The Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of Tourism

Introduction

     The tourism industry, due to innovations in transportation, communication and the availability of discretionary income and leisure time for much of the developed world has undergone dramatic changes in the last century or so (Pearce, et al).  Because of the increased interest in tourism, sites of historic, natural and entertainment value have become highly desirable as tourist destinations.  This research will focus on the potential benefits of this tourism, the potential drawbacks of this tourism, and some reflections and thoughts about these points.

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The Potential Benefits of Tourism

     It has been said that the past can come back to haunt; from the vantage point of tourism, this old adage can fairly be adjusted to say that the past can bring great benefit in the present as well as the future.  Such is the case in what are commonly referred to as “heritage sites”.  These sites are forever promoted to some level of fame or infamy by noteworthy or historically significant events that take place at them (Smith, et al).  For example, small towns that become the sites of pivotal battles in any war or places where people of celebrity call home can attract tourists for generations.  With this tourism can come tremendous opportunity for a lucrative hospitality industry to emerge- tourists in need of shelter, entertainment, food and drink are an excellent source of income.

     Cultural barriers can also be broken down through tourism; to be more precise, the misconceptions that one culture has about another that often lead to prejudice and conflict between these groups may also be defused once tourism makes it possible for people to experience other traditions and come to the understanding that the very people whom they may have viewed with disdain or outright hatred were really not much different from themselves (Pearce, et al).

     Another rarely considered, but highly important potential benefit can be seen when viewing the growth of tourism in developing countries.  For example, countries that possess a great deal of natural beauty and resources can hold vast appeal for travelers who are seeking the perfect beach vacation, the ability to explore unspoiled wilderness, and the like.  Because these countries are typically rich in nature but poor in economic resources, the attraction of people from abroad, who are willing to spend money in these areas is strong.  The resulting influx of capital can not only enrich the personal fortunes of the natives of those areas as they engage in occupations associated with the newly acquired tourism, but in addition, the enhancement of tax revenues can very likely, if properly managed, improve the standard of living for everyone in those lands, whether they are employed by the tourism industry or not, in the form of improved public services, infrastructure enrichment, and the possibility of lower personal taxes as revenue is brought in from other sources (Wahab, et al).

     As easily as the advantages of tourism can be presented and understood, so too, is it possible to identify and discuss the potential drawbacks of tourism, which will now be presented.

The Potential Drawbacks of Tourism

     Drawbacks can be seen in the development of tourism, just as there are advantages.  For the resident of an area of natural beauty that has just been “discovered” by travelling tourists, the following scenario seems to tell it all:

“Imagine yourself as a year-round resident of paradise–a subtropical coastal settlement in, say, south-east Asia. You earn a living farming but one day a hotel chain arrives and either buys up your land for a song or forces you off it because your property rights are imprecise. Pretty soon, unless you take a job hotel portering or taxi-driving, you’re landless and unemployed. So you join the drift to the cities and start to understand the anti-western, anti-American attitudes that distinguish much contemporary third world radicalism” (Nicholson-Lord, p. 22).

In this case, what happens is that the native of a place becomes disenchanted with their home, and are basically invaded by others who take advantage of the best parts of the area, do not always behave well, and then go on their merry way, leaving their mess behind for others to clean.

     There is likewise, in a time where terrorism is rampant, the very real possibility that the popularity of a tourist destination by given groups of people will attract hostility from others who view those people as their enemy; for example, it is entirely possible that anti-American terrorists would target parts of Europe that become popular for Americans, with the purpose of targeting Americans while they are at the disadvantage of being away from their familiar homeland.

     Lastly, when discussing advantages of tourism, the benefits that it would bring to developing nations were covered at length.  Conversely, there are drawbacks to tourism cultivation in developing nations, all dependent upon the circumstances of the new tourism.  For example, if developing nations are not given the opportunity to have a true stake in the tourism business- such as owning hotels, restaurants, and other peripheral hospitality resources- the people who should be reaping the benefits of their own homeland’s bounty become instead victims of it.  To be more precise, when tourism is controlled in developing areas by corporations from elsewhere rather than the native people, there is a very real possibility that tourism revenues will be exported as quickly as they are realized, robbing local people and public coffers needed funds.  Further, public safety, infrastructure, and services, if strained by thousands of tourists and not improved with tourism funds, will be much worse off than it was before tourism arrived (Smith, et al).

Reflections and Thoughts

     The possibility of tourism brings not only the potential for great reward, but also the very real specter of financial or life and death risk.  While in fairness, many areas have tourism forced upon them without choice because of some event that occurred there or some natural beauty that the area possesses, other areas bring tourism on themselves in the form of constructed attractions with the sole intent of parting travelers from their money and sending them on their way so that others can come after them and do the same.  Therefore, in closing, the thought occurs that the areas that inherit tourism have both a right to protect their territory and to share it with others, just as those others should conduct themselves properly.  Also, for the areas that create the bait to entice tourists, they must be careful that, as the old saying goes; they do not get too much of what is sought.

References

Nicholson-Lord, D. (2002, December 9). Against the Western Invaders: With the World in Turmoil, Tourists Will Have to Realize That to Carry on Partying or Trying to “Find Oneself” Is at Least in Questionable Taste. New Statesman, 131, 22+.

Pearce, D. G. ; Butler, R. W. (Eds.). (1999). Contemporary Issues in Tourism Development. London: Routledge.

Smith, V. L. ; Eadington, W. R. (Eds.). (1992). Tourism Alternatives: Potentials and Problems in the Development of Tourism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wahab, S. ; Cooper, C. (Eds.). (2001). Tourism in the Age of Globalization. London: Routledge.

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