The Effects of Tourism on the Physical Environment: What is the Importance of a Clean and Healthy Environment in the Tourism Industry ?

The Effects of Tourism on the Physical Environment: What is the Importance of a Clean and Healthy Environment in the Tourism Industry ?
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Land, Water and Air

The importance of a clean and healthy environment in tourism and the effects of tourism on our physical environment should be a consideration to all travelers. Whether we realize it or not, we all damage the Earth when traveling. But what can people do to offset this problem?

Think about when you hike. Probably you’ve seen many plastic bottles and trash on the trail or in the forest. When this occurs, the environment is damaged. For these items to break down and decompose, it could take up to hundreds of years. In the meantime, an animal may come along and try to eat it, thus injuring or suffocating the animal, thereby killing an innocent victim.

In addition, when hikers hike, mountain climb and camp in national parks, they must bring all waste outside the park to dispose of it. This means bodily waste as well, believe or not. National parks are so strict that hikers bring their own baggies for excrement and then dispose of them in trash bins later. This proves that anything people leave in a protected, natural area can actually destroy it.

With tourism comes new infrastructure including roads, hotels, shopping centers and other buildings geared toward the industry. This wreaks havoc on the environment because the natural habitats of plant and animal life indigenous to these areas are destroyed. Plants are killed and animals must relocate to a new area.

Any tourist attractions close to water will become polluted with everyday waste such as plastic bottles, cans, napkins, plastic wrappers, etc. Tourist facilities also tend to waste water with both staff and guests overusing the water supply. Think of all those hotel guests that rent rooms with Jacuzzi tubs. Other examples of tourism water pollution include lawn fertilizer, septic tank leaks and car oil from roads running off into bodies of water.

Tourists pollute the air with the influx of vehicles on the road, since cars and SUVs give off carbon emissions into the air. Planes leave a massive carbon footprint as well.

There is such a thing as noise pollution as well. In high tourism areas, this can disturb not only people, but noise may drive off certain animals native to the region.

So how can we be better tourists?

Tips for Eco-Friendly Tourism

Eco-Friendly Tourism

Just follow these tips to become an eco-conscious tourist:

  • Leave nature with what you brought in. In other words, don’t leave rubbish, including food and plastic bottles, on the forest floor.

  • Go to the bathroom before the hike (that means number 2 also). Check the park map to see if there are bathrooms on the trail.

  • Vacation in natural places that haven’t been “built up.” Ditch the 30-story hotel in Cabo for a quiet tree house retreat - a possible adventure of a lifetime and you’re supporting the green movement.

  • Treat the getaway like you’re at home. In other words, keep to normal shower times, forego that room with the hot tub, only ask for new towels and bed linens once (or if you’re super clean) or twice a week.

  • Bike and walk everywhere if you can while on vacation. It’s a great way to see the scenery and enjoy the ambience.

  • If you have to rent a car, use a hybrid vehicle.

  • Keep noise down to a dull roar. There’s no need to be blasting loud music out of your hotel room - would you do that at home?

Knowing the importance of a clean and healthy environment and the effects of tourism on the physical environment is the first step to becoming a better tourist. Stick to the above practical tips and you can spend your vacation relaxing and respecting Mother Earth.


“The impacts of tourism on natural resources.” Parks and Recreation by Kathleen L. Anderek, June 1993 –

Image Credits

Photos by federico stevanin / –