Tourism and the environment

Authored by: Mahmoud M. Hewedi , Reem Bahaa ElMasry

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism Impacts

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138494961
eBook ISBN: 9781351025102
Adobe ISBN:




Tourism is believed to be the golden egg for many countries worldwide and especially for tourism destinations. It is in fact based on environmental resources, whether natural or man-made, which are regarded as tourism’s initial, valuable assets. It benefits a wide range of stakeholders, leading to cultural interactions between visitors and locals, creating employment opportunities, infrastructural and tourism facilities improvement, and an open market for local products. However, unplanned or uncontrolled tourism poses possible threats to the environment. The consequences include, but are not limited to, all types of pollution and damage to vegetation cover that severally endangers biodiversity distribution, causes loss of natural habitats and even badly affects local culture and heritage. Therefore, it has been necessary to delineate, assess, and mitigate the environmental impacts of tourism. Assessment of environmental impacts has been developed and intensively investigated. Therefore, maintaining a balance between the destination’s carrying capacities and tourists’ activities is crucial to minimize or even stop detrimental effects on the environment. It is believed that the magic solution lies in two alternatives: the first is applying restrictions leading to conservation of the natural environment within the operation of all tourism activities, and the second is promoting and marketing different forms of tourism that may outweigh the negative impacts of tourism, including: eco-tourism, environmental tourism, sustainable tourism, nature-based tourism, rural tourism, and green tourism.

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Tourism and the environment


Tourism is an increasing human activity in both developed and developing countries and is based on environmental resources, whether natural or man-made. Tourism is the largest service industry export and plays an important role in the international economy. In recent decades, tourism has witnessed remarkable changes, including emerging new destinations with different images and vacation styles and the inclusion of new technology into its business.

Sustainability, environmental tourism, ecotourism and its derivatives, resorts, protected areas, and other phrases and terms have emerged and been introduced to tourism in recent decades after the increased awareness and call for a sustainable world and green globe. Approaching that requires the different stakeholders, including scientists, practitioners, and authorities, to work together in order to maintain the balance between the results of vacationers’ activities, the environment, and its ecosystem. Globally, the tourism industry has witnessed tremendous research projects, technical developments, and new regulations that assure its progress towards a sustainable and green globe

Globally, tourist influxes have grown from 25 million in 1950 to 278 million in 1980, 674 million in 2000, and 1,235 million in 2016. Similarly, international tourism grosses earned by destinations worldwide have surged from US$2 billion in 1950 to US$104 billion in 1980, US$495 billion in 2000, and US$1,220 billion in 2016. In 2017, numbers of international vacationers grew and reached 1.3 billion, and the figure is likely to touch 1.5 billion by 2020, generating US$2,000 billion. UNWTO’s message highlights the need to turn these numbers into benefits for all folks and all communities. “Leaving no one behind” is the target for true sustainability, which must also decouple growth from supply use and place climate change response at the core of the tourism sector’s schedule. Apollo (2018) reported that, worldwide, tourism represents 7% of the world’s exports in goods and services, having increased one percentage point from 6% in 2015, and has developed quicker than world trade for the past five years. According to Tourism Towards 2030, it is expected that the number of arrivals of international vacationers worldwide will grow by an average of 3.3% a year over the period 2010–2030. It is expected that the speed of growth will steadily decrease over time, reducing from 3.8% at the beginning of the period to 2.9% towards 2030 (UNWTO, 2017).

Many new tourist destinations have emerged in addition to the popular ones of Europe and North America. Such destinations have undergone uninterrupted growth over time, despite occasional shocks, demonstrating the sector’s strength and resilience (Dimitriou, in press).


Tourism is a multidisciplinary industry that stems from the abundance of quality attractions, whether natural or man-made. Based on such attractions, other qualities of a tourism destination are developed to complement the tourism picture and make the destination ready to invite and receive tourists who will have a pleasant and unforgettable experience and leave the destination delighted or at least satisfied, with lots of documented memories, thus marketing the tourism destination on their own, without any interference or pressure from the destination itself. It is a smokeless industry (see, for example, Yan, 2014), with lots of benefits, and, at the same time, costs can be reduced or minimized through development based on sound planning, taking into consideration the carrying capacity and nature of the tourism destination

However, tourism is not an innocent activity and it adversely affects the environment (Edington and Edington, 1986); the following phrase was quoted by Bishop and should be given close consideration: “Tourism is not only the goose that lays golden eggs . . . it also fouls its own nest” (Bishop, 1988, quoting from Kamal Kumar Shrestha and cited in Mcconnell, 1991). Similarly, Green, Hunter and Moore (1990) concluded that tourism has dual effects. On the one hand, it has positive effects through generating funds that can be used to renovate buildings and develop the infrastructure. On the other hand, it adversely affects natural resources due to the limited attention paid.

