FOCUS: The Electic Impact of Tourism

As summer draws closer, more people travel for leisure. Despite its popularity, many travelers are unaware of the tourism industry’s effects on the global scale.

Junior Kai Johnson believes that traveling can provide fun and relaxing experiences. However, he has also observed that tourists sometimes disrespect a culture’s values.

“Sometimes there’s a culture there that they need to respect, and if they don’t know it, then they’re going to do a lot of disrespectful things like (wrong) greetings, or approaching someone and talking to someone (improperly),” Johnson said. “They need to understand that not everyone’s their friend.”

In tourism-dependent locations, large masses of travelers can put strain on daily living. Freshman Sahana Anamika noted that discourteous tourists can overwhelm locals.

“Hawaii is a very small land area, and if you have a lot of tourism there, it gets overpopulated and crowded,” Anamika said. “When you take into account people being rude and disrespectful, then obviously it has a negative effect on the people who are already living there and on the land.”

Some tourists can be misdirected in their exploration of different cultures. Anamika has observed that ignorance from tourists can result in cultural appropriation.

“For example, if someone is wearing the locals’ cultural clothes and performing their rituals in a rude manner, then it’s cultural appropriation,” Anamika said. “But if you’re just in that particular area and doing those things respectfully and the locals are also promoting it towards you, then it is okay.”

Tourism can also affect the environment of a location. SCUSD Equity Committee member Aimee Heeren has noticed that tourism can cause pollution and wastage in an area.

“Tourists just create a lot of garbage with plastic packaging, water bottles and trash,” Heeren said. “Resorts and hotels tend to consume a lot more water. I wouldn’t wash my sheets and towels every single day, but in a hotel they do.”

In locations that rely upon tourism, Johnson observed that their governments will waste resources in order to make the land appealing to tourists.

“When people are touring certain areas, they eventually get more popular, so the areas need to make more space for the tourists,” Johnson said.” Therefore, they get rid of anything that is in the way, which will be getting rid of certain resources and destroying certain environments. They are also going to need to put more resources into the area to make sure it stays in peak condition to the tourists.”

While tourism can have negative effects, Heeren also acknowledged that it can aid local economies.

“I know that even though tourism helps sustain local economies, it also takes away resources,” Heeren said. “Despite the problems, it kind of infringes upon people a more desirable way of life that they would not have, were they not dependent on tourism.”

In his experiences with the media, Johnson found that tourism commonly perpetuates lies and popularizes stereotypes.

“It is true that when people are broadcasting their tours, they say stuff that will be absorbed by the people of their audience, and it can produce stereotypes and stigma on certain things,” Johnson said.

Despite the negative effects of tourism, Heeren has found that visiting other parts of the world has led her to be more knowledgeable about their ways of living and daily practices. She observed large differences between life in America and other countries.

“When I traveled to Japan, it was just so orderly and clean. People didn’t lock up their bikes,” Heeren said. “Young children could take the bus or take the subway by themselves because it’s just a very safe society and very different to America.”

As a whole, tourism has led to both beneficial and negative impacts on countries all over the world. The tourism industry has aided in connecting individuals with new locations and changing their perceptions on cultures. Social science teacher Daniel Skapinsky believes that tourism leads to more empathy around the world.

“It’s good for people to travel because it keeps them able to experience different cultures (and) allows people to be empathetic to other cultures,” Skapinsky said. “(There would be) less racism in the world and prejudice and bias if people were able to travel, see more cultures and appreciate other cultures than their own.”