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Unsustainable Tourism

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18th Jun 2019

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world, however, it can put huge pressures on local environments and ecosystems, making it unsustainable. Globally, the world’s tourism industry has grown dramatically, exceeding 1 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation recognised over 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in the last year so it's no surprise that some destinations are under pressure due to the sheer volume of vistors.

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The Great Barrier Reef 

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder situated in the Coral Sea, off the Coast of Queensland, Australia. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The natural beauty of the coral reef attracts many tourists, with 2 million visitors each year. The high volume of visitors undeniably puts pressure on Australia’s ecosystem.

Many tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef in order to take part in marine activities such as diving, snorkelling, reef walking and fishing. This can be harmful to the environment as swimming too close to the coral can break it. Other damage can be caused from boats and interaction with the wildlife through turtle and whale watching.  Each day tourists visit the reef begins to deteriorate more, as it is constantly being damaged.

Tourism from the Great Barrier Reef is a great source of income for Australia, however, preservation and conservation of the reef are important in keeping it alive. Many activists have come together to ensure that conservation of the reef is prioritised, particularly in stopping the coral from being bleached from warming water, phosphats and runoff, and general activity. When the coral is bleached, it turns fluorescent colours, but many tourists don’t realise that it is killing the coral.

The Great Barrier Reef is an important part of tourism in Australia, but its visitors need to become more aware of the affects their presence is having on the natural environment. Bottom line: tourism in the Great Barrier Reef is unsustainable and if it carries on the current way, the whole reef will eventually die.

What’s being done?

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation have set up conservation programmes to help restore and preserve the reef. Resilience Reefs are a group of people who work on tackling the effects of climate change through planning, building and implementing of reef conservation in Oceania. The foundations are in need funding for new officers and strategies to help save the reef. Other projects focus on protecting critical marine habitats, like the Reef Island group. Reef Islands are to be implemented across five areas in the Great Barrier Reef in order to create more areas where marine life can live in a safe habitat.

Restoration of the coral from bleaching and other human damage is also important to the Great Barrier Reef. Since 2016, a small team linked with the Great Barrie Reef Foundation have collected and delivered a large amount of coral eggs and sperm, in order to help restore reef patches. After 8 months it was found that over 100 corals have grown and established their place in the reef.

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Pirin National Park

Pirin is a National Park situated in south west Bulgaria. A ski resort in the Pirin mountains is becoming overcrowded due to a high volume of tourists. The tourist industry want to expand the ski resort and gained approval in 2000. This is controversial because the plans for the new ski resort covers 60% of the national park, which could cause huge damage to the World Heritage Site. The park was opened up to construction activities in December 2017, however by early 2019, construction was ruled unlawful.

Plans for Bulgaria’s largest ski resort have been put on hold due to the damage it would cause to wildlife such as brown bears, grey wolves and eagles plus the habitats in which they live. It is possible there will be a push to construct in the Pirin National Park in the future, but for now environmentalists have secured its safety.

What’s being done?

A current concern for Pirin National Park is whether the ski resort is to be expanded. There are talks of the tourism zone, ski buildings and other resort facilities being expanded, which will put a huge pressure on the environment due to fragmentation of the wildlife corridors of the site. In order to preserve the most fragile areas of the national park, access to some areas is now blocked.

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Prague is a European city experiencing high amounts of tourism. With flight and hotel prices decreasing, city breaks have become increasingly popular. For many, a weekend trip to Prague in the Czech Republic can be a cheap trip.

Prague receives over 7.5 million tourists each year, most of which are during the summer months. The high tourist concentration in the historical centre is producing a constraint on the local’s quality of life. Food, travel and housing prices are rising which is making it difficult for locals to stay in their homes, especially ones which are close to the city centre.

Tourism in Prague is undoubtedly beneficial to its economy, but if it continues to grow it will become a mass tourism destination, putting the whole industry at risk.  

What’s being done?

Gaining too many tourists can be a risk to the tourism industry due to overcrowding, an increased demand of goods and services and deterioration of the local environment.  The Czech government remains reluctant to interfere as the tourism industry is producing money for the local economy. In this case, the best impacts are likely to come from mindful tourists themselves, who seek to reduce their carbon, social and cultural impact.