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Impact of Social & Cultural Issues on the Tourism Industry

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Tourism isn't always held in high regard by the locals living in destination countries, cities, and towns. Learn why in this lesson. Also learn how tourism helps in other areas.

Tourist Destinations

When you think of popular tourist destinations, what do you think of? Do you think of Florida for Disney World? Or Iceland for the scenery? Did you know that while the United States benefits from tourists and for the most part embraces it, Iceland, on the other hand, doesn't embrace it as much and in fact suffers a bit from it? In this lesson, you'll learn why one location benefits from tourism while another suffers. Tourism is when people visit locations away from their home for pleasure or business.


Tourism has a negative impact when tourists are not respectful
tourism impact


Disregard to Local Environment

Iceland suffers from tourism because of disregard by the tourists. Disregard by tourists isn't something that just Iceland suffers from. No, other destinations, especially in third world countries, suffer from it. This disregard is seen in how tourists treat the natural environment in the destination as well as the people.

In Iceland, for example, tourists are looked down on by the locals because some locals would rather go poop in cemeteries, parks, and yards of locals instead of paying to use a public restroom. The country has had to post signs asking tourists to refrain from urinating and defecating on public attractions. Iceland has clean public bathrooms, but some of these you have to pay to use.

This is also the case in China. It costs money to keep these public restrooms clean, so they charge people to use them. When tourists disregard this and expect to have access to free and clean public restrooms, it hurts the destination area. These places won't embrace the tourists because the tourists aren't showing respect for the place they are visiting. Instead of appreciating the place they are visiting and keeping it clean, they are instead vandalizing the place and making it dirty. For example, the newly-built Disneyland Shanghai has an adjoining 98-acre park that allows visitors to relax. Instead, individuals are leaving trash, vandalizing equipment and allowing their children to use the bathroom on the park grounds.

Culture Clash

Another aspect of tourism that negatively impacts the society and culture of the destination locations is that of culture clashes. When tourists visit other countries and do not educate themselves about the local customs, they can and often do offend the locals. For example, in some Middle Eastern countries, it is custom and proper for women to cover themselves. When tourists come and appear half-dressed (to the locals), it offends the locals and can sometimes cause problems within the society as the locals want to copy the tourists. This creates social tension for the destination country and city.

Culture clash works both ways. Tourists may offend by what they do, but also the locals can offend the tourists by what they do. For example, in China, it is normal for parents to let their children defecate whenever and wherever they need. Babies often don't wear diapers (it's too expensive) and parents will let them defecate in parks and on the side of roads. It's normal for them, but looked down upon by tourists.

Either way, culture clash creates problems for tourists and destination sites alike.

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