The positive and negative aspects of destination success

‘In an era of globalization that pursues western economic values tourism, especially in emerging destinations, is challenged with issues of commercialization that intertwine with global concerns exercising tremendous power on aspects of host life. This can transform local

cultural heritage and environment both positively and negatively’ (International Association for Tourism Policy, 2018, p 6).

Tourism development can therefore be seen as a double-edged sword, where, on the one hand the benefits and positive aspects of tourism are welcomed by many, yet the downside of particularly uncontrolled development can offer many negative impacts on a community. As Dewar and Li Ra found in their study of the small rural village of Hólar in Iceland, residents’ views could be seen to be polarised: ‘some residents saw tourists as a nuisance that would “spoil” the existing life style. However, other villagers were concerned about the lack of tourists considering the massive increase in tourists in Iceland generally’ (Dewar and Li Ra, 2018, p 36). This paradox can be seen to be summarised in the view of one resident who commented that ‘We love their money but wish they would just send it and stay at home’ (Dewar and Li Ra, 2018, p 41)

Positive socio-economic impacts

‘Tourism is estimated to account for 10% of the world’s gross domestic product (of which 3% direct, 5% indirect and 2% induced contribution) and one in ten jobs globally’ (UNWTO, 2018a, p. 55). ‘Tourism creates jobs, both through direct employment within the tourism industry and indirectly in sectors such as retail and transportation’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, p.200). In the European Union, tourism … creates jobs for 26 million people … in particular for young people, women and people from a migrant background, and across the EU is the ‘third largest socio-economic activity … (after the trade, distribution and construction sectors)’ (UNWTO, 2018a, p7).

Tourism also ranks as the EU’s fourth largest export category … after chemicals, automotive products and food, and ahead of fuels (UNWTO, 2018a, p61).

If undertaken in a sustainable manner, tourism can also be seen to help ‘preserve and enhance cultural and natural heritage’ (UNWTO, 2018a, p. 57). ‘Tourism encourages the preservation of traditional customs, handicrafts and festivals that might otherwise have been allowed to wane, and it creates civic pride. Interchanges between hosts and guests create a better cultural understanding and can also help raise global awareness of issues such as poverty and human rights abuses’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, p.200)

Another positive impact can be seen in the area of ‘voluntourism’ (Lee, 2017). ‘Volunteer tourism is a new form of tourism that seeks to give travelers the chance to both engage and contribute to the communities they are visiting (Lyons & Wearing, 2008). Stephen Wearing

(2001) defines voluntourism as applying to: Those tourists who volunteer in an organized way that might involve aiding or alleviating the material poverty of some groups in society, the restoration of certain environments or research into aspects of society or environment’ (Lee, 2017, p. 3). ‘In 2008, an estimated 1.6 million travelers took volunteer tourism trips,

spending between $1.7–2.6 billion … In 2015, 55% of surveyed travelers reported donating time, money or supplies while traveling within the last two years and 64% of travelers felt giving back greatly contributed to trip satisfaction … Tour operators catering specifically to voluntourists are providing trips domestically and abroad, and existing tour companies are adding voluntourism options’ (Lee, 2017, p.6). It must also be recognised that there have been claims of negative impacts brought about by voluntourism, namely ‘neglect of locals’ desires; slowed work schedules and poor quality of completed work; decreased employment for locals and increased dependency on tourists; reinforced images of the other and rationalization of poverty; and host culture changes brought on by the demonstration effect’ (Lee, 2017, p. 8).

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology can allow for a more enriched tourist experience of a destination. Indeed, ‘VR increases the accessibility of destinations, allowing travelers to virtually visit and experience places and activities that are available to the public or unattainable due to financial or physical limitations. VR can remove some of the barriers to travel, including safety, cost and physical capabilities  … VR can allow tourists to visit sites that may be too remote, too expensive, too inhospitable, too dangerous, too fragile, or that simply no longer exist (Giberson et al., 2017, pp. 12-13).

Positive impacts on the natural and built environment

‘The improvements to infrastructure and new leisure amenities that result from tourism also benefit the local community … Tourism - particularly nature and ecotourism - helps promote conservation of wildlife and natural resources such as rain forests, as these are now regarded as tourism assets. It also helps generate funding for maintaining animal preserves and marine parks through entrance charges and guide fees. By creating alternative sources of employment, tourism reduces problems such as over-fishing and deforestation in developing nations’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, p.200).

