Environmental Effect of Tourism: Natural Resources, Pollution, Wildlife

  • Post last modified:28 August 2021
  • Reading time:30 mins read
  • Post category:Tourism

Tourism especially, marine and coastal tourism is one the fastest growing areas within the world’s largest industry. Yet despite increased awareness of the economic and environmental significance of tourism, it is only in recent years, scientific researches have emerged.

Negative impacts from tourism occur when the level of visitor use is greater than the environment’s ability to cope with this use within acceptable limits of change. Uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas around the world.

It can put enormous pressure on an area and lead to impacts such as soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss increased pressure on endangered species, and heightened vulnerability to forest fires.

It often puts a strain on water resources, and it can force local populations to compete for the use of critical resources.

Depletion of Natural Resources

Tourism development can put pressure on natural resources when it increases consumption in areas where resources are already scarce:

  1. Water Resources
  2. Local Resources
  3. Land Degradation

Water Resources

Water, and especially freshwater, is one of the most critical natural resources. The tourism industry generally overuses water resources for hotels, swimming pools, golf courses, and personal use of water by tourists.

This can result in water shortages and degradation of water supplies, as well as generating a greater volume of wastewater.

Local Resources

Tourism can create great pressure on local resources like energy, food, and other raw materials that may already be in short supply. Greater extraction and transport of these resources exacerbates the physical impacts associated with their exploitation.

Because of the seasonal character of the industry, many destinations have ten times more inhabitants in the high season than in the low season. High demand is placed upon these resources to meet the high expectations tourists often have (proper heating, hot water, etc.).

Land Degradation

Important land resources include minerals, fossil fuels, fertile soil, forests, wetland, and wildlife. Increased construction of tourism and recreational facilities has increased pressure on these resources and on scenic landscapes.

Direct impact on natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in the provision of tourist facilities can be caused by the use of land for accommodation and other infrastructure provision, and the use of building materials.

Forests often suffer negative impacts of tourism in the form of deforestation caused by fuelwood collection and land clearing. For example, one trekking tourist in Nepal and an area already suffering the effects of deforestation can use four to five kilograms of wood a day.


Tourism can cause the same forms of pollution as any other industry:

  1. Air Pollution and Noise
  2. Solid Waste and Littering
  3. Sewage
  4. Aesthetic Pollution

Air Pollution and Noise

Transport by air, road, and rail is continuously increasing in response to the rising number of tourists and their greater mobility. The International Civil Aviation Organization reported that the number of international air passengers worldwide rose from 88 million in 1972 to 344 million in 1994.

One consequence of this increase in air transport is that tourism now accounts for more than 60% of air travel and is therefore responsible for an important share of air emissions.

One study estimated that a single transatlantic return flight emits almost half the CO emissions produced by all other sources (lighting, 2 heating, car use, etc.) consumed by an average person per year.

For example, especially in very hot or cold countries, tour buses often leave their motors running for hours while the tourists go out for an excursion because they want to return to a comfortably air-conditioned bus.

Noise pollution from airplanes, cars, and buses, as well as recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles and jet skis, is a problem of modern life. In addition to causing annoyance, stress, and even hearing loss for humans, it causes distress to wildlife, especially in sensitive areas.

Solid Waste and Littering

In areas with high concentrations of tourist activities and appealing natural attractions, waste disposal is a serious problem and improper disposal can be a major despoiler of the natural environment, rivers, scenic areas, and roadsides.

For example, cruise ships in the Caribbean are estimated to produce more than 70,000 tons of waste each year. Solid waste and littering can degrade the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and cause the death of marine animals.

In mountain areas, trekking tourists generate a great deal of waste. Tourists on expedition leave behind their garbage, oxygen cylinders, and even camping equipment. Such practices degrade the environment with all the detritus typical of the developed world, in remote areas that have few garbage collection or disposal facilities.


Construction of hotels, recreation and other facilities often leads to increased sewage pollution. Wastewater pollutes seas and lakes surrounding tourist attractions, damaging the flora and fauna.

Sewage runoff causes serious damage to coral reefs because it contains lots of nutrients and it stimulates the growth of algae, which cover the filter-feeding corals, hindering their ability to survive.

Changes in salinity and transparency can have wide-ranging impacts on coastal environments. And sewage pollution can threaten the health of humans and animals.

Aesthetic Pollution

Often tourism fails to integrate its structures with the natural features and indigenous architecture of the destination. Large resorts of disparate design may look out of place in a natural environment and may clash with the indigenous structural design.

