Travel and tourism is one of the world's largest industries. It "surpasses that of oil exports, ‎food products or automobiles," according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Inbound tourism boosts the economic growth of a region's economy while providing high potential to support job creation. Outbound tourism promotes cross-cultural understanding and goodwill. In the words of Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness...". Read below to understands the various impacts of the tourism industry.

Positive Economic Effects of Tourism

Job creation is paramount to any discussion about tourism's positive economic effects. The 2017 Economic Impact Report by the World Travel & Tourism Council indicates that the industry generates one out of 10 jobs worldwide, growing at a pace that outperforms employment in the global economy for the sixth consecutive year. The report also indicates that among new jobs, the sector accounts for one in five. This economic development is one positive of global tourism that shouldbe taken into consideration when accessing the overall economic impacts of tourism.

Negative Economic Effects of Tourism

However, there are also negative effects of tourism when it comes to economics. Unexpected and unforeseeable events such as terrorism, political upheaval, impactful weather conditions and natural disasters can wreak havoc on a region, negatively affecting inbound tourism for considerable periods of time. The more dependent a destination is on tourism, the more the impact will be felt and the longer recovery will take. Various tourist destinations in recent years have experienced this and can account for some of the social impacts of tourism as well.

Positive Environmental Effects of Tourism

Education about the reasons for sustainable tourism places a spotlight on responsible planning. As more consumers become aware of the lasting benefits of "take only pictures, leave only footprints," we can better respect nature and minimize the impact on any habitat we visit. The number of tourists that live by this idea when visiting new tourist attractions both domestic and foreign is very slim however, and bringing awareness to the impact one can have on the environment is crucial.

Negative Environmental Effects of Tourism

Too many tourists can have a negative impact on the quality of life in the destinations they visit. Known as overtourism, this phenomenon is creating a burden in such destinations as rural Patagonia, Chile, and urban Barcelona, Spain. Overcrowding in in a local community or the natural damage left by unaware individuals who take part in mass tourism can lead to negative environmental impacts.

The slopes of Mount Everest are littered and in Iceland, tourists far outnumber the resident population. In the U.S. where the top 10 parks saw more than 44 million visitors in 2016, the National Park Service is looking for ways to protect natural treasures in light of year-on-year increases in visitor numbers. Especially with the rise of social media platforms like TikTok in the younger generation, trends and challenges have begun to impact natural landscapes of attractions like the Grand Canyon, for example. It is vital for any tourist to take heed of the natural environment around them and try their best to minimze the negative environmental impacts of tourism as they visit new places.

Positive Effects of Mega Events

A rotating mega event, such as the Olympics, the World Cup or even a more rare occurrence such as a royal wedding, will benefit a host destination by attracting global attention. Large numbers of spectators visit, injecting significant cash into the local economy. International sporting events also serve as catalysts for longer term improvements in stadiums, facilities, transportation and infrastructures. For Athens, Greece, in 2004 and for Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, this even meant new airport terminals. Host communities for large events like this will often lobby hard for their city to be chosen, both for the general publicity and the various positive impacts it can have for them.

Negative Effects of Mega Events

We've all observed that the legacy left by hosting a major event can hurt a local economy more than it benefits. In years following the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, venues went unused although the city chalked up a $15 billion price tag. Four years later, the same thing happened at the far more costly Beijing Olympics. During the 2013 America's Cup, "equal amounts of civic pride and political controversy" were generated, reported the San Francisco Chronicle, which also reported the unpaid tab for the host city was $11.5 million.

Now with the presence of Covid-19 playing a factor in the decision to gather in large crowds, considering what may be a super spreader event is a factor that must be taken into account too. In order for these events to safely take place, tourists must take certain precautions and facilities who are hosting a large number of people must also be aware.

Positive Social Effects of Tourism

Tourism has long been cited by world leaders as a driver of peace and security through understanding. In the 21st century, tourism is closely linked to development, embracing a growing number ‎of new destinations – hence new jobs. Tourism can create civic pride by encouraging cultivation and sharing of local customs, food, traditions and festivals. Personal exchanges between hosts and guests goes a long way toward fostering better cultural understanding.

Tour operators within the tourism sector are focusing on the experiential travel trend, providing more authentic and immersive experiences for their guests. Open spaces and national parks in countries around the world are good for replenishing both body and soul, but traffic jams are not a good look. Finding ways for guests to interact with local business, local people and the area’s natural resources is becoming a more prominent focus within the tourism industry.

Negative Social Effects of Tourism

While tourism can help preserve cultures, it can also water them down via commercialization and cookie-cutter approaches. Airbnb's advertising has attacked the sameness of hotels, suggesting real people's homes in real neighborhoods as an alternative. The positive cultural impacts of tourism seem to outweigh the negatives, but it can’t be guaranteed that every individual visiting somewhere new will be respectful of the local people’s well being and cultural practices. This can create tension and physical or emotional conflict in these spaces.


More often than not, tourists visiting a new area will be more positive than it will be negative. The tourism industry is creating initiatives regularly to drive safe travel and create positive experience for both guests and local inhabitants of the areas they visit. When you decide to travel next, just be sure to be aware of the different cultures you may encounter and how best to respect them, as well as consider your impact on the ecosystem and local culture you’re visiting. Tourism activities offered by businesses within the area are usually the best way to go, as they will know what is the best practice and how you can get the most out of your experience. If you believe you can safely and responsibly visit a different place, then enjoy planning and go make new memories! Tourism development is happening regularly, and you can be part of that positive change.