The Future of Tourism

“There are examples from almost every country in the world, where tourism development has been identified as being the main cause of environmental degradation.”​—An Introduction to Tourism, by Leonard J. Lickorish and Carson L. Jenkins.

NOT only might the growth of tourism be a threat to the environment but it may contribute to other problems as well. Let us briefly consider some of these. Afterward, we will discuss future possibilities of touring our marvelous earth and of becoming acquainted with its wonders, especially its lovely people.

Environmental Problems

The sheer volume of tourists today has led to problems. “In India, the Taj Mahal is suffering wear and tear from visitors,” write researchers Lickorish and Jenkins, adding: “In Egypt, the pyramids are also threatened by large numbers of visitors.”

In addition, these authors warn that uncontrolled tourism can kill or stunt vegetation when hordes of visitors tramp through conservation areas. Moreover, species can be endangered when tourists collect items such as rare seashells and coral or when local residents gather these items to sell to tourists.

Tourists produce pollution​—an average of 2.2 pounds [1 kg] of solid waste and litter each day per tourist, according to estimates by the UN Environment Programme. Even the most remote locations seem to suffer. A recent report from the Rainforest Action Network says: “In popular Himalayan tourist routes, litter has been strewn along the trails and the alpine forest [has] been decimated by travelers looking for fuel to heat food and bath water.”

Furthermore, tourists often consume a disproportionate amount of resources at the expense of local inhabitants. For example, James Mak writes in his book Tourism and the Economy: “Tourists in Grenada consume seven times as much water as residents.” He adds: “Directly and indirectly, tourism accounts for 40 percent of total energy consumed in Hawaii, although on average only one out of every eight people in Hawaii is a tourist.”

 While tourists may spend a lot of money to visit developing countries, most of it does not benefit the local population. The World Bank estimates that only 45 percent of the revenue raised by tourism reaches the host country​—most of the money floods back to developed nations by way of overseas tour operators and foreign-owned accommodations.

Adverse Social Impact

Relatively affluent Western tourists visiting developing countries can have other subtle​—and sometimes not so subtle—​adverse effects on local cultures. Tourists, for instance, often bring their material comforts with them. For local people such wealth may be unimagined. Many locals come to desire such expensive things but cannot pay for them without major lifestyle changes​—changes that may involve detrimental social behavior.

Noting potential problems, Mak observed that the increase of tourism can “lead to the loss of cultural and community identity, create conflict in traditional societies over the use of community-owned land and natural resources, and increase antisocial activities, such as crime and prostitution.”

Often tourists today feel free of restraint, so they engage in activities that they would not share in if they were at home around family and friends. The immorality of tourists, as a result, has become a problem of serious consequence. Pointing to a noted example, Mak said: “Worldwide concern is growing over the effects of tourism on child prostitution.” In 2004, CNN news agency reported: “‘Reliable estimates point to 16,000-20,000’ child sex victims in Mexico, ‘largely in border, urban, and tourist areas.’”

The Benefits of Travel

Our earth is a marvelous home, displaying constant wonders​—colorful sunsets, glistening star-filled skies, and a variety of plant and animal life. Regardless of where we live, we enjoy some of these and other marvels of our earthly home. Yet, how fine if the opportunity arises for us to travel and see other examples of earth’s wonders!

Despite being impressed by earth’s physical spectacles, however, many tourists say that for them the highlight of travel is getting to know people of cultures different from their own. Often, travelers come to appreciate  that negative views about others are not true. Their travel contributes to understanding people of other races and cultures and developing treasured friendships.

A lesson impressed upon many tourists is that possessions do not necessarily make people happy. More important is one’s relationship with others​—enjoying established friendships and making new ones. An account in the Bible relates how the “human kindness” received from the “foreign-speaking people” of Malta benefited the first-century travelers who found themselves shipwrecked there. (Acts 28:1, 2) Visiting other countries and peoples today has helped many to realize that we are truly one human family and that we have the potential of living together on earth in peace.

Now, relatively few are able to tour the world. But what about the future? Is it possible that such travel will be an experience of the majority, if not everyone?

Future Prospects

The fact is, we are all relatives, members of the human family. True, the first human couple died, as they were warned they would if they disobeyed God. (Genesis 1:28; 2:17; 3:19) So all their offspring, including all of us today, are also subject to aging and death. (Romans 5:12) But God promises that his original purpose for earth to be inhabited by people who love him will be fulfilled. “I have even spoken it,” his Word says, “I shall also do it.”​—Isaiah 45:18; 46:11; 55:11.

Think of what that will mean! The Bible promises that under the rule of God’s Kingdom: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:9, 10) Describing the future situation of people on earth, the Bible says: “God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”​—Revelation 21:3, 4.

Think of the marvelous possibilities then of touring the earth and of becoming acquainted with its wonders, especially its lovely people. No worry at that time about security! All on earth will then be our friends​—indeed, what the Bible describes as an ‘entire association of brothers in the world.’​—1 Peter 5:9.

[Picture on page 8, 9]

A highlight of travel can be making friends with people of another culture

Future prospects of visiting peoples and places are unlimited