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Impact of tourism

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. It contributed a total of 9.8% to the world GDP ($7.2 trillion) in 2015 (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2017). However, its impact is not always positive. Tourism sometimes impacts on environment and social fabrics negatively. This article focuses on the economic, social and environmental impact of tourism.

Economic impact of tourism

Historically, developed countries were reaping economic harvests of tourism. However, a number of developing nations came forward and started catering for tourist needs. Thailand, Uganda, India, Maldives, Iran, Madagascar, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, and Papua New Guinea are some good examples. Tourism has contributed immensely on the economies of many of these tourist destinations. For example, Indian GDP was $2.25 trillion in 2016, and tourism contributed approximately 6.23% to it.

USA, UK, and France are some of the top tourism destinations in the world. Tourism has greatly contributed to the economies of these countries. For instance, it contributed £127.4bn to the UK economy in 2015 (VisitBritain, 2017). Approximately 3 million people are engaged in the tourism industry in the UK.

Social impact of tourism

Tourism can also impact on the socio-cultural environment of a country. As tourists visit different countries, they come in contact with the local people. This gives both tourists and hosts an opportunity to get to know each other’s cultures. Consequently, this interaction leads to a greater understanding of diversity.

Tourism industry supports a wide range of cultural entertainment activities. This not only promotes cultural understanding, but also contributes to the economy. Another important issue to note is social inclusion. Many women and youngsters are engaged in both full-time and part-time employment in tourism industry. This contributes to social mobility to a great extent.

Environmental impact of tourism

While tourism brings about a lot of socio-economic benefits, it also has some negative impacts on environment. Waste, deforestation, and environmental damage are some of the challenges to name but a few. Many countries face the environment challenges of tourism on a daily basis. For example, tourism has negatively impacted on the environment of Nicaragua. Landscape degradation and erosion have resulted from the development of visitor attractions in the country and some tourists’ desire to collect shells, rocks, and fossils.

While the negative impact of tourism on environment is immense, positive impacts need attention as well. As tourism industry grows, both public and private sector organisations start focusing on conservation and preservation of some aspects of the environment. This is further enhanced by the idea of sustainable tourism development practices.


It is evident that tourism has both positive and negative impacts on economy, social culture, and environment of a country. Therefore, it is extremely important for the stakeholders to play their part so that the negative impacts are minimised and the positives impacts are further enhanced.

We hope this article on the impact of tourism has been useful. You may also like reading What is sustainable tourism and An introduction to the tourism industry in the UK. If you liked this article, please share it by clicking on the icons below.

The article publication date: 18 March 2017

Further reading/references

Visit Britain (2017) Britain’s visitor economy facts, available at (Accessed 10 March 2017)

World Travel and Tourism Council (2017) Economic Impact Analysis, available at 10 March 2017)

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Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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