Tourism has for years been accused of being a major cause of environmental damage, despite the fact that it has great potential economically and socioculturally; however, it is the worldwide economy growth driving force (Schmied et al., 2001). The latter added that tourists’ diversified activities create pressure on the environment, threaten its natural foundations and lead to higher emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting in higher air pollution with negative consequences for biodiversity.

The contribution of tourism and the travel industry to the international economy is powerful and great. However, they significantly overuse and consume resources, such as energy, water, materials, and products, and generate tremendous amounts of waste leading to a significant impact on the environment and ecosystem (Davies and Cahill, 2000; Gössling, 2002, 2015; Gössling and Hall, 2006; Michailidou, Vlachokostas, and Moussiopoulos, 2015; Michailidou, Vlachokostas, Moussiopoulos, and Maleka, 2016).

De Freitas, Martín, and Román (2017) pointed out that tourism over the past six decades has witnessed and experienced continued growth and diversification to become one of the major economic sectors worldwide. It has revealed remarkable change, innovation, and development. More convenient transportation and technological advancements, emerging speedy progress in information technology coupled with growing prosperity, increased unrestricted income and time that is more discretionary have increased the demand for travel abroad (Goeldner, 2012; Holden, 2006). Geneletti and Dawa (2009) indicated that, over these years, the prospects of increased foreign revenue, higher levels of income and employment, as well as greater public sector revenues, have been attractive forces catalyzing governments to develop new destinations. Tourism is a fund-raising engine and positively supports the lives of locals (Eagles, McCool, and Haynes, 2002; Uddhammar, 2006). Uddhammar (2006) added that it plays a significance role in introducing the nation’s heritage and culture.

Travel and tourism form an environmentally dependent activity. At the same time, however, tourists’ activities may threaten or damage the environment, potentially destroying the primary attractions of any destinations. Therefore, understanding the nature and bases of tourism’s environmental impacts and the means of minimizing them and working to mitigate or prevent damage when possible are of fundamental importance to the planning, management and development of long-term travel and tourism (Ikiara and Okech, 2002).

Tourism and environment

Tourism and environment are two faces of one coin and affect each other interchangeably, where an increase in tourism is certainly accompanied by escalation in environmental effects, resulting in reducing the quality of tourists’ experiences unless it is properly managed (Gössling and Buckley, 2016; Chin, Moore, Wallington, and Dowling, 2000; Farrel and Marion, 2002; Lim and McAleer, 2005). The quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is crucial to tourism and is a foremost element in the choice of a destination; however, the relationship between tourism and the environment and its impacts is complex (Gray, Canessa, Rollins, Keller, and Dearden, 2010; Green et al., 1990; Kim, Borges, and Chone, 2006; Lewis, 2006; Mieczkowski, 1995; Njole, 2011; Nyaupane and Poudel, 2011). Such impacts vary and could be direct, indirect, and even of a cumulative nature, where the visible effects take a long time to appear (Holden, 2006; Kreag, 2001; Mieczkowski, 1995). The human environment and the natural environment are interwoven, and both are affected by human activity (Mason, 2008).

The impacts of tourism on the environment have been studied extensively, and there are quite a lot of publications in different journals that cover different aspects, with particular focus on the intersects of tourism and environmental conservation and the environmental approaches that could inspire the development of sustainable tourism in protected areas (e.g., Balmford et al., 2009; Belsoy, Korir, and Yego, 2012; Imran, Alam, and Beaumont, 2014).

