Social and cultural impacts of mass tourism on the host community

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Social and cultural impacts of mass tourism on the host community

This article aims to explore some of the social and cultural impacts of mass tourism on the host community. Mass tourism has been defined in different ways over the years with notable differences; however, one definition all researchers agree on is that mass tourism refers to a large number of tourists going to the same place simultaneously (BBC, 2019). This type of tourism was pioneered by Thomas Cook during the second half of the 19th century in the UK.

Social and cultural impacts of mass tourism on the host community

There is no doubt that mass tourism has both positive and negative impacts on the host communities. Both tourists and local people can benefit from each other through their mutual interactions. Mass tourism provides them with an opportunity to learn different cultures and customs.  Tourists come into contact with different types of attire, food, festival, language and belief that are practiced by local people. Locals can also get to know many different things from tourists. As a result, a greater understanding of diversity can be achieved.

Mass tourism impacts on social mobility and social inclusion. It is widely seen that many young people and women work in their local tourism and hospitality businesses. This helps them financially and equip them with the experience they need in order to work in higher positions within the same industry and beyond. It is virtually impossible for women in many poor economies to travel far from home to explore employment opportunities. Therefore, when tourism brings jobs to their doorsteps, it does really work for them. And with this process, a greater level of social mobility and social inclusion is achieved.

However, there is no denying that mass tourism has negative social and cultural impacts on the host communities. For instance, many researchers argue that mass tourism creates demonstration effect i.e. locals start copying the behaviour patterns of tourists (Fisher, 2004). Many locals assume that imitating the consumptions of tourists will improve their social standing. However, what they miss is that this demonstration effect may force them to some extent, to compromise with their traditional value systems.

It is not unlikely that tourists may sometimes offend local people inadvertently due to their lack of cultural awareness. For instance, their topless sunbathing in beaches and limited clothing when visiting religious sites may offend the local habitants badly. Likewise, a public display of affection between couple is also an example of violation of cultural norms in some countries (Tourism Concern, 2014). For instance, tourists from the Western countries may face cultural conflicts when they visit many African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian countries.

Mass tourism has also been found to have correlations with the rise of anti-social behaviour and crime rates in the host communities. For instance, illegal use of drugs and alcohol, gambling, prostitution, and loud noises have all been evidenced to have correlations with mass tourism in some destinations. In fact, tourism has been a cause of disruption in the daily life of host communities. In the extreme cases, it has also been the cause of removal of local people in many places.

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Last update: 22 September 2019

References/Further reading:

BBC (2019) Tourism, available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zqk7hyc/revision/3 (accessed  22 August 2019)

Fisher, D. (2004) The demonstration effect revisited, available at:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0160738304000180?via%3Dihub (accessed 20 September 2019)

Tourism Concern (2014) Cultural impacts, available at: https://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/cultural-impacts/ (accessed 20 September 2019)

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Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He is a graduate of Leeds Metropolitan University and London South Bank University.