Can green tourism ever be possible?

Green tourism can bring many benefits to an area. It can provide jobs, education and reduce poverty. However, unchecked it can devastate natural areas and increase crime.

can green tourism ever be possible

Green tourism can bring many benefits to an area.  It can provide jobs, education and reduce poverty.  However, unchecked it can devastate natural areas and increase crime.

Impact of tourism:

You want to treat yourself to a nice two-week holiday.  You work hard all year and you want to relax.  A two-week beach holiday in the Caribbean sounds perfect.  But you may be concerned about the impact your holiday has on the environment.  Is it acceptable to travel long haul, or at all? Can green tourism ever be possible?

Some impacts of tourism:

Tourism can bring damaging problems to many areas of the world.  Some include:

  • Large amounts of waste
  • Pollution from travel
  • Hotel developments
  • Cultural impact of tourists in traditional communities


What is green tourism?

Green tourism can be classed as any type of holiday that does not harm the environment when you are there.  Your presence should also have a positive impact on that area and the community there.

Say you were just lying on a beach all day.  This could be classed as a pale green holiday.  You are not necessarily damaging the environment, but neither are you helping it.  You will also need to consider how you got to the beach.  If you were on staycation, the beach was close to your home and you got there by train, this is pale green.

If you were sunbathing in Portugal and you got there either by train, coach or an energy efficient car (with all seats taken) then you could argue there is a green aspect to your holiday.

That two-week beach holiday in the Caribbean though, would definitely not be classed as green tourism.


What kinds of travel are green?

Green tourism could be any holiday where you give value to the wilderness and wild animals, whilst also financially supporting to the local people.  This gives them an incentive to preserve their natural surroundings to bring in more tourists (and more money).

You should be wary of green tourism tour operators though.  There are many companies that will charge you a lot of money to fly to South America and help plant trees.  This appears green, but think about it.  Unless you plan to stay there for a very long time, or you can plant a huge amount of trees you will not offset the emissions it took to get you there.


How green tourism helps the environment:

Later in this article we will look at how tourism can damage the environment.  But now I want to show you that green tourism can actually benefit the planet and local communities.


Did you know that each year, about 1 million tonnes of bush meat is taken from Central Africa?  This is over 6 times the sustainable yield for that area.  The obvious question to ask is why this is happening.

It simply comes down to poverty.  Bush meat is a very cheap source of protein for many people.  Those with the right knowledge and skills and get it for free.  There is no chance of convincing these people to stop hunting bush meat, when their only alternative is starvation.

Green tourism can help.  These people need an income so that they can afford to buy their own food instead of hunting it.  This could give bush animals a chance to recover.  Tourism can provide an income.

Local communities can receive an income in many green tourism jobs such as

  • Guides
  • Retailers
  • Hotel workers
  • Conservation staff

Fiji is a great example of how giving local people incomes can help sustain wildlife populations.  Green tourism in Fiji encouraged the protection of a fishery.  The fish population in the area had collapsed.  Green tourism created many jobs including diving guides.  The fish then had a chance to recover.  Also local incomes doubled in 5 years.


We take it for granted in the UK that we can read and write.  We all receive an education. However, this education costs money.  Many areas need education to benefit the environment.

The tourism industry can bring a huge amount of money into a country.  This money can be pumped into education to teach children.  They could then learn about pollution, loss of habitat and extinction.


People have to make a living.  We have already seen that green tourism can provide an income for many people.  If tourism is not an option then logging, mining, farming and manufacturing work will be sought.

Yes we need these industries too, but in sensitive areas with wilderness and wildlife the focus should be on green tourism.

Human rights abuses:

It is harder for a country to commit human right abuses when they open themselves up to tourism.  Interaction between tourists and local populations helps to share political and ideological ideas.  This is necessary in those countries where there is no free press.


Tourism needs to be controlled:

Green tourism has the potential to benefit the environment and local communities with the money it can bring.  However, it can just as easily damage the environment.  This is why tourism has to be controlled.  If not, the following environmental and cultural problems can occur.

Environmental damage:

Uncontrolled tourism poses a threat to many areas in the world.  In can put a huge strain on the local environment.

It can lead to

  • Soil erosion
  • Increased pollution
  • Natural habitat loss
  • Pressure on endangered species
  • Risk of forest fires
  • Strain on water resources

There are many more impacts that tourism can have on the environment, but these are the worst and most damaging.

An example of this kind of damage can be seen with coral reefs around the world.  109 countries have coral reefs.  In 90 of these, cruise ship anchors and sewage are damaging reefs.  Tourists also take bits of coral as souvenirs.  One study found that an anchor dropped into a coral for 1 day would destroy half a football pitch sized reef.  The recovery takes over 50 years to remake this area.

Cultural impacts:

Green tourism has to be controlled otherwise the local culture will suffer.  Tourism can turn local cultures into a commodity.  Souvenirs, arts and entertainment devalue indigenous identity.

Crime is a big problem that tourism brings.  Tourists bring wealth and valuables such as cameras into a poor area.  Sex trades and drug problems also grow around tourism regions.


How to increase green tourism:

Can green tourism ever be possible?  Yes it can although there needs to be long term strategic planning and development.  There has to be the necessary infrastructure in place before an area can be marketed as a tourist attraction.  Otherwise there will be devastating impacts.

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