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The negative impact of tourism in

different parts of Southeast Asia.

No other form of economic activity transects so
many sectors, levels and interests as tourism. It
is often said that there are economic, social and
psychological benefits of tourism as it attracts
foreign currency, improves world understanding
and broadens the mind (Cater and Lowman, Student: Elisabeth-Ingrid Haidau
1994) Module: Global Tourism

Tourism is a positive word. But behind this sweet Module leader: Ian Morton
sounding word are lots of negative 01.12.2015
consequences too. The positive impact is obvious... money and income for both the
government and locals, of course. Nevertheless there have been critical comments about
tourism phenomenon.

Many developing countries perceive tourism as a fast track to economic growth. They
assume that tourism development requires less investment than other industries; and
they believe tourism to be an effective means of creating job opportunities and
increasing local income. On the other way, the destinations which rely heavily upon
tourism have become fully aware of their vulnerability. They are experiencing what is
happening to their society and their environment.
Over the past decade Asia has witnessed tremendous social, cultural, political and
technological changes. The rapid growth of tourism on large scale in some countries
in the region has been a significant agent of these, not all very welcome, changes.
Like in most developing countries of the world, tourism in many Asian countries is
also conceived as a powerful means of attracting the coveted foreign exchange and
an easy means of boosting the national economy. It brings investment, creates jobs,
and promotes sales of crafts and local artifacts, etc.

is promoting itself as an international destination and the gateway to other
Indochinese countries, such as neighboring Vietnam, Myanmar ,Cambodia,
Malaysia, and Singapore (Mc Neil, 1997); and it has devised a tourism marketing
approach which encourages low-medium- and high-cost mass tourism nearly all
regions of the country. With the ubiquitous Land of Smiles advertising slogan
promoted around the world, Thailand has become one of the best known, and most
sought after, international tourist destination.

Despite this success, however, the tourism industry in Thailand is not without
problems and controversy, and neither the positive nor the negative agents of
tourism can be ignored and denied their importance in affecting the socio-economic
development of a region. The explosion of tourism has brought uneven distribution of
financial benefits, in favor of large enterprises, while costs are shouldered by local
people who have no direct gain from tourist promotion. Worse still are the
environmental effects of unbridled tourism development. While the Thai tourism
industry touts and actively markets the country's unique cultures, this
commercialization of culture also causes its erosion or corruption. Additionally,
interaction between rural Thai dwellers and sophisticated urbanites from more
developed countries introduces values, behavior and attitudes which may have
corrosive or negative effects on local residents. Tourism is responsible for
fundamentally transforming, and in some cases severely damaging, the natural
resources upon which the industry has been built over the last two decades or so.
Even areas which ostensibly being ' protected' because of their natural beauty or
ecological vulnerability, such as the Pulau Redang marine park of Terengganu in
Malaysia, and the marine parks of Phang Nga province off Thailand's southern
Andaman coastline, are currently being developed for their tourism potential.
Unfortunately, the phenomenal amount of construction work which has taken place
over the last decade or so has, in the main, proceede unbridled by planning controls.
As a result, the coastal landscape, so important an element of the aesthetic
environment, has in places been changed quite dramatically. In addition to the above
changes, others of a more sinister nature have taken place. The coral reefs and their
associated marine life have come under considerable pressure from a number of
sources. The scores of pleasure boats which take tourists to the coral have added
pollution to the more direct impact of dropping anchor on the reefs (The Nation,
9.5.89). Scuba-diving and souvenir-hunting, has caused considerable damage to the

As soon as tourism activity takes place, the environment is inevitably changed or

modified either to facilitate tourism or during the tourism process. International
tourism has been particularly violent with the environment in various countries from
Southeast Asia: urbanization of natural areas or integrated into the landscape,
overuse of water resources, problems related to the treatment of waste, local goods
can become expensive because tourists will pay more, shops stock products for
tourists and not everyday goods needed by locals, destruction of historical
monuments, air pollution that can become a problem with increased level of vehicle
traffic in an area, along with other activities that cause air quality problems, as well
noise pollution is becoming a new problem in many communities, especially with the
relocation and/or/ expansion of airports. Also with the large no. of vehicles tourists
are using, landscape changes to promote leisure activities such as golf.

