How Does Tourism Affect the Environment?

Tourism contributes both positively and negatively to the environment, and conservationists are still trying to figure its net effect on the environment. Negative effects of tourism include increased pollution, an increased carbon footprint and the stress placed on the native plants, animals and ecosystems. Positive benefits of tourism include increased awareness of the plight of many species and increase in capital that flows into conservation organizations.

Tourism imparts different stresses on different geographic locations. Tourists who travel to cities with high populations do not cause much of a noticeable effect on the environment, as the relative impact created by the tourists is low. By contrast, when tourists travel to isolated and sparsely populated areas, they create a relatively high impact on the location. For example, a group of 10 tourists that visit New York City have little to no effect on the crowded metropolis, but a group of 10 tourists that visit a small island country may cause a significant effect on the local habitats.

Tourists increase the amount of pollution in any given habitat. Additionally, the tourists draw resources away from the location, especially the local water and food. Tourists also consume significant amounts of fuel in their travels, in the form of taxis, boats and planes.