Coastal areas around the world are tourist hotspots. Beaches, islands, lagoons and spaces surrounding the coast have attracted tourists from around the world. Owing to such a huge demand, coastal tourism has come to support millions of jobs. Nearly 300 million jobs exist as a result of coastal tourism. It is also significant to the development of smaller island nations that rely heavily on the revenue generated by it.
Coastal tourism, though lucrative, has become extremely unsustainable. Environmental degradation as a result of it is devastating. Habitat loss, biodiversity loss, the collapse of ecosystems, accumulation of waste, rising plastic levels in the ocean, are all symptoms of the damage caused to the environment. The World Travel Tourism Council forecasts that the future of travel and tourism will support 400 million jobs and contribute to 25% of global net job creation globally. Tourism is exponentially growing and so is the damage.
Another glaring problem with the rise in coastal tourism is overdevelopment. As more and more tourists want to travel to areas surrounding the coast, the greater the urbanization to accommodate these people. This large-scale overdevelopment is detrimental to the habitat and lives of native species. Airports, marinas, resorts, and golf courses are constructed in and around coastal areas to support and boost tourism. Fragile marine ecosystems are severely harmed by this.
Impact of coastal tourism at famous destinations
The Mediterranean region is one example of the kind of damage excessive coastal tourism can cause. The Mediterranean sea sees 100 million tourists lining up to lounge at its beaches every year. Due to this, massive infrastructural developments have taken place. The coastline is urbanized causing habitat loss. Some areas are now ‘beyond repair’.Additionally, there seems to be no indication that the locals are benefiting from tourism. Two-thirds of the tourism income goes to fewer than ten tour operators.
In Venice, cruise ships have polluted waters, harmed marine life and released toxic emissions. The local people are struggling to keep up with the damage to the coasts. Over Tourism has been a simmering problem for years now, leading authorities to instate stringent rules to keep tourists in check. Despite this, the damage due to coastal tourism is still a burden.
Bali’s allure as a tropical island has resulted in 43,000 cubic feet of rubbish being dumped, of which only half is recycled. Nearly 2 million visitors come to the island every year, adding to the waste and pollution.
The lack of accountability
Tourists, tour operators, hotels, resorts and everyone involved in furthering tourism are complicit in the damage caused. Resorts empty their sewage directly into water surrounding coral reefs and other marine habitats. When tourists engage in recreational activities like careless boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing, coral reefs are damaged. Marine animals are disturbed as more and more people come too close to their habitats.
Nobody seems to be taking any considerable action to reduce the negative impacts of coastal tourism. Tourists continue to throng to these sites and travel operators promote such destinations, encouraging tourists to visit them. The cycle keeps the damage to the environment intact.
Is Ecotourism the way forward?
As coastal tourism is becoming a major cause for concern, the only way to overcome it is to promote ecotourism and sustainability measures. This needs to begin right at the level of tour operators. Tour operators must work with destinations to find the best way to enhance sustainability and protect coastal areas. The oceans and the land surrounding them are home to myriad species that are suffering. Local inhabitants have lost their homes because of tourism-related activities. Coastal tourism can not continue unchecked, the climate is in severe crisis, and every stakeholder in the travel and tourism industry should work towards sustainability at every step.