Many others have studied the different aspects of tourism, environment, and protected areas – for example, Badola et al. (2018), Dedeke (2017), Imran et al. (2014), Schweinsberg, Darcy, and Cheng (2017), and Zachrisson, Sandell, Fredman, and Eckerberg (2006). Gray et al. (2010), Kim et al. (2006), Lewis (2006), Njole (2011), and Nyaupane and Poudel (2011) pointed out that the relationship between tourism, stakeholders, and policymakers and their attitudes towards and perception of environmental issues and protected areas are crucial, complex, and dynamic. Therefore, it is vital to understand such a relationship because it significantly affects the accomplishment or devastation of the sustainable tourism process (Kim et al., 2006; Lewis, 2006). However, it should be kept in mind that compatibility and confrontation between tourism and the environment have been the subject of argument, and it is undoubtable that the tourism industry has a massively threatening ecological impact on the world’s protected areas, but that argument experiences shifts where the environment is recognized as a valuable asset for ecotourism (Goodwin, 1996; McCool, 1995).

In their study entitled “Impact of Tourism on the Environment of a Destination,” Šimková and Kasal (2012) reported that tourism is a source of adverse-influence externalities leading to an increase in the rate of pollution and aesthetic damages, and overall it has negative effects on the quality of life of citizens. They concluded that it is necessary to develop sustainable tourism and undertakings to avoid the undesirable effects of tourism. They highly recommend that monitoring and assessment play a crucial role in diminishing the negative impact of tourism and assure that both practices are very powerful and much cheaper compared with the requirements necessary to remove the negative impact and ensure recovery.

Semenova (2013) studied the impact of Pyynikki outdoor recreation on different resources, including quality of air and water, natural and geological resources, vegetation and wildlife, as well as the man-made environment. The results clearly revealed that, because the impact of tourism may be quite similar to any other industry, reaching full sustainability is not realistic. The author found that negative impacts include the considerable amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the air that represents the most serious and harmful impact, and the same author attributed that to the number of cars circling daily in the area and, additionally, the littering and damage to soil. Impacts of a positive nature were raising mindfulness about nature protection, increasing visitors’ welfare, and gathering funding that is used for preservation and protection. The literature confirmed the crucial role of the environment in encouraging the growth of different tourist activities (Latimer, 1985), and, on the other hand, Day and Cai (2012) clearly indicated that the environment is exposed to pressure as a result of most tourism activities.

Holden (2009) studied the influence of the relationship between tourism and environment on the market ethics. He concluded that its role is not limited to changing the relationship between society and the environment, but it has global impacts where it contributes to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) owing to the growing numbers of tourists traveling using aviation. Negative impacts of tourism extend to destroy living species of flora and fauna and impede the health of eco-systems (Holden, 2009), and this leads the ethical debate to focus strongly on tourism repositioning the relationship between tourism and nature.

The nature of the environmental impact of tourism is complex (Holden, 2006). Such impacts vary and could be direct, indirect, or even of a cumulative nature, where the visible effects take a long time to appear (Holden, 2009; Mieczkowski, 1995; Kreag, 2001).

Ap and Crompton (1998), Belk and Costa (1995), Jamison (1999), Mathieson and Wall (1982), Tosun (2002), and others researchers have completed studies that investigate the effects of tourism on the environment, economy, society, culture, and political environment. These studies revealed that tourism leads to both negative and positive impacts, as noted in macro marketing studies. Additionally, Tosun (2002) indicated that sociocultural dissimilarities, economic benefits, and the gaps in buying power between the host community and vacationers result in conflict.

Further, Schwab (2017) revealed that the impact of services created for tourists, such as airports, transportation routes, and resorts or golf courses surrounding the visited area, can result in severe impacts on the environment and ecosystems that once flourished there. For every natural resource that exists, there are multiple impacts created by tourism. Environmental damage and changes because of tourism and the use of natural resources have long-term consequences that scientists and tourism operators alike are starting to observe and understand (Schwab, 2017).

Tourism sites are often located in attractive zones, and vacationers want easy access to the natural beauty they came to see. Lowry (2017) depicted that, as a result, hotels or resorts are created on or at the edge of delicate, fragile, or small natural zones; accordingly, buildings obviously change the aesthetic landscape and the flora, fauna, and soil on which they are built.

Air quality in popular tourism destinations can suffer from two main tourist acts: reduction in the number of trees and their air-cleaning properties, and a variety of pollutants from various modes of transportation (Rodrigue, Comtois, and Slack, 2017). When pollutants fill the air and rain falls, this acid rain can cause damage to soil and plant growth and can negatively influence agriculture and, thus, the food supply in an area. Finally, poor air quality can lead to a gray fog or haze in an area, affecting the views and natural beauty of a destination.

