Follow the arrows to see how growth in tourist numbers DECREASES environmental quality, which DECREASES attractiveness and therefore tourist numbers. So an INCREASE in tourists eventually causes a DECREASE in tourists.

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Systems Concepts

Types of Feedback Loops

There are only two types: Positive Feedback Loops and Negative Feedback Loops. These are very common in nature and all kinds of systems.

Positive Feedback Loops

Positive feedback loop: cattle stampede

Often called 'vicious circles' (or 'virtuous circles'), they cause runaway growth or collapse. Running cattle cause panic, so more cattle run, which creates more panic.

Negative Feedback Loops

Negative feedback loop: predator and prey

Negative feedback loops generally resist change by producing change in the opposite direction. More prey feed more predators - but more predators will kill more prey.

Systems are Governed by Feedback Loops

Complex systems have many interacting feedback loops. Their action drives changes in tourist numbers, predator/prey populations etc.

Why is there a Limit to the Growth of Tourists?

Causal loop diagram: One stock feeding two feedback loops

Because rising tourist numbers fuel BOTH feedback loops simultaneously!

So at the same time as the tourist numbers are rising, the Environmental Quality - the renewable resource that all this activity depends on - is deteriorating more and more. This discourages tourists seeking an interaction with nature - creating a limit to the growth of those tourists.

Note: In Mass Tourism, tourist numbers can continue to increase because the Advertising, Hotels - and other factors such as price - attract them more than the Environmental Quality. The consequence is that the environment continues to degrade at a fast rate.

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Explore for yourself

What happens to the Environmental Quality and Tourist numbers as you INCREASE the Hotel Investment Rate?



Hotel Investment Rate

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Question 9:

In the simulation, what happens as the Hotel Investment Rate increases?

Check all that apply:

The overall number of hotels increases
The overall number of tourists increases
The overall number of tourists decreases
The environmental quality decreases
The environmental quality increases

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Explaining the Rapid Growth and Subsequent Decline in Tourists

Tourist growth pattern showing the influence of loop dominance

Loop Dominance

  • Initially, the Positive Feedback Loop dominates, leading to rapid growth.
  • However, because of the simultaneous action of the Negative Feedback Loop, this strong growth depletes the resource that growth depends on.
  • The balance shifts so that the Negative Feedback Loop now dominates, and growth slows down.

'Overshoot and Collapse'

This sharp increase in tourists, followed by a dramatic drop, is an 'overshoot and collapse' pattern of behaviour characteristic of the Limits to Growth Archetype.

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Question 10:

What factors fuel the 'vicious circle' of 'boom and bust' in this system model?

Check all that apply:

Unmanaged, strong growth
A low level of advertising
This type of tourism depends on a natural resource which has limits on its renewability
Profits are entirely funnelled back into tourism (by building more hotels)

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