Wednesday, January 16, 2013

BENEFITS AND COSTS OF TOURISM



Tourism brings both economic and noneconomic benefits and costs to host communities. Some of the  considerable economic impacts and benefits were described in the preceding section. There are additional areas of benefit that have not received much research attention. These relate to the benefits of tourism to the traveler, such as the contribution of pleasure travel to rest and relaxation, the educational benefit, the understanding of other people and cultures, and the physical and mental well being of the traveler. There is no question that tourism delivers benefits, but tourism is not perfect. Even advocates for tourism such as your authors (we have been accused of being cheerleaders for tourism) acknowledge that tourism is not an unqualified blessing. There are also costs of tourism, and they do not accrue equally. Many of the social costs incurred are difficult or impossible to measure. Books such as The Golden Hordes, Tourism: Blessing or Blight, and The Holiday Makers (see the Selected References) point out some of the unpleasant aspects of tourism. Improperly planned and developed tourism can create problems. The demands of tourism may come into conflict with the needs and wishes of local residents. Thoughtless development, inappropriate development, overdevelopment, or unfinished development can easily damage the environment.

Tourism has been blamed for polluting beaches; raising the price of labor, land, goods, and so on; spoiling the countryside; contaminating the values of native people; crowding; congestion; noise; litter; crime; loss of privacy; creating social tensions; environmental deterioration; lack of control over a destination’s future; and low-paid seasonal employment. These problems are common to many forms of development and in many cases represent dissatisfaction with the status quo or overdevelopment. They emphasize the need for a coordinated overall economic development plan, of which tourism will be one part. We must accept that tourism is neither a blessing nor a blight, neither poison nor panacea. Tourism can bring great benefits, but it can also bring social problems. The world has experience in how to increase the benefits of tourism and at least some experience in how to lessen social problems. What has to be done is to balance the benefits and costs to come up with the best cost/benefit result. Tourism students and executives must have a clear understanding of both the positive and the negative impacts of tourism on the quality of life of a nation, a province or state, or a community. What are the positive aspects? The negative aspects? We need a balance sheet. First, we look at the plus side of the ledger. Tourism:

  • Provides employment opportunities, both skilled and unskilled, because it is a labor-intensive industry
  • Generates a supply of needed foreign exchange
  • Increases incomes
  • Creates increased gross domestic product
  • Can be built on existing infrastructure
  • Develops an infrastructure that will also help stimulate local commerce and industry
  • Can be developed with local products and resources
  •  Helps to diversify the economy
  • Tends to be one of the most compatible economic development activities available to an area,complementing other economic activities
  • Spreads development
  • Has a high multiplier impact
  • Increases governmental revenues
  • Broadens educational and cultural horizons and improves feelings of self-worth
  • Improves the quality of life related to a higher level of income and improved standards of living
  • Reinforces preservation of heritage and tradition
  • Justifies environmental protection and improvement
  • Provides employment for artists, musicians, and other performing artists because of visitor interest in local culture, thereby enhancing cultural heritage
  • Provides tourist and recreational facilities that may be used by a local population
  • Breaks down language barriers, sociocultural barriers, class barriers, racial barriers, political barriers, and religious barriers
  • Creates a favorable worldwide image for a destination
  • Promotes a global community
  • Promotes international understanding and peace On the minus side of the ledger, we find a number of problems that can be created by tourism, especially by its overdevelopment:
  • Develops excess demand for resources
  • Creates the difficulties of seasonality
  • Causes inflation
  • Can result in unbalanced economic development
  • Creates social problems
  • Degrades the natural physical environment, creates pollution, and contributes to global warming
  • Degrades the cultural environment
  • Increases the incidence of crime, prostitution, and gambling
  • Increases vulnerability to economic and political changes
  • Threatens family structure
  • Commercializes culture, religion, and the arts
  • Creates misunderstanding
  • Creates conflicts in the host society
  • Contributes to disease, economic fluctuation, and transportation problems


Like all change, tourism exacts a price. However, it is here, it is huge, and it needs to be planned and managed. The challenge is to get the right balance, which is to have the benefits outweigh the costs and take steps to lessen the unfavorable impacts that are a part of change. Tourism development must be a part of overall economic development and must be done in a manner that is sustainable.

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