These processes are more incisive in southern countries, where environmental

regulations are often more lax to promote the tourism industry and natural resources
are easy prey to speculation. As an example we can point to the ecological crisis that
is hurting the coast of Ko Samui, due to the excessive development of resorts on the
east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Tourism industry generally exhibits a high degree
of leakage, where money spent in a particular community or country flows outside
and doesn't benefit the local population. Leakages are generally created by foreign
ownership, the need to import goods (typical luxury food items, alcoholic beverages),
international marketing costs, interest payment on foreign loans and the payment of
franchise and management fees to foreign companies. Another aspect that covers
the negative impact of tourism are ethical problems. There are many ethical issues
affecting international tourism, starting with the types of tourism that are offered.
Many underdevelopment countries, offer unsustainable tourism with the country life.
In countries like Bath or Bali, the pools are full of water and the golf courses are
watered every day, while the local fields are dry and the native people drink water
from wells. Women in parts of India walk miles to get water because groundwater is
diverted to hotels. Farmers in Indonesia have been jailed for protesting the loss of
their land for tourism development.

Tourism, viewed from another perspective, is also a factor of acculturation which

affects attitudes, alters popular beliefs, changes mentalities and spreads new
concepts relating to work, money, and human relationship. Sometimes it also
destroys the ties that bind people to their faith, religion, aesthetics and this can
cause socio-cultural negative effects :" ...when there is large contrast between the
culture of the receiving society and the origin culture, then it is likely that impact will
be greatest" (Burns and Holden ,1995).
Tourism in developing countries has some social effects. The analysis of the social
impact of tourism has been ignored by economists, in spite of the fact that most of
the attack on tourism in developing countries has been levelled at its "social effects".
Tourism brings together people belonging to different countries, practising different
lifestyles, speaking different languages. There is a great mingling of cultures and this
naturally has some of its adverse effects. The most important is the culture shock.
When people belonging to more affluent countries come face-to-face with poverty
they feel very uneasy. In addition, there is a "demonstration effect" which occurs
when the presence of large numbers of tourists encourages consumption patterns
which are inadequate for the population as a whole.

The impacts on beaches Koh Phangan, globalisation and impacts on streets Koh
San Road, government unrest creates instability in tourism = loss of revenue
(money) generated, animals trained to amuse tourists and many other things can be
added to the endless list of negative aspects of tourism in Southeast Asia.
Therefore, tourism has been criticized widely for its negative sociocultural as well as
environmental impact (e.g. O'Grady 1990). Furthermore, data drawn from a case
study of trekking tours in a Hmong community, also in north Thailand, reveals that
the extra cash income earned from the trekkers within the village ends up in the
hands of middlemen who are mostly not form the Hill Tribe. Thus, while admitting
that economic opportunities for people in peripheral areas are provided by tourism,
Toyota (1993: 9-10) proposes that: ''any form of tourism creates a complex series of
social and cultural impacts on societies, and should not be assessed only in
economic terms. Moreover, tourism may also differentially affect different groups of
people in terms of the differentiation of economic, political, and social power and
position in the society ... In this sense, cost-benefit analysis does not help much, as it
is highly dependent upon form whose perspective costs and benefits are being
assessed. One of the problems encountered by local people is that their farms have
been encroached on by elephants which have been brought into the area to
entertain foreign tourists. During the peak trekking period, elephants have to be
brought in from many areas and their number makes it most difficult for elephant
keepers to control them properly. Another problem that has become increasingly
serious is the cutting of bamboo. In recent years the villagers have witnessed a
decrease in the bamboo forest.

Thus, we can no longer think of tourism in simplistic terms as being either a blessing
or a curse, nor in terms of providing an easy route to modernity. The recent growth in
the number of tourist arrivals indicates that there is a huge potential for tourism
development in these different countries and it is a shame to be wasted instead of
being less exposed to the negative effects of tourism.

1. Tourism in South-East Asia, by Michael Hitchcock, Victor T. King and
Michael J.G. Parnwell, 1993, p.287, 288, 289
2. Tourism in India, Kartik C. Roy, Clement A. Tisdell, p.49 (Social impacts of
4. Tourism in global society, by Kevin Meethan, 2001,p. 64 (Tourism
ENVIRONMENT THAILAND, by Chupinit Kesmanee and Kulawadee
PACIFIC BANGKOK, 1995 , p.2,p.24
6. Tourism in India, Kartik C. Roy, Clement A. Tisdell, (Chapter 1) Introduction
7. Tourism in Southeast Asia, A NEW DIRECTION, by K.S.Chon, 2012.