Ivana De Domenico—Why Booming Tourism Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Thousands of cities and small towns have unique features that draw visitors every year. Famous historical sites, ancient structures with spectacular architecture, and the allure of outdoor adventures are all reasons why a city may be frequented by tourists.

It seems the list of noteworthy things that draw tourism is highly subjective and dependent on what one values out of such a trip. However, is tourism always a good thing? As economically lucrative as a strong tourism market can be, it may also be disruptive for local residents and wildlife.

Follow the Money Trail?

It seems to always be a foregone conclusion that a strong tourism market will automatically reflect economic benefits. While tourism does in fact create jobs, many of these jobs are in the lower-income service capacity. This does little to alleviate the strain on impoverished individuals. Tourism means money spent, but the economic effects are not always positive.
Tourism creates a higher number of people using aspects of a city’s infrastructure. Roads and facilities inevitably feel the effects of increased traffic. Tax dollars must be used to maintain dozens of things affected by heavy tourism.
Additionally, much of the profit generated by these visitors winds up going toward massive corporations rather than locals. A large percentage of the money tourists spend does not benefit the local economy. Tourism does have positive economic benefits, but without a healthy balance, it can put a financial burden on towns without giving much back.

Strain on the Local Environment?

While the economic aspects of strong tourism, both negative and positive, often cancel one another out, the environmental questions are another story. The environmental strain of tourism is taxing, with no positive effects to counterbalance the negatives.
Tourists can overcrowd a region, often past the point of sustainability. This means more water consumption, more pollution on the roadways, plus an increased workload for other services. Waste management companies must handle the extra garbage produced by the visitors, while cleanup crews must maintain beaches, parks, and other public facilities.
The environmental considerations of tourism tie in closely with the economic factors as well. Rarely does the capital necessary to maintain the environment come from the actual people creating the problems. Once again, the community must foot the bill for their visitors.
Tourism can help to economically bolster an area. However, building too high of a reliance on out-of-town visitors can create headaches and lead to further problems. These problems can be burdensome to taxpayers and erode the beautiful environment they value. The only way for tourism to be deemed a positive for a community is through prudent balance. If not, it can become an issue that breaks the backs of the local residents.