The impact of tourism in mountain ecosystems

Tourism can have a range of impacts on mountain ecosystems, communities and economies.

While many of the impacts described below are negative, tourism can also generate positive impacts as it can serve as a supportive force for peace, foster pride in cultural traditions, help avoid urban relocation by creating local jobs, increase visitor awareness and appreciation of natural, cultural and historical values and assets