A lack of land-use planning and building regulations in many destinations has facilitated sprawling developments along coastlines, valleys, and scenic routes.

The sprawl includes tourism facilities themselves and supporting infrastructures such as roads, employee housing, parking, service areas, and waste disposal.

Impacts on Wildlife

Wildlife can be adversely affected by the construction and maintenance of tourist infrastructure, and by tourist activities.

Impacts from tourist infrastructure can be direct, such as when development in lower elevations of mountain resorts restricts the migratory range of certain wildlife, or indirect, such as when marine turtles are disoriented by automobile headlights and resort illumination.

  1. Aesthetic and Cultural Impacts
  2. Depletion of Ozone Layer
  3. Climate Change

Aesthetic and Cultural Impacts

Tourism can diminish the aesthetic appeal of a destination through the construction of buildings that clash with the surrounding environment, creating “architectural” or “visual” pollution.

The high-rise hotels along the coastal zone of Atlantic City and Miami are examples, as are several high-rise hotels in Jerusalem, whose construction arguably damaged the city’s architectural beauty.

Impact on Gateway Communities Outside National Parks and Other Host Communities Tourism affects the natural landscape and character of “gateway communities,” which are adjacent to national parks, and other significant tourist destinations.

Development related to tourist activity can be detrimental to cultural and aesthetic aspects of these communities if undertaken in an indiscriminate and/or scattered manner Loss of biological diversity: The effects on loss of biodiversity:

  1. It threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines, and energy.

  2. It interferes with essential ecological functions such as species balance, soil formation, and greenhouse gas absorption.

  3. It reduces the productivity of ecosystems.

  4. It destabilizes ecosystems and weakens their ability to deal with natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes, and with human-caused stresses, such as pollution and climate change.

Tourism, especially nature tourism, is closely linked to biodiversity and the attractions created by a rich and varied environment.

It can also cause loss of biodiversity when land and resources are strained by excessive use, and when impacts on vegetation, wildlife, mountain, marine, and coastal environments and water resources exceed their carrying capacity. This loss of biodiversity in fact means loss of tourism potential.

Depletion of Ozone Layer

The ozone layer, which is situated in the upper atmosphere (or stratosphere) at an altitude of 12-50kilometers, protects life on earth by absorbing the harmful wavelengths of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV)radiation, which in high doses is dangerous to humans and animals.

For example, one of the reasons scientists have put forward for the global decrease of amphibian populations is increased exposure to UV radiation. Ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbon) and halon shave contributed to the destruction of this layer.

The tourism industry may be part of the problem; direct impacts start with the construction of new developments and continue during daily management and operations.

Refrigerators, air conditioners, and propellants in aerosol spray cans, amongst others, contain ODSs and are widely used in the hotel and tourism industry. Emissions from jet aircraft are also a significant source of ODSs.

Scientists predict that by 2015 half of the annual destruction of the ozone layer will be caused by air travel.

Climate Change

Climate scientists now generally agree that the Earth’s surface temperatures have risen steadily in recent years because of an increase in the so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which traps heat from the sun.

One of the most significant of these gases is carbon dioxide (CO ), which is generated when fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas are burned (e.g. in industry, electricity generation, and automobiles) and when there are changes in land use, such as deforestation.

In the long run, the accumulation of CO and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can cause global climate change a process that may already be occurring. Air travel itself is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect. Passenger jets are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Physical Impacts

Physical impacts are caused not only by tourism-related land clearing and construction but by continuing tourist activities and long-term changes in local economies and ecologies:

  1. Construction Activities and Infrastructure Development
  2. Marina Development
  3. Physical Impacts from Tourist Activities
  4. Wildlife Disturbance Effects
  5. Hazard Introduction Effects
  6. Sewage

Construction Activities and Infrastructure Development

The development of tourism facilities such as accommodation, water supplies, restaurants, and recreation facilities can involve sand mining, beach and sand erosion, soil erosion, and extensive paving.

In addition, road and airport construction can lead to land degradation and loss of wildlife habitats, and deterioration of scenery. Deforestation and intensified or unsustainable use of land: Construction of ski resort accommodation and facilities frequently requires clearing forested land.

Coastal wetlands are often drained and filled due to a lack of more suitable sites for the construction of tourism facilities and infrastructure. These activities can cause severe disturbance and erosion of the local ecosystem, even destruction in the long term.

Marina Development

The development of marinas and breakwaters can cause changes in currents and coastlines. Furthermore, the extraction of building materials such as sand affects coral reefs, man groves, and hinterland forests, leading to erosion and destruction of habitats.

