Impacts of Tourism

ADDRESSING IMPACTS: The Benefits and Costs of Tourism Adapted From, “Community Tourism Development Manual University of Minnesota Tourism Center, 2001”

Tourism generates jobs and income and contributes to the economic health and vitality of a community or county.

Like any development activity, tourism also generates social, economic, and environmental impacts.

Communities often focus on only one type of impact, usually economic, that a development project might generate.

The accurate assessment of both costs and benefits helps communities avoid problems and maintain community support for growth. Planning discussions allow communities to put the whole range of impacts on the table, assess who will and will not benefit, and facilitate a compromise that results in mutual benefit.

The following cost and benefits framework from the University of Minnesota Tourism Center’s Community Tourism Development Manual provides information on the “common economic, social and environmental impacts that communities face as a result of hosting visitors, as well as community strategies that can help mitigate costs.”

Economic Impacts of Tourism

Economic Benefits

• Brings new money into the community • Helps diversify and stabilize the local economy • Attracts additional businesses and services to support tourism industry • Maybe a catalyst for other industries and bring capital investment to area • Creates local jobs and new business opportunities • increase expansion and retention of existing businesses • Contributes to the state and local tax base • Helps support local businesses that might not survive on resident income alone

Economic Costs

• Imposes organizational and operational costs to develop tourism • Places demands on public infrastructure that may exceed what the local tax base can support • May inflate property values and the price of goods and services • Requires customer service training of employees, business owners, and community residents • Maybe cyclical and impacted by forces outside the community’s control • Reduces local economic benefits if developers come from outside the community • May causes economic and employment distortions if development is not geographically balanced

Techniques to Minimize Economic Costs

• Use tourism development as a supplement to, not a substitute for, other sources of economic activity • Use local capital, goods, services, labor, and expertise whenever possible • Involve both public and private sectors in development process • Provide financial incentives and training to foster local business ownership • Implement tourism awareness programs for local businesses • Establish programs to ensure affordable housing for residents

Environmental Impacts of Tourism

Environmental Benefits

• Fosters conservation and preservation of natural, cultural, and historical resources • Increase local environmental awareness • May encourage community beautification, revitalization, and environmental quality • May improves local urban/rural landscapes through facilities development • May stimulate improvements in infrastructure (airports, roads, water, waste, sewage) • Maybe cleaner than other industries

Environmental Costs

• May cause environmental hazards due to poor land use planning and facility design • May create land use problems, add to urban and rural sprawl • May degrade quality of natural and historic sites • May increase water, air, and noise pollution • May result in visual/architectural pollution • May create solid waste problems • May bring overcrowding and traffic congestion

Techniques to Minimize Environmental Costs

• Implement land use planning and zoning laws prior to tourism development • Design hotels and tourist facilities to reflect local architectural styles • Set standards for water, sewage, and power supplies that encourage conservation • Establish guidelines for local carrying capacity and limits of acceptable change • Implement visitor use and management plans for cultural, historic, and natural attractions • Organize proper building, park, and landscaping maintenance for public areas • Establish conservation/protected areas to prevent growth in ecologically sensitive areas • Execute environmental public awareness programs for visitors and residents

Social Impacts of Tourism

Social Benefits

• Supports development of community facilities and other local improvements • May enhance community’s “sense of place” through cultural/historic celebration • Encourages civic involvement and community pride • May help maintain cultural identity of minority populations that are dying out • May facilitate renewed interest in traditional lifestyles among younger residents • Provides cultural exchange between hosts and guests • Promotes peace and understanding

Social Costs

• May introduce lifestyles, ideas, and behaviors that conflict with those of residents • May create crowding, congestion, and increased crime • May encourage “trinketization” of local arts and crafts • Brings residents new competition for services and recreation opportunities • May create conflict among residents if benefits are unequally distributed • May produce a “demonstration effect” (Imitation of visitors’ behaviors and spending patterns), resulting in loss of cultural pride • May create racial tension and resentment between hosts and guests

Techniques to Minimize Social Costs

• Inform residents about both the benefits and costs of tourism • Establish quality controls to maintain authenticity of handicrafts and cultural activities • Plan tourism based on goals, values, and priorities identified by residents • Ensure residents have convenient access to tourist attractions, facilities, and services • Strictly control drugs, crime and prostitution • Use selective, target marketing to draw the right kinds of tourists • Educate and train local residents to work at all levels of tourism • Have ongoing public awareness programs about tourism

The application of sustainable tourism in practice means understanding and addressing the costs and benefits of tourism.

This also means that a community has to find the means to balance economic, social and environmental needs while minimizing negative impacts.

In practice, the goal is to maximize benefits and reduce the costs that tourism, like any industry, can bring to a community.

This requires a community to pay particular attention to the tourism development process and see where the changes begin to occur so that they can adopt development strategies to help prevent or minimize the costs.

Further information on community tourism development and sustainable tourism can be found at the University of Minnesota Tourism Center , order the Community Tourism Manual at

Information prepared by Roger Merchant, Extension Educator Natural Resources, Tourism, Community Development University of Maine Cooperative Extension 165 East Main Street, Dover-Foxcroft, ME 04426 207-564-3301

Posted for High Peaks Alliance by Lloyd Griscom to understand the impacts of tourism and various mitigation strategies so we can be proactive. Thank you, Roger Merchant, for the information on this subject.

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