Is tourism beneficial?
- Brittanica defines tourism as “the act and process of spending time away from home in pursuit of recreation, relaxation, and pleasure, while making use of the commercial provision of services.”
- Mastercard’s 2019 Global Destination Cities Index—based on “proprietary analysis of publicly available visitor volume and spend data,” ranks Bangkok, Thailand, as the world’s number one tourist destination with over 22 million international overnight visitors.
- With approximately 161,593 hotel rooms and growing, Las Vegas has the most number of hotel rooms of any location in the world.
- The Pew Research Center reported in 2021 that 71% of Americans have traveled abroad at some point in their lives.
Tourism allows locals to benefit financially from attractions, areas of natural beauty, and pleasant weather. It creates business opportunities to accommodate out-of-towners who visit points of interest and who use secondary services such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation. When taxed properly, tourism allows all residents to reap some benefits of the associated influx of economic activity. This can be particularly important for parts of the world that lack big industries to support their economies. Many poorer nations can take advantage of their beautiful countryside, beaches, and other natural attractions to generate economic activity.
On the flip side, tourism is good for those taking trips because it allows them opportunities for new experiences and to encounter new cultures. It also helps people de-stress and enjoy time with friends and family away from the pressures of home. Sometimes a change of scenery is needed, and tourism allows people to 'get away from it all.'
Finally, tourism promotes cultural exchange, which benefits global harmony and world peace. As Mark Twain famously said, 'travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.' When people visit other nations and learn about their cultures, they create memories and generate empathy that will inform their worldviews for years to come. This helps people understand other nations and recognize the essential humanity in those from other countries. Once people have these connections to other parts of the world, they can support companies that behave ethically in those areas and hold their elected politicians to policies that help the residents.
Whether a local cashing in on financial opportunity or a visitor broadening their horizons and making life-long memories, tourism is that rare phenomenon that benefits both parties.
Tourism is a thriving industry, with approximately 207 million international arrivals recorded between June and July 2022. However, although booming, tourism is still very problematic--especially considering its negative impact on economies, societies, and the environment.
Firstly, tourist developments prioritize tourists over the locals, disrupting residents' daily lives--not to mention the long work hours and low wages characteristic of the work deficits facing the tourism sector. There's also the issue of tourism leakage, in which dollars leave the local economy to benefit foreign companies or countries.
Being over-reliant on tourism can backfire too. This a lesson many countries learned the hard way during the COVID pandemic. And one they should remember, too, considering the impact of climate change on the sector.
In addition to the economy, tourism is disadvantageous to societies. It can turn culture into a commodity, raising many ethical issues. For instance, traditional costumes, ceremonies, and handicrafts may be altered for tourists' benefit. Further, interactions with tourists may also affect indigenous cultures, as the youth of these communities may mimic tourists and move away from their own traditions.
And like the locals, landmarks, too, may be at risk due to tourism. They may be vandalized or suffer irreparable damage.
Finally, tourism has many environmental disadvantages. Not only does it contribute to 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but it also depletes resources. It may also impact the natural ecosystem. For instance, drunken tourists have ended up killing the Bahamas' swimming pigs.
With so much at risk, tourists need to reconsider taking their next trip. Alternatively, they can explore sustainable tourism for minimal impact on all of the above.
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