Holden (2009) and Lowry (2017) revealed that the impacts of tourism on the environment are many and unstoppable. Tourism affects flora, fauna, air, and water quality and quantity. Understanding how tourism affects these natural resources, and what tourism operators can do to mitigate the impact, is an essential step to conserving the beautiful natural areas tourists want to visit (Lowry, 2017).

Positive and negative impacts of tourism on the environment

Positive and negative outcomes in areas where tourism activities take place have been investigated by many scholars (Day and Cai, 2012; Duffy, 2001; Belsoy and Korir, 2013; Zhong, Deng, Song, and Ding, 2011). Several authors pointed out that tourism is an intensive job generator (Belsoy et al., 2012; Michailidou et al., 2015) and economy enhancer and supporter (Belsoy et al., 2012; Zhong et al., 2011) that promotes protecting natural areas, limits the movement of locals, and improves their sociocultural level. On the other hand, they added that the negative impacts of tourism are remarkable and not limited to: massive consumption of natural resources, including ground (space), water, and energy; destruction of landscapes; escalation of the production of waste; change in ecosystems; the introduction of exotic types of animal and plant; damage to local traditions; the proliferation of prostitution; the spread of drugs; more forest fires; and increases in the price of goods and services (Zhong et al., 2011; Belsoy et al., 2012) .

Beladi, Chao, Hazari, and Laffargue (2009) concluded that, despite the fact that an increase in tourism leads to gains in terms of trade, such enlargement may also encourage more production of needed services leading to environmental damage, and therefore there is crucial need for rigid regulations in order to protect the environment. The negative impacts extended to include exhaustion of different natural assets – that is, water and local resources – land degradation, air pollution, increases in waste and sewage, and degradation of ecosystems.

The positive impacts of tourism on the environment are undeniable. There are several factors that, when implemented, lead to bridging the “knowledge action–impact gaps” and remarkable change towards positive impacts of tourism on the environment and protected areas (Bartos and Cihar, 2011; Imran et al., 2014; Sirivongs and Tsuchiya, 2012; Stern, 2000; Thøgersen and Schrader, 2012). These factors include, but are not limited to, understanding ecological dimensions, accessibility of resources and availability of information and knowledge, the teamwork concept and the participation of the beneficiaries in planning and management, and knowledge sharing. These factors among others will prevent the creation of the clashes and problems that frequently surface from attitudinal and personal factors linked to awareness and knowledge (Bartos and Cihar, 2011). Sirivongs and Tsuchiya (2012), Stern (2000) and Thøgersen and Schrader (2012) argued that other related factors, such as partaking in governance organization and the presence and engagement of shareholders in tourism planning, enhance positive environmental orientations that promote income-generating and employment opportunities, and laws and regulations that favor the environment.

Tourism, climate change, and GHG emissions

Wong (2002) pointed out that tourist movement considerably contribute to changes in the environment where the amounts of GHG emissions increase leading to biodiversity loss, air, land, and water pollution, and damage to coastal and rural areas. Not only that, but it produces almost 1,302 million tonnes CO2 from international tourist travel, including same-day visitors, which is equivalent to 5% of global CO2 emissions, mostly from transport, that contributes to climate change (Peeters and Dubois, 2010). However, according to Scott, Peeters, and Gössling (2010), the total contribution of tourism activities to universal warming potential is valued at 5.2–12.5% owing to the radiative effects of all GHGs. It is expected that GHG emissions from tourism will grow by 135% over the period from 2005 to 2035 (UNWTO, UNEP, and WMO, 2008) owing to the remarkable increase in the numbers of international arrivals, expected to reach1.8 million by 2030. Peeters and Dubois (2010) noted that the number of vacationers, number of trips of long-haul tourism, and numerous holidays for a shorter length of stay greatly affect the future growth of tourist-related CO2 emissions. As a result, despite gains in efficiency, the increase in the number of international visitors hinders the significant worldwide efforts to restrict GHG emissions from different economic sectors, including tourism, that are seen as the most energy-intensive and problematic to decarbonize (Peeters, Gössling, and Becken, 2006).