Negative impacts of tourism

Areas of outstanding natural beauty, heritage sites, and sites of ecological biodiversity can be destroyed by the very nature of attracting unsustainable numbers of tourists. As mentioned in the introduction to the toolkit, many Mediterranean coastal destinations are being transformed into tourist-focused ‘strips’ of large hotels (often transformed into all-inclusive resorts), bars and restaurants that have no real relevance to the place in which they are located, and / or may be serving groups of tourists who behave irresponsibly indulging in illegal and or risky behaviours such as excessive drinking, sexual activity, or drug taking. City destinations that are highly successful are facing protests from residents due to overcrowding, increased road traffic, limited facilities for everyone to use, rising housing costs for residents, environmental degradation, tourists’ inappropriate behaviour, issues with Airbnb, and with cruise tourism.

Economic implications

‘Money generated by tourism does not always benefit the local community, as some of it leaks out to huge international companies, such as hotel chains. Destinations dependent on tourism can be adversely affected by events such as terrorism, natural disasters and economic recession’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, p.200).

Socio-Cultural implications

‘Visitor behaviour can have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of the host community. For example, crowding and congestion, drugs and alcohol problems, prostitution and increased crime levels can occur. Tourism can even infringe on human rights, with locals being displaced from their land to make way for new hotels or barred from beaches. Interaction with tourists can also lead to an erosion of traditional cultures and values’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, p.200).

Loss of Place Identity

Regarding the increase in visitors to popular destinations across Europe, ‘Residents who live in these holiday hubs are calling for further protective action. They say they don't want the cities to lose their identities – the very identity that attracts tourists to the area in the first place.’(Reuters, 2017)


“EU member states occupy a relatively small geographic area of 4.4 million square kilometres, or 3% of the world’s surface area. Combined with a comparatively large population this translated into a population density of 116 inhabitants per square kilometre (km2) in 2015, more than twice the world average of 55” (UNWTO, 2018, p. 12). The total combined EU member state population of 509 million yet in 2017 international tourism arrivals to the EU numbered 538 million. Of these, 361 million were from other EU member states, 56 million from other (non-EU) European source markets, and 83 million originating from outside of Europe (UNWTO, 2018a, p. 45).

Environmental degradation

‘Tourism poses a threat to a region's natural and cultural resources, such as water supply, beaches, and heritage sites, through overuse. It also causes increased pollution through traffic

emissions, littering, increased sewage production and noise’ (Mandilas, Dimitriadis and Valsamidis, 2018, pp. 200-201).

  • Natural environment
    • Dragovich (2018) considered the case of tourism to Australian rock art. ‘Australia has a rich heritage of Aboriginal rock engravings and paintings, many of which are found in relatively remote areas … he physical conservation of valuable open-air cultural heritage items like rock art can be challenging. In addition to involving natural deterioration from weather elements and endemic or introduced flora and fauna, local organisations may be encouraged by policies at the national or State level to promote regional tourism for economic reasons … unregulated visitation at such sensitive open-air sites can lead to relatively rapid deterioration of rock art through deliberate acts of vandalism or through ignorance of actions which cause damage, like wetting rock surfaces to obtain clearer images of engravings or not wearing soft-soled shoes when walking over rock surfaces. The need to protect such heritage places while allowing tourism has long been recognised as requiring special care and planning’ (pp 47-48).
  • Coastal overdevelopment.
    • Sytnik and Stecchi (2015) undertook a study of coastal dunes in Marina di Ravenna in Italy. That resort was “selected as a remarkably representative example illustrating the highest level of tourism development pressure on the coastal dunes. The study shows that extensive stretches of coastal dunes have been removed, mainly due to intensive construction of beach establishments. Total loss of coastal dunes in Marina di Ravenna was estimated about 18 ha over almost 60 years, an equivalent to 28 football pitches. The results reveal that the relation between tourism development and coastal dune evolution in Ravenna coastal area is evident, and requires more detailed investigation at different scales, combining other coastal factors to the analysis … Road constructions, dense building of beach establishments and other touristic facilities along the coast have largely interfered with natural geomorphological processes, increasing chances for erosion” (p715). “Other negative effects, associated with human activities in Marina di Ravenna are driving, parking and walking on the dunes. These strong land-use pressures were revealed to cause deterioration of the vegetation that essentially helps to trap and hold the sand in place” (Sytnik and Stecchi, 2015, p. 725).
    • ‘Vietnam’s coastal zones are some of the very overexploited in the world with consequent degradation of its ecosystems and damage to public welfare’ (An, et al., 2008, p. 297).