Tourism is part of our culture and is often our chief connection to our natural surroundings and can affect a landscape's economic potential, ecological makeup, and social needs.
Tourism can benefit a community financially. It provides business opportunities and jobs (campgrounds, hotels, restaurants, gas stations). Some of the money generated from tourism is used for environmental maintenance; however, maintenance of a landscape that attracts tourists can be expensive because it involves cleaning up after the visitors. That means addressing air and water pollution, repairing animal habitat, and monitoring biodiversity.
Tourism can devastate the ecology of a landscape. There is a broad range of problems. First, consider why landscapes are tourist attractions. Some landscapes are scenic and special because people haven't interacted with them. Tourism brings human interaction, which may bring some negatives. Trash, disrupting animal habitats, feeding wild animals, and unattended campfires leading to forest fires are some of these negatives. Also, some scenic land must be sacrificed for roads, parking lots, and often billboards. Oil, gas run off roads and parking lots onto the land and into our water. Other vehicles, boats and buse, pose the same threats.
Tourism fulfills a social need to connect to nature. People enjoy a number of recreational activities. Some tourists hunt, fish, play sports, snowboard, surf, or ski. Jetskis, snowmobiles, and speedboats are also popular. Some people find shopping a social experience. There are others who prefer a more passive appreciation of nature, sometimes called ecotourism. Ecotourists try not to disturb nature—just observe it through camping, biking, hiking, photography, and bird watching. Whatever the way people choose to enjoy a landscape, the social experience may just promote enough interest in a landscape that people will be committed to solving some of the ecological problems caused by tourism.
Tourism lets people make a living and fulfill our social need to connect with nature. But tourism can also have a hefty toll on a landscape's ecology. The decisions made about solving and avoiding environmental problems will determine whether tourism and landscapes share a working relationship. Attention to these problems will help to strike a balance between the economic, ecological, and social aspects that lead to a working landscape.