GHG emissions from tourism are a complex mix, associated mainly with transport and accommodation and the diversified activities of tourists, such as leisure, festivals, shopping, conferences, and so on (see Michailidou et al., 2015), and UNWTO et al. (2008) reported that the contribution from transport by aviation approached not less than 40% of tourism’s CO2 emissions, followed by 32% from transport by cars, and 21% from accommodation (see Peeters et al., 2006). The level of GHGs produced by the three sectors is continuously increasing owing to the remarkable growth of the number of tourists worldwide (UNWTO, 2017). Bows, Anderson, and Peeters (2009) mentioned that the contribution of CO2 emissions from tourism transportation to climate change is considerable in comparison with other sectors. In their study, Peeters and Dubois (2010) found that implementation of developed technology is not sufficient to achieve the targets for CO2 emission reduction for sustainability, and avoiding unsafe climate change requires a drastic shift in tourist travel organization and arrangement in the future. The IPCC is hoping to reduce GHG emissions by 80% of their current level by 2050 (IPCC, 2007). Peeters et al. (2006) consider it an aspirational goal, and achieving it requires tough mitigation across economic sectors, including tourism. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and United Nations Environment Programme (OECD and UNEP, 2011) and Scott et al. (2010) reported that the various approaches developed to reduce the increase in GHG emissions from worldwide tourism, including legal, economic, and technological ones, were found to be mostly unsuccessful.

The energy consumption in accommodation is used for space heating and air conditioning, which accounts for nearly 52%, followed by cooking and heating water (Beccali, La Gennusa, Coco, and Rizzo, 2009). Researchers found that the amount of energy in millions of joules (MJ) per guest per night varies substantially among hotels in different countries. For instance, whereas it is 32–112 MJ in Italy (Beccali et al., 2009), 32–110 MJ in New Zealand (Trung and Kumar, 2005), and 119 MJ in Germany (Gössling, 2015), it is 65–457 MJ in Vietnam (Trung and Kumar, 2005). Although Katircioglu, Feridun, and Kilinc (2014) depicted that inbound tourism raises energy demands and, therefore, increases CO2 emissions that affect global climate change, earlier, Wunder (2000) described ecotourism as a necessary and desirable solution that delivers economic motivations in a form of nature safeguarding. Dwyer, Forsyth, Spurr, and Hoque (2010) analyzed travel patterns and concluded that the burning of fossil fuels –petroleum, natural gas, and coal – directly accounted for the major part of tourism CO2 emissions.

Tools used to assess the environmental impacts are namely: ecological footprint analysis (Hunter and Shaw, 2007), environmental impact assessment (Geneletti and Dawa, 2009), life cycle assessment (LCA; De Camillis, Petti, and Raggi, 2008), and environmental indicators (Michailidou et al., 2015). They are dissimilar in their characteristics, particularly in the objective and the precision of the assessment process. De Camillis et al. (2010) claimed that LCA is the most appropriate tool to assess the environmental impacts of tourism. It is a crucial tool and gained scientific acceptance because it holistically evaluates environmental impacts from dissimilar angles and norms (see, for instance, Castellani and Sala, 2012, and De Camillis et al., 2010).

It is worth mentioning that LCA was first used in the tourism industry by Sisman in 1993 to assess the environmental impact of a package holiday in the Seychelles offered by British Airways Holidays. Five years later, UK CEED (1998) reported its use for a similar purpose, to assess a holiday package in St. Lucia undertaken by the same airline. Since then, it has been used for a variety of purposes in the hotel industry, where it has been applied in the USA (Chambers, 2004) to trace the direct and indirect supply chain environmental effects of the hotel service sector, in Italy (De Camillis et al., 2008), in Portugal (Konig, Schmidberger, and De Cristoraro, 2007), and in Poole, UK (Filimonau, Dickinson, Robbins, and Huijbregts, 2011).

LCA had been used to assess the impact of tourism on climate change (Filimonau, Dickinson, Robbins, and Huijbregts, 2011), to study package holidays in Taiwan (Kuo, Lin, Chen, and Chen, 2012), to study all-inclusive holiday package tours from the UK to Portugal (Filimonau, Dickinson, Robbins, and Reddy, 2013), and to explore energy use and CO2 emissions in three Taiwanese islands (Penghu, Kinmen and Green islands; Kuo et al., 2012). Additionally, El Hanandeh (2013) used LCA to measure the global warming potential of Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). Michailidou et al. (2016) found that LCA could play an essential part in reducing complication in strategic planning of tourism, specifically in local-to-regional areas of intense tourism.

