Impact of Mass Tourism on Host Destinations

The rapid growth of tourism has increased economic, environmental and social effects. Recently the attention has concentrated on the economic impacts and not on the environmental and social consequences of tourism. Tourism, both international and domestic, brings consequences and has an impact on tourist destinations.

Economic Impact

One of the main effects of mass tourism is the over dependence of tourist destinations on tourism. This is dangerous because tourism is volatile and highly susceptible to changes from inside (e.g. price, changing fashions…) and outside (e.g. global economic trends, political situations…) the industry.  Some destinations have made themselves vulnerable to changes in tourist demand because they have become over dependent on tourism and they have adapted all their resources to tourism without realizing that some factors such as the political situation of a country, the economy, a war or terrorism are the most important points at the time of choosing a holiday destination.

Physical impact

The growth of tourism changes and modifies the environment. Environment is land, water, air, flora and fauna, but also people and culture and the impacts of tourism are reflected on elements of the natural environment as well as on the man-made environment or built environment (development of environments for tourism as for example holiday resorts).

The development of tourism requires the existence of an infrastructure, as well as hotel accommodation and another facilities specific to tourism. In some areas highways and airfields have been constructed to stimulate tourism but the local population has not always benefited from these developments.  Infrastructure and facilities require land and the consequence is that land prices rise in the areas were tourism is developing.

Social and cultural impacts

The social and cultural impacts of tourism are the effects of the contribution of tourism that changes systems, social behavior, family relationships, shared lifestyles, security levels, moral conduct, innovative language, conventional ceremonies and community organizations.

Social impacts of tourism refer to the changes in the quality of life of residents of tourist destinations. The nature and dynamics of the tourist-host relationship has three dimensions: people’s interactions, perceptions and attitudes.

Host attitudes may rapidly become antagonistic and even reach xenophobic proportions when there is a non-stop development of facilities and services to satisfy tourist demands. “Xenophobia occurs when the carrying capacity, or saturation point, is reached and exceeded” referring to tourists behaviour. The tolerance of tourists by hosts varies spatially and temporally. As long as the economic impacts remain positive, the presence of tourists is usually accepted and welcomed. But once the host population consider that the limit is exceeded, some negative symptoms of discontent appears going from apathy and irritation to extreme xenophobia.

It is evident that the concentration of large numbers of tourists causes congestion of facilities and services.

Residents frequently resent the visible economic superiority of visitors and try to copy their behaviour. Hosts may develop an inferiority complex that start out a process of imitation. Most case studies that examine demonstration effect agree that tourism can modify local behaviour and divide the population of destinations areas.

The employment of non-locals in executive and professional occupations, carrying greater responsibility and superior salaries to those available to local residents, also provokes resentment.

Conclusively, Mass tourism imposes the gravest consequences on the natural and cultural situation of a tourist destination. It is characterized by important investments, headed by a few producers of specific markets. For a tourist destination, the promotion and the image are fundamental and must be carefully constructed in order to get benefits.

As already mentioned, tourism is a form of conspicuous consumption and tourists exhibit their identity and social standing by the destination they choose to visit and the image it presents. This image is in the hands of ‘image-makers’ who select, organize, combine and edit what is produced and distributed.

Image can be deformed to attract tourists, for example, negative aspects such as poverty and crime are omitted while positive aspects are accentuated or exaggerated. Tourists can either accept the trickery or feel disappointed by the lack of authenticity, but for the locals the false image has much more serious implications, they suffer a loss of identity in their evolution into a new role. The false image gradually robs the culture and its authenticity and this can create a bad feeling and cause resentment from local people.

The social and economic impact of tourism, and consequently its effect on culture, is enormous in areas of mass tourism. For that reason, sustainable tourism tries to solve the problem by advocating that the image presented should meet the needs of the local community and express their cultural heritage.

By Ezeanu John Paul. E

The writer is a Tourism Expert who wrote this originally for the Enugu State Tourism Board

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