In the Philippines and the Maldives, the dynamiting, and mining of coral for resort building materials have damaged fragile coral reefs and depleted the fisheries. Overbuilding and extensive paving of shorelines can result in the destruction of habitats and disruption of land-sea connections (such as sea turtle nesting spots).

Coral reefs are especially fragile marine ecosystems and are suffering worldwide from reef-based tourism developments.

Evidence suggests a variety of impacts to coral result from shoreline development, increased sediments in the water, trampling by tourists and divers, ship groundings, pollution from sewage, overfishing, and fishing with poisons and explosives that destroy the coral habitat.

Physical Impacts from Tourist Activities

Trampling: Tourists using the same trail over and over again trample the vegetation and soil, eventually causing damage that can lead to loss of biodiversity and other impacts. Such damage can be even more extensive when visitors frequently stray off established trails.

Trampling impacts on vegetation Trampling impacts on soil.

  1. Breakage and bruising of stems Loss of organic matter.
  2. Reduced plant vigor Reduction in soil macro porosity.
  3. Reduced regeneration Decrease in air and water permeability.
  4. Loss of ground cover Increase in run off.
  5. Change in species composition Accelerated erosion.

Anchoring and other marine activities: In marine areas (around coastal waters, reefs, beach and shoreline, offshore waters, uplands, and lagoons) many tourist activities occur in or around fragile ecosystems.

Anchoring, snorkeling, sport fishing, and scuba diving, yachting, and cruising are some of the activities that can cause direct degradation of marine ecosystems such as coral reefs and subsequent impacts on coastal protection and fisheries.

Wildlife Disturbance Effects

Visitors can intrude upon wildlife in a variety of ways, from their visual presence to their movement, noise, and behavior. Different species will perceive the consequent disturbance in different ways and for different reasons.

Wildlife tolerance and response, and any impact consequence, will vary among different species, settings, and times. Factors contributing to these variations can include different feeding patterns; territoriality; breeding seasons and behaviors; lifecycle maturity; alarm behaviors; and ecological niche competition.

Some visitor effects, such as trampers passing by, maybe incidental to wildlife, whereas others, such as ecotourism visits or photography, may be specifically directed at wildlife.

Hazard Introduction Effects

When visitors come to a natural environment they can import harmful external material, substances, or biota. Visitors may accidentally introduce hazard sources such as exotic weeds, predators, and diseases.

They may also introduce hazards from negative behaviors such as fuel leakage or disposal; soap chemicals from the washing; littering; bringing dogs; or inappropriate fire practices. Similar hazards arise from the activities of management staff, both direct and indirect, in facility provision and maintenance.


The construction of hotels, recreation, and other facilities often leads to increased sewage pollution. Wastewater pollutes seas and lakes surrounding tourist attractions, damaging the flora and fauna.

Sewage runoff causes serious damage to coral reefs because it contains lots of nutrients and it stimulates the growth of algae, which cover the filter-feeding corals, hindering their ability to survive.

Changes in salinity and transparency can have wide-ranging impacts on coastal environments. And sewage pollution can threaten the health of humans and animals.

Tourist Activities

These are tourist activities which impact on environment lets discussed them:

  1. Hiking, Snorkeling and Diving
  2. Recreational Boating
  3. Visitor and Traffic Congestion

Hiking, Snorkeling and Diving

Many tourist activities occur in fragile ecosystems, such as coral reefs. While snorkeling and diving in and of themselves do not cause much damage, inadvertent related activities, such as stepping on coral do cause damage.

With such activities, it is the cumulative nature of the damage that is most problematic. One or two tourists may not cause much harm, but hundreds of them over time can do considerable damage to an ecosystem.

Coral reefs are also affected by tourism as a result of the market for souvenirs. Tourists break off pieces of coral themselves, or the reef is dynamited by locals to sell the pieces. Tourists hiking along mountain ranges can harm the ecosystem by littering and trampling vegetation.

The greatest impact of tourists on vegetation usually occurs during initial contact with an area, with the most sensitive species affected first.

The cumulative impact of tourists on vegetation gradually shifts species composition, because only the most resilient plants can survive in an area under constant pressure from tourist activities.

Recreational Boating

The most significant problem associated with recreational boating and water quality is the discharge of sewage into water bodies with limited flushing or nearby shellfish beds. Sewage contains pathogens that can adversely affect human health and contaminate shellfish.