Gössling and Buckley (2016) investigated persuasive communication using carbon labeling in tourism, and their results indicated that its arrangements are facing theoretical and practical shortcomings. The results of the same study also indicated that carbon labeling is not currently effective, although tourists care about their climate change impacts. However, the same authors added that there are promising chances of carbon labels being developed further and used successfully.

Tourism and the protected areas

A protected area is defined as “an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and associated cultural resources, managed through legal or other effective means” (IUCN, 1994).

Globally, tourism in natural areas is in massive demand, and the last two decades of the 20th century have witnessed an increase in the number of visitors (Hadwen, Arthington, Boon, Taylor, and Fellows, 2011). It is characterized by seasonality and occurs in narrow windows of time (Baum and Lundtorp, 2001; Grindley, 2005; Hadwen, Hill, and Pickering, 2008). It has been reported that, globally, the number of protected areas has reached more than 108,000 parks/protected zones in different developed and developing countries, covering a total of 13.5 million square kilometers – an area the size China and India combined. Protected areas are suitable and attractive places for the growth of tourism as they have natural diversity, valued assets, and exceptional potential for open-air activities. However, limiting all activities in national parks makes it problematic to maintain them and does not create social activities (Scott, Gössling, Hall, and Peeters, 2016). This represents a challenge for the managers of protected areas to ensure that, while visitors have opportunities to partake in wanted activities, they are aware of and retain the values. Linking to this context of natural assets, Schweinsberg et al. (2017) claimed that botanical gardens worldwide have been considered the epitome of a nation’s cultural attainment.

Goodwin (1996) asserted that protected areas gain benefits from ecotourism through fund-raising to manage and safeguard natural habitats and species, empowering indigenous society to gain economically from the protected areas, and proposing means to raise people’s awareness of the significance of protection. Tourism produces gains including financial and economic benefits that enable, support, and motivate communities to conserve and protect the environment and tourist destinations (Coad, Campbell, Miles, and Humphries, 2008; Zhong et al., 2011). In general, protected areas are increasingly seen as a tool for the development of peripheral areas. Research in the Swedish mountain region suggests, however, that tourism does not have such great potential (Heberlein, Fredman, and Vuorio, 2002; Lundmark, 2005) and may still function as a door-opener to local societies by providing funding opportunities which might ease the progression of designating protected areas.

The values and benefits of the protected areas, either direct or indirect, through use or non-use, are multiple and even huge, including enhancing the economy and quality of life and protecting the natural and cultural heritage (see Lordkipanidze, Krozer, Kadiman, Crul, and Brezet, 2008). In this regard, for example, Rustagi and Garcia (2005) stated that the protected areas have direct and indirect values and benefits that greatly support the survival of human life and nature. Such benefits include preservation of the gene pool, environmental services, scientific investigation and education, eco-tourism and leisure, and people’s traditional and spiritual mores. In the meantime, Adams (2004) and Sellars (2009) pointed out that protected zones have been sites of dispute over nature safeguarding, the livelihoods of rural citizens, and tourism expansion at least since the founding of the first national parks in the United States.

Communities perceive the ecosystem goods and services as ecological values of a protected area, and such values are measured and monitored through indicators, such as, species abundance, ecosystem integrity, and ecosystem resiliency (Prato and Fagre, 2005). Earlier, the IUCN (2006) identified the ecological services of protected areas as follows: recreation, tourism, water supply, habitat for fish and wildlife, conservation of biodiversity, and purification of air and water.

Regarding the inclusion of locals, Zachrisson et al. (2006) found that nature conservation witnessed a shift in its paradigm to include indigenous citizens in the management affairs of protected zones, and this apparently led to the increase of tourism’s role in accomplishing economic growth in peripheral areas. They argued that, in such cases, locals might profoundly accept the protected areas, depending on appropriateness and process factors, but concluded that it is not enough on its own. Lack of involvement of local people in tourism development, management, and perceived benefits, limiting their rights to resources, and displacement in protected areas lead to negative attitudes towards the environment and conservation and, consequently, result in biodiversity loss (Imran et al., 2014).


