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Debate: Tourism

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What are the pros and cons of tourism?

Background and context

Tourism accounts for a significant, and growing, proportion of gross global product: an estimated 10.6% in 1996. In that year, 595 million trips were made abroad (an increase of 5.5% on 1995 and 77% on 1986).[1] By 2010, an estimated 937 million trips will be made. Total (direct and indirect) spending totalled $3.6 trillion, supporting at least 10% of global employment.[2] However, fears about the costs of tourism increasingly focus on the environmental damage done to especially popular ‘honeypot’ sites as well as the economic fragility of dependence on tourist income. Since the Brundtland Report and the Rio Summit, the concept of ‘sustainable tourism’ (that which does not cause long term environmental damage) has been focused upon, along with fashionable, but environmentally ambiguous ‘ecotourism’. Key organisations such as the World Tourism Organisation and the World Travel and Tourism Council try to develop contacts between different members of the tourism market, to reconcile their competing interests.[3]

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Economics - Does tourism benefit hosting economies?

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Yes

Tourism increases income to a particular area or country, not only via direct spending but also through taxation and the purchase of luxury goods which creates a larger market than would be possible with purely local spending.

In many less developed countries tourism acts as an alternative to cash crops, improving terms of trade and creating a more diversified economic base.

Revenue received from tourists can be reinvested in improving otherwise poorly funded infrastructure, both in areas visited and in the rest of the country too.

The multiplier effect of spending works through the economy to sustain levels of employment and increase labour market flexibility.

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No

Dependence on tourism creates risks: International tourism in particular may increase short-term returns, but at the cost of a dependence on the vagaries of fashions. A single climatic disaster, such as a hurricane, or a crime wave (as in South Africa), or terrorist attack (such as that at Luxor in 1997, where 58 tourists were attacked) will mean the market quickly collapses.[4] Even without this, changing trends will mean tourist tastes shift every few years.

Large sums of money can be spent and wasted toward attracting tourists: So, significant capital investment may be wasted (as in Jeju in South Korea, which is spending $3.6b over ten years).[5] The spending is concentrated in resorts rather than spread across the country, or being put into providing for basic needs.

Hotel tourism industries are often anti-competitive: It is hard to get banks to lend money to set up smaller hotels as the investments are seen as too risky, and so artificially high interest rates deter investment or competition.

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Labor ethics - Is the tourism industry creating ethical, domestic employment for host countries?

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Yes

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No

Many hotels are part of large international chains, choosing to exploit local labour purely because it is cheap. These multi-national corporations (MNCs) are usually welcome, despite the fact that the profit they make in a majority of cases does not stay within the borders of the host country. Local labour is exploited because it is cheap, environment is destroyed without punishment because there usually are no treaties or contracts to force the MNCs to pollute less (this applies mostly for the developing countries).

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"Ecotoursim" - Is "ecotourism" beneficial?

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Yes

The recent trend of ‘ecotourism’ can provide benefits to serious research, such as in Belize where tourist divers collect information for scientists (with a similar project regarding Australian whale sharks). Governments not otherwise inclined to protect such species will have a financial incentive as well as a moral imperative to do so if tourists encourage it.

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No

"Ecotourism" is unsustainable, given the lack (apart from in Australia) of an accepted system of accreditation: ‘Ecotourism’ can entail anything from a sincere attempt to maintain the ecosystem to a packaged imitation of ‘real wildlife/culture’.[6] Ironically, the attractions of unspoilt countryside are ruined by ever more visitors: tourism is a good example of classic market failure, where the social costs are paid by those receiving few, if any, of the benefits.

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Cultural conservation - Can cultural conservation be maintained in the face of the demands of tourism (ie. the construction of hotels)?

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Yes

Geographically separating tourism related buildings and older buildings can enable conservation: In York, maintaining geographical separation between old and new buildings and refusing planning permission for certain heights of offices prevents architectural vandalism.[7] Similar care has been taken on parts of the Sinai coast.[8] In fact, artificial imitations in Las Vegas or Disneyworld serve to ease the pressure on original areas.[9]

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No

Ancient monuments and heritage sites are damaged by influxes of people, traffic, pollution: Millions of feet have eroded paths in the Peak District and the Great Wall of China.[10] Cheaply constructed concrete hotels are unsympathetic to the architectural vernacular. Furthermore, noise pollution derives from clubs and bars provided for tourists.

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Tourism's traditions - Does tourism bring its own traditions that may serve to improve a city or area?

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Yes

There is a longstanding didactic tradition within tourism, which widens cultural knowledge and understanding across areas. It is possible to re-brand an area, such as Las Vegas, away from a negative image of gambling to a positive family orientated marketing strategy.

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No

Tourism demands that an area conform to a certain stereotyped image, often preventing modernisation or development, or requiring the local inhabitants to make a caricature of their own culture. Local hostility is already turning to litigation over the issues of access to private beaches, diving areas, water and grazing land.

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Infrastructure strains - Are the infrastructure strains caused by tourism unsustainable?

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Yes

The numbers of tourists will continue to rise due to cheaper travel and greater access to previously closed countries anyway – so it is better to try to provide facilities for them than to allow unlimited access.

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No

The increased size of the industry is currently unsustainable: Infrastructure, and in particular airspace, is already unable to cope with the amount of journeys demanded – so ways must be found by which to reduce tourists artificially.

See also

External links

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