Environmental trends in the global tourism industry

Tourism is closely connected to the environment. The two main reasons for determining the viability and attractiveness of an area as a tourist destination is the natural environment and climate conditions. The developments for tourism are based on features such as gaining easy access for visitors to natural or manmade environments. The concerns of stakeholders of tourism which include researchers has always centered on the ways tourism development may offer opportunities for managing environmentally sensitive areas and the conservation of unique environments. (United Nations Environment Program ((UNEP), 2002), reported that the focus is on tourism where it can help in reducing environmental pollution and usage of resources.

The main environmental trends include change of climate, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity:

  • Change of Climate:

The increase in release of concentrations of greenhouse gases influences the change of climate and global warming. Climate change is a global occurrence and its major effects are felt at the local and regional scale. Effects of climate change and warming trends include: rise in sea-level, changes to ocean currents, melting of glacial and polar ice, losing of snow cover, high heat index and high diurnal temperatures, and changes to precipitation patterns.

Climate changes are influential in determining the destinations preferred by tourists and also on the profitability of the industry through increase in costs of energy use.

Policies to lessen emission of greenhouse gas will invariably affect the operator costs and destination competitiveness particularly for longer destinations.

Depletion of natural resource:

The increasing paucity of natural resources required to steer industrial development will give rise to a number of effects. The factors affecting the availability of natural resources like food production, water and energy, are increase in population and economic development. The result of ‘peaking’ in oil production, commonly known as ‘Peak Oil’, will increase the expenses of fossil fuel based energy sources.

‘Peak Oil’ refers to the maximum rate, i.e. ‘peak’ of production of world oil to a point beyond which it goes to permanent decline. The decline in production of oil along with increase in demand will result in increase of fuel costs. Consequently, the new ‘carbon economy’ is set to push the want for energy efficiency and investment in renewable forms of energy. In future, half of the world’s population will face shortage of water due to scarcity of water resources. The arable land and native bush land will diminish extensive agriculture and broad-scale land clearing due to demands for higher food production.

  • Loss of bio diversity: (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2003), reported that the main danger to loss of species biodiversity is habitat loss. Loss of biodiversity is expected to substantially affect those destinations that highlight nature based or eco-tourism.

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