13 Dirty Ways in Which Tourism Contributes To Pollution

Since the past few decades, the tourism industry has seen exponential growth. In fact, for most countries, tourism has become one of the main pillars of their economy.

But then, we must also note that tourism has also come with negative impacts, especially on the environment. In fact, as tourism experiences rapid growth, so does it destroy the environment gradually, leaving irreversible impacts.

The negative impacts of tourism on the environment include the depletion of local resources and pollution and waste problems. Tourism puts a strain on natural resources, which are becoming scarce.

According to Nature Climate Change, 8% of the world’s overall greenhouse gas emission is due to tourism.

Around 90% of these emissions come from transportation. Environmentalists all across the globe are concerned about the increasing amount of waste and pollution caused by visitors.

Here are 13 dirty ways in which tourism contributes to pollution.

How Tourism Contributes to Pollution?

Wondering how tourism is causing pollution? Here are some of the ways:

1. Tourists Leave Trash on Beaches

Source: Canva

Tourism is one of the biggest culprits in beach pollution. Beach pollution is the presence of harmful substances on the coasts, including trash, plastic, oils, and even pesticides. Visitors leave plastic cups, glass bottles, and all kinds of garbage behind.

This destroys the ecosystem and affects marine life. Marine animals end up swallowing this waste, exposing them to serious health issues. Currently, 700 million marine species are threatened with extinction due to swallowing or ingesting plastic.

2. Hotels Dump Wastewater in Oceans


Some hotels have been using oceans for waste disposal. This affects the ecosystem and disrupts ocean life.

Even more sadly, this wastewater contains hazardous chemicals that kill marine plants and animals, affecting the ecosystem.

Wastewater disposal in oceans has even led to severe oxygen depletion in some water bodies. And as we all know, the lack of oxygen in water is detrimental to aquatic life.

3. Tourism Produces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change by trapping heat. Air travel emits a massive amount of greenhouse gas especially transatlantic flights. China, the US, and Germany have produced more greenhouse gases than other countries.

4. Structures are Built by Cutting Down Forests


There is an increasing demand for accommodation in tourist spots. To cater to this need, hotels and resorts are built by cutting down forests. This results in deforestation, which in turn has many hazards.

Cutting down trees can lead to loss of habitat for animals, which can have a severe impact on the ecosystem. For instance, trees release oxygen and absorb greenhouse gases, so cutting them down means worsening the greenhouse gases.

This means the destruction of forests can lead to global warming due to the presence of unabsorbed greenhouse gases. With the decrease in forests, rain also becomes irregular, which ultimately causes global warming. Soil erosion is also a result of cutting down trees, which paves the way for the spread of deserts.

5. Cruiseships Produce Tons of Wastewater


According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in the Caribbean, cruise ships produce 70,000 tons of wastewater every year (Balita-Centeno L, Ways In Which Tourism Contributes to Pollution, 2020 July 23). Cruise ships transport thousands of tourists yearly, producing vast amounts of waste that is hazardous to the environment.

The bilge oil the cruise ship uses mixes with the oceanic water and causes severe marine problems.

Cruise ships are a serious threat to coral reefs and other organisms. These ships also release grey or black water into the ocean, disturbing the ecosystem. These mammoth ships emit toxic chemicals from batteries, dry cleaning, and other harmful processes to marine creatures.

6. Tourism Causes Noise Pollution 


Noise pollution is exposure to high levels of sound that impact humans and other living organisms. The booming tourism industry is known to cause significant noise pollution. Tourist vehicles such as snowmobiles and jetskis entering and leaving natural areas create a lot of noise that disturbs the living organisms in the area.

This noise disrupts their life and changes their natural activity patterns. Loud music played by tourists is also one of the culprits of causing noise pollution.

Noise pollution can cause several health problems in humans, like high blood pressure, heart problems, stress, and irregular sleep patterns. Some animals might collapse due to constant exposure to noise as the sound is used to attract mates, find food, or avoid danger.

7. Visitors Can Cause Forest Fires


Wildfires put the lives of thousands of animals at risk. The smoke arising from these fires releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, black carbon, brown carbon, and ozone precursors into the atmosphere and, therefore, causes air pollution. This also results in breathing difficulties in healthy humans.

According to the US National Park Service, 85% of wildfires in the US are caused by human activities. At times, campers leave campsites unattended or leave the site without extinguishing the fire properly.

This leads to massive wildfires and destroys the habitat of animals living there. Visitors also discard cigarettes negligently, which can easily cause wildfire.

8. Mass Tourism Causes Light Pollution


Light pollution is the presence of excessive misdirected light. It disrupts ecosystems and has severe health effects on humans. It causes irregular sleep patterns and impaired daytime functioning in humans. Tourism is one of the main contributors to light pollution.

The tourism industry uses artificial lights like streamers, billboards, strobe lights, etc.., that adversely affect humans and animals.

In addition, light pollution severely impacts species of endangered sea turtles that use light as a navigational tool. Baby sea turtles come out at night when the temperature is cooler.

They instinctively move towards the brightest area on the beach. Due to light pollution, they get misguided and move towards artificial sources of light that are hazardous to their health. In Florida, millions of baby sea turtles die every year due to this reason.

9. Trampling 


In natural areas, tourists use the same path repeatedly, which crushes the vegetation in the area. This causes damage and destroys biodiversity in the area.

Trampling impacts on soil include accelerated erosion, increased run-off, decreased air and water permeability, loss of organic matter, etc.

10. Anchoring and Other Marine Activities 


Many tourist activities occur in fragile marine areas like reefs, beaches, lagoons, and coastal areas. This puts the biodiversity of these areas at risk as many tourist activities take place, such as scuba diving, yachting, anchoring, snorkeling, sport fishing, etc.

11. Depletion of Natural Resources


As the number of tourists increases, the need for food, freshwater, and power usage in hotels and resorts increases. To cater to these needs, hotels turn to local resources and over-consume them. This leads to a scarcity of natural resources and strains the environment.

At times, recreational fishing activities in which marine tourists participate are not controlled, leading to the endangerment of aquatic species and, therefore, causing an imbalance in aquatic ecosystems.

12. Loss of Biodiversity


Nature tourism causes biodiversity loss due to excessive land use and other resources. This puts a strain on vegetation, wildlife, mountains, marine, and coastal environments, leading to a loss of biodiversity.

13. Depletion of the Ozone Layer

Ozone is a layer of air that surrounds the earth and protects the earth from UV radiation. The tourism industry releases ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which lead to the destruction of the ozone layer. Different sources of ODSs include emissions from jet aircraft, construction of new hotels and resorts, air conditioners, etc.

Tourism has its pros and cons. It boosts the economy, but on the other hand, it degrades the environment in several ways. The solution to the issues of environmental sustainability is the need of the hour. The way out of this problem is to implement eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is about the conservation of resources and minimizing the impact on the environment while traveling. Everyone should participate in conserving and protecting the environment while on a tour. Tourism and the environment can co-exist if certain practices are followed. Ecological awareness is also a necessary step towards eco-tourism. Efficient management and proper planning with the help of strict legislation can help to ensure this.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.