Ecotourism appeared in the late 1970s; it was meant as a type of nature-based tourism and considered to be an agent to protect natural sites and locations in specific countries. It specifically emphasizes environmental and ecological sustainability and thereby plays an important part in green development, particularly in less-developed countries. The concepts of ecotourism and sustainable tourism are used interchangeably (Dedeke, 2017), and researchers have intensively investigated the different aspect of ecotourism. Some emphasized its outlines, definitions, and principles, whereas others focused on its benefits as creator of jobs and economic growth (Fennell, 1999; Honey, 1999; Michailidou et al., 2015; Viljoen, 2011).

Ecotourism is a subdivision of sustainable tourism. However, there is no single definition of ecotourism. UNWTO (2002) defines sustainable tourism as “Tourism which leads to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.” According to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism covers all trips to natural zones that protect the environment, supporting the prosperity of local people at the same time. Ceballos-Lascurain (1996) describes ecotourism as “traveling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific objectives of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas” (see Abu Hanifah and Webb, 2015).

The establishment of TIES in 1990 led to greater support for the international ecotourism regime. This was followed by the 1992 United Nations Rio Earth Summit (Rio Declaration on Environment and Development), where all 178 countries agreed environmental initiatives including Agenda 21, which is a wide-ranging plan of action to be taken universally, nationally and locally. In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (UN, 1992) contained guidance on ecotourism for decision-makers, where its three focal objectives were the protection of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and unbiased allocation of the benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources. The UN had declared 2002 as the International Year of Ecotourism (IYE). However, critics argue that the UN declaration of 2002 as the IYE has generated debate because of, as already noted, the rising awareness that the ecotourism industry is not as benign as initially believed (TWN, 2002; also see Abu Hanifah and Webb, 2015).

However, Simon (1999) argues that, although global bodies such as UNEP and the World Travel and Tourism Council are moving to provide a unified set of guidelines, their application will remain challenging owing to a lack of systematic measurement and enforcement.

Ecotourism supports the generation of jobs for the unqualified workforce in rural societies and creates plentiful export opportunities in inaccessible locations to guarantee a green economy (see Michailidou et al., 2015). In a similar vein, Viljoen (2011) pointed out that ecotourism is an appropriate tourism type to support economic growth in unindustrialized countries with a capital shortage and natural resource abundance.

Visiting natural beauty destinations has been intensively attractive to tourists in many countries worldwide (Kepe, 2001; Newsome, Moore, and Dowling, 2002; Yu, Hendrickson, and Castillo, 1997; Goodwin, Kent, Parker, and Walpole, 1998). This brand of visit or tourism style gained popularity under varying names, including “ecotourism,” “green tourism,” “agri-tourism,” and so on. The concept of ecotourism was dominantly adopted and highly rated among other economic growth approaches by many less-developed countries, leading to enhancing hard currency earnings through attracting visitors from wealthier to poorer countries (De Los Monteros, 2002; Goodwin et al., 1998; Kepe, 2001; Roe, Leader-Williams, and Dalal-Clyton, 1997; Yu et al., 1997). Ceballos-Lascurain (1996) pointed out that rural areas are the focus of ecotourism owing to the robust link between ecotourism and biodiversity protection, and the formal and informal means and practices for protecting biodiversity and ecotourism themselves enhance and inspire biodiversity protection. Ecotourism operators were found useful, in some ways, for the safeguarding of species and habitats in the area (De Los Monteros, 2002). However, the same author noted that a limited number of other studies attempted to depict ecological ecotourism, and positive examples of ecotourism are still uncommon.

De Los Monteros (2002) reported that ecotourism in Mexico is perceived as an opportunity for safeguarding and improvement, and the administration is energetically encouraging tourism in protected natural zones. He affirmed that achieving this necessitated conducting ecotourism activities according to the domestic definition, ethics, and expectations of ecotourism. However, Cater (1993) and King and Stewart (1996) believed that there is no difference between ecotourism and conventional tourism, unless the first is wisely accomplished, managed, and controlled. Uncontrolled and badly managed conventional tourism, as well as large numbers of vacationers, pose a significant threat to numerous natural zones. These factors also build pressure on resources, leading to land damage, rising pollution, increases in discharges into the waterways, natural habitat damage, increased stress on scarce species, and heightened susceptibility to forest fires. Additionally, they create competitiveness between resources and, particularly, water and locals (UNWTO, UNEP, and WMO, 2008). Therefore, Font and Harris (2004) pointed out that it is crucial to implement effective tourism management tactics that incorporate tourism alongside safeguarding management priorities and enforce limits on the scale and types of tourism permitted.


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