Tourism and the Environment

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Negative Impacts of Tourism on the Environment

Nations with tourist attraction sites have benefited from the income that tourism contributes to the economy through employment, foreign exchange earnings, and growth of service sectors (Postma and Schmuecker, 145). However, tourism may also result in adverse outcomes in the environment, communities, natural resources, and the nation. In this report, the review of the literature focuses on the specific adverse impacts of tourism on the environment. Studying the literature on the negative effects of tourism on the environment is essential in creating awareness on the relationship between tourism and the unfavorable changes it contributes to the natural environment. Various scholars have presented varying opinions on the degree to which tourism has negatively impacted the environment. Additionally, the current pieces of literature have established a range of ways in which tourism activities have damaged the environment. In this regard, tourism has four major negative consequences on the environment; the destruction of the natural environment due to constructions, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and depletion of the ozone layer.

Destruction of the Natural Environment

First, tourism and related infrastructural developments contribute to the destruction of the natural environment. According to Sun and Gao (359), tourism leads to the destruction of the ecosystem and the loss of biodiversity. An ecosystem comprises all living organisms that interact in the biological community and physical environment. Sun and Gao (360), further argue that tourism activities disturb the natural coexistence, ecosystem, food chains, and the life cycles of the organisms within the tourists' attraction sites. Kim, Uysal, and Sirgy (530), also supported that tourism leads to the construction of general infrastructures such as roads, big hotels, bridges, and other economically-motivated premises. In this regard, the infrastructural developments characterize clearing forests, land excavation, contamination of freshwater bodies, and landfilling.

Loss of Biodiversity

Consequently, plants and animals in the affected areas are disturbed, displaced, or killed, and hence leading to the loss of biodiversity. When tourists flock an area, there occurs an elimination of natural uniqueness of the affected place. The loss of biodiversity as a result of tourism activities has several potential consequences on the environment and human life in general. For instance, the affected biodiversity affects the natural food chain cycle, threatens the sources of wood, energy, and herbal medicines, especially in the Himalayan Mountains. Johnston (724), adds that the negative impact of the destruction of the ecosystem by tourism results in disequilibrium in the environment. Therefore, tourism and the associated infrastructural developments result in significant disruption of the natural ecosystem, habitat, and the biodiversity of the living organisms. Similarly, the loss of biodiversity causes the extinction of indigenous species and the reduction of human benefits derived from the ecosystem.


Tourism also involves activities associated with the release of air, water, and soil pollutants. According to Canteiro, Córdova-Tapia, and Brazeiro (222), tourism leads to air and water pollution through the increased disposal of solid and toxic wastes. The group argued that tourists, especially while on hiking trips, carry foodstuffs in disposable items. However, once the tourists are done with their hikes, they irresponsibly leave plastic wastes, which pollute the soil, contaminate water, and affect plants and animals (Postma and Schmuecker, 153). For example, tourists often leave behind nylon papers, cans, and empty water bottles which wild animals could swallow, or pollute surface water. Sunlu (264) supports the literature by stating that hotels and other businesses that host tourists dispose of tons of solid waste annually onto the environment. Johnston (723), in his research, supports Sunlu’s point by stating that in Hawaii, 62% of residents think that the government should spend more on protecting the environment from tourism-related pollutants, than promoting tourism for economic gains. Such is an indication of how much tourism has led to the damage of the environment in Hawaii to a level where people no longer see it as beneficial but as an adverse effect on the environment. Most of the solid wastes produced by hotels and disposed of by tourists during hikes are not biodegradables, and thus, remain in the environment for many years (Postma and Schmuecker, 153). Continuous accumulation of plastic wastes is the major pollutants of water bodies, animals and plant life, air, and soil composition.

Adverse Effects on Marine Life

Further on pollution, Sun and Gao (560) revealed that tourism is established as the contributor to the adverse effects on marine life. In several instances, big hotels seeking cheaper means of sewage disposal have discharged the wastes into water bodies such as oceans and rivers (Sun and Gao, 360). Such effluents have had adverse impacts on the aquatic wildlife species including the death of fish, turtles, and blue whales. In this regard, marine life has increasingly faced massive negative consequences attributed to tourism. Similarly, the disposal of wastes into the seas and oceans from coastal tourists’ resorts has led to the death of fish and other oceanic species. Johnston (724), states in his research that coral reefs have faced increased destruction and disappearance due to tourism activities. He added that trampling by scuba divers and boat anchors as well walking on coral reefs during low tides have been detrimental towards sustaining coral reefs on the coasts.

Depletion of the Ozone Layer

Finally, tourism contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer, which results in significant dangers to the earth’s surface. Canteiro, Córdova-Tapia, and Brazeiro (225), in their research, argue that tourism activities actively contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer and subsequently climate change. The ozone layer, which lies in the earth’s upper atmosphere, is responsible for the protection of life on earth against harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. When high UV rays reach the earth service, they may cause cancer in humans and death to other animals. The tourism sector has directly contributed to the emission of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) such as halocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons (Beeton 577). Such elements emerge from items such as emissions from vehicle exhaust, as well as, halocarbons from refrigerators, propellants, and air conditioners; these emissions destroy the stratospheric ozone layer and contribute to climate change. Scientists have directly linked the destruction of the ozone layer to global warming, increased temperature, the death of amphibians, and rise in sea levels. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil has also increased the emission of gases that radically raise the earth’s temperature and a resultant change in climate (Johnston, 723). Tourists use automobiles and planes that release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the environment.


In conclusion, tourism is a crucial player towards negative impacts on the environment, despite its economic benefits. Tourism and its associated activities have contributed to the destruction of the natural environment due to infrastructural developments characterized by deforestation, land excavation, and dumping. Similarly, the destroyed natural environment results in significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem. Tourism also entails the release of solid wastes, emission of harmful chemicals and gases, which pollute water, soil, and air, as well as, the depletion of the ozone layer.

Works Cited

Beeton, Sue. "Ecotourism: Impacts, Potentials And Possibilities". Tourism Management, vol 22, no. 5, 2015, pp. 576-578. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/s0261-5177(01)00019-x.

Canteiro, Marcelo, Fernando Córdova-Tapia, and Alejandro Brazeiro. "Tourism impact assessment: A tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of touristic activities in Natural Protected Areas." Tourism Management Perspectives

28 (2018): 220-227.

Johnston, Margaret. "Polar Tourism: An Environmental Perspective". Tourism Management, vol 33, no. 3, 2012, pp. 723-724. Elsevier BV, doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2011.06.007.

Kim, Kyungmi, Muzaffer Uysal, and M. Joseph Sirgy. "How does tourism in a community impact the quality of life of community residents?." Tourism Management 36 (2013): 527-540.

Postma, Albert, and Dirk Schmuecker. "Understanding And Overcoming Negative Impacts Of Tourism In City Destinations: Conceptual Model And Strategic Framework". Journal Of Tourism Futures, vol 3, no. 2, 2017, pp. 144-156. Emerald, doi:10.1108/jtf-04-2017-0022.

Sun, Rui Hong, and Jun Gao. "Theories Study Of Modelling Tourism Impacts On Coastal Environment". Advanced Materials Research, 573-574, 2012, pp. 358-361. Trans Tech Publications, doi:10.4028/

Sunlu, Ugur. “Environmental impacts of tourism” Om.Ciheam.Org, 2018, Accessed 10 Nov 2018.

August 21, 2023


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