University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE


Leisure and Tourism

Tourism – the World’s biggest Industry:

Since the Second World War, the growth of international tourism has been phenomenal:

  • Annual tourist arrivals worldwide have increased from 25 million to 450 million (1990)  Source
  • Between 1969-79, the World Bank has encouraged developing countries to invest in tourism as a strategy for attracting foreign investors.
  • Tourism is often described as the ‘world’s biggest industry’ by its contribution to GDP (gross domestic product). The  WTO (World Tourism Organization) website gives detailed facts and figures -
  • The size of the tourist industry and its present rate of growth present both opportunities and threats to biodiversity.
  • Modern air travel has been a major contributor to the success of Global tourism. An expected increase of 594 million in 1996 to over 1.6 billion by 2020.

Global impacts of tourism on the environment:

The  UNEP website has assessed this in detail and the main impacts are:

  1. Loss of biodiversity when land and resources are strained by excessive use: the carrying capacity for an environment (e.g. for water resources), are exceeded.
  2. Introduction of exotic species. Tourists can unwittingly bring in insects, wild and cultivated plants and diseases which seriously disrupt local environments.
  3. Depletion of the Ozone Layer. CFC’s from air conditioners and fridges and emissions from jet aircraft can damage this important UV (ultraviolet) sunlight filter layer. An increase in UV radiation has caused the global decline of many species, especially amphibians.
  4. Climate change. Global tourism is heavily involved as it requires moving large numbers of people between home and their destinations and air traffic could account for 2.5% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Each of these can result in some direct effects on tourism such as:

  • Less snowfall at ski resorts.
  • Loss of key ecosystems that tourist like to visit e.g. coral reef.
  • Erosion to sensitive habitats e.g. path erosion in Dartmoor national Park (link here)
  • Rise in sea levels destroying important island destinations e.g the Maldives.
  • Increase in occurrence of extreme weather such as hurricanes and typhoons.
  • Extreme dryness leading to forest fires e.g Spanish Forestry Service ICONA report.

  1. Sustainable Tourism:
    The WTO have defined this term  here -
    • Clearly define this term.
    • From your own experiences whilst on holiday, briefly describe ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practice that you have seen.
    • What is ‘Ecotourism’? Look again  here at (Box 2 on page 4 and box 3 0n page 6)
  2. Tourism and Turtles:
    For some ideas, visit the  EuroTurtle website, go to threats (on top bar) and look at the effects of small garbage, airport noise and light pollution on the nesting success of loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean.

 Introduced Species


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NOT RATED Natasha 12-07-10 08:35
very interesting, i learned alot thanks
Natasha 12-07-10 08:36
very interesting, i learned alot thanks