Tourism is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing industry among all. The rising living standard, increased leisure time and the desire to learn about the world has increased the mobility of worldwide travellers. In 2015, the number of international travellers is reported to be 1.18 billion, which has increased by 262% compared with what we had in 1990. This number is predicted to reach 1.6 billion by 2020, which is more than the total population of Europe and the U.S. combined.
Tourism has brought significant benefits to some destinations by being the major source of income and job provider. Last year, tourism generated US$ 7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 227 million jobs (1 in 11 jobs). In some small islands and developing countries, tourism is the mainstay of the local economy, where its importance to the country’s finance tend to be higher. The growth in tourism is proved to help combat poverty and relieve unemployment issues.
Tourism has brought significant benefits to some destinations by being the major source of income and job provider. Last year, tourism generated US$ 7.6 trillion (10% of global GDP) and 227 million jobs (1 in 11 jobs). In some small islands and developing countries, tourism is the mainstay of the local economy, where its importance to the country’s finance tend to be higher. The growth in tourism is proved to help combat poverty and relieve unemployment issue.
However, this tremendous growth is not happening without consequences. Tourism has been found to cause devastating impacts to the wider environment and society. To name a few, hotels are always a big consumer to water which has resulted in conflicts between local use and tourism development. Taking the case here in Tanzania, while the whole tourism and hotel industry is on the rise that tourists are enjoying all sorts of water facility; farmers in Dar es Salaam have been left with no choice but using polluted water to irrigate their crops for they have no access to clean water. (More on http://www.ippmedia.com/?l=88539). Study has shown that every household in Zanzibar uses an average of 93 litres per day whereas the average consumption of water use in a five star hotel can go up to 3195 litres per room per day. These figures prove how tourism is causing intense pressure on local water use. Sewage and wastewater discharge from hotels could also lead to fresh water contamination.
Contributing to global warming is another great problem of tourism while air travels release significant amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The loss of forests for tourism infrastructures also aggravates the carbon emission problem. While natural beauty is one of the main attractions in tourism, the growth of tourism activities can have adverse impacts to the beautiful sceneries. For example, tourism construction causes transformation of landscape and disruption of views; also, water activities can cause pollution and disruption to marine life and biodiversity.
Socially, tourism can turn local cultures into commodities when the traditional elements are modified to satisfy the tourist expectation. The visit of Maasai tribe is one typical example in Tanzania while tourists usually expect to see the Maasai men dancing in their beautiful cloths and jewellery but have little interest to experience their real life and work. As a result of that, only the interesting things will be preserved in order to satisfy tourists and make money. The authenticity of the destination might eventually be lost. Furthermore, tourists might, out of ignorance or carelessness, fail to respect the local customs and values; in which can bring irritation to the local communities and in the worst case, cause resentment.
Luckily, having recognized the negative impacts caused by tourism development, the industry has already on the way to mitigate the negative impacts and strive for sustainable tourism. A sustainable approach to tourism means that tourism resources and attractions should be used in a way that neither the natural environment nor the society will be impaired; on the contrary, they should benefit from tourism, both economically and culturally. Some existing practices includes applying energy efficient engines on aircrafts, introducing renewable energy and grey water schemes to conserve resources, educating tourists on respecting the environment and community…and more and more.
The question is, how can we tourists, as the major consumer in the industry, can help to react to the problems? Many industrial actions would be useless if we refuse to change our behaviours accordingly. Developing sustainable tourism needs our cooperation, even the smallest deeds matter!!
So, here are some practical tips to being a responsible traveller.
- Don’t litter, try to take the rubbish with you until you can find a bin. Help to preserve the lovely sceneries for other people.
- Try to avoid excessive use of plastic bottles and plastic bags by bringing your own reusable water bottle and shopping bag. (Not all the countries have disposal/ recycling system for plastics).
- Reduce energy consumption. Turn off unused lights and electrical appliances.
- Conserve water by taking shorter showers. When you are enjoying your long shower; there are people in the same area have limited access to fresh water.
- Always ask before taking photos of someone. Respect when they say no.
- Respect cultural difference. You might experience thing that is out of expectation, but that’s the real culture, embrace it and enjoy it.
- Dress respectively. Some countries are relatively conservative that shoulders and knees are expected to be covered up.
- Don’t purchase products that are made of endangered species.
- Buy locally and eat locally. It is the best way to enjoy the local culture, and your spending could help to feed the whole family. Purchasing locally can also help reduce the carbon emission caused by transportation.
- Before you go, take some times to check out your holiday providers (hotel, travel agent, tour operator) – support those who support sustainable travels.
“The movement for responsible tourism is gathering pace – we can make tourism a better experience for hosts and guests”