Diseases that can be potentially transmitted through human contact with fecal discharge and/or ingestion of contaminated shellfish include typhoid fever, dysentery, infectious hepatitis, and nonspecific gastroenteritis.

Visitor and Traffic Congestion

Visitor and traffic congestion exists in many tourist destinations, and national parks have been greatly impacted by this problem. Over 2.5 million people visit Zion Canyon each year, with half of those driving in the park.

A summer day can see 2,000 vehicles in the canyon corridor, creating congestion, air pollution from vehicle exhaust, and vegetation damage along with overflow parking areas (Sidles, 1997, p. 17). To help alleviate this problem, the park plans to launch a shuttle system in 2000.

Although this system is expected to reduce some of the traffic-related impacts and provide a higher quality experience, it could also have the effect of increasing the number of visitors to the park.

Positive Impacts

Despite its many adverse impacts, tourism can have positive impacts on both natural and artificially constructed environments, as well as on destination communities.

Furthermore, tourism that focuses on cultural and historic sites (sometimes referred to as “heritage” tourism) can be the impetus for the preservation and rehabilitation of existing historic sites, buildings, and monuments. Socially tourism has a great influence on host societies.

Tourism can be both a source of international amity, peace, and understanding and a destroyer and corrupter of indigenous cultures, a source of ecological destruction, an assault of people’s privacy, dignity, and authenticity.

Here are possible positive effects of tourism:

  1. Developing positive attitudes towards each other.

  2. Learning about each other’s culture and customs.

  3. Reducing negative perceptions and stereotypes.

  4. Developing friendships.

  5. Developing pride, appreciation, understanding, respect, and tolerance for each other’s culture.

  6. Increasing self esteem of hosts and tourists.

  7. Psychological satisfaction with interaction.

So, social contact between tourists and local people may result in mutual appreciation, understanding, tolerance, awareness, learning, family bonding respect, and liking. Residents are educated about the outside world without leaving their homes, while their visitors significantly learn about a distinctive culture.

These are some important positive impacts:

  1. Infrastructure Development and Tourism
  2. Instrument of National Integration
  3. Increases In Investment Opportunities
  4. Helpful to Balanced Regional Development
  5. Helpful in Reduction of Poverty
  6. Tourism and Tax Earnings
  7. Increase in The Standard of Living
  8. Improvement in Health and Family Welfare

Infrastructure Development and Tourism

Tourism necessities help in the creation of infrastructure utilities and amenities, which are not only used by the visitors but become valuable to the local population as well.

The economic importance of tourism in the national economy can be appreciated with reference to its contribution to infrastructure development Tourist arrivals in a country increase effective demand for infrastructure facilities.

Instrument of National Integration

National integration is a very important aspect for any country of the world rather than any other economic and social aspect. It is a very significant instrument for India, especially which is the largest secular democratic country of the world believing in the concept of “unity in diversity” domestic tourism increases national integration.

Increases In Investment Opportunities

As per the studies of the WTO and other related studies tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world with various multiple activities. These inputs are the basic incentives to the traders for the expansion of their business or for launching new products in this segment.

Helpful to Balanced Regional Development

Balanced regional development is an important factor for the optimum, smooth, and overall development of a country. The tourism industry can develop particular tourist areas in each district. Tourism can develop all these regions of the country.

As a matter of fact, tourism has helped in the regional development of the various districts of India including the surrounding towns and markets.

Helpful in Reduction of Poverty

Almost all the developing countries are trapped in vicious circles of poverty with low per capital income and low national incomes.

Tourism activities can reduce the poverty through the increase in national income, employment generation; foreign currency earnings, regional development, promotion of local handicrafts, and many more. Expansion of Literacy and Education.

Tourism also helps in the expansion of education and literacy in a big way. It helps us to broader our mental attitude by interacting with various people their languages and cultures.

Hotel management institutes, food craft institutes, fashion design schools, colleges, and university departments run these tourism-related courses.

Tourism and Tax Earnings

Tourism activities increase the tax revenue of the center and the state governments. Many types of taxes are included in tourist-related goods and services. All tourist earnings increase many economic activities in the countries and these economic activities are a big source of tax-able earnings for the governments.

Increase in The Standard of Living

Due to numerous economic benefits of tourism and its potential growth, it helps in the increase of standard of living of the people by offering new and better jobs, which in terms helps them to improve the quality of life and their families.

Improvement in Health and Family Welfare

Tourism helps in the improvement of health and family welfare by adopting the direction of the advanced countries in this direction. Health conferences, conventions, seminars, exchanges of views of the leading experts “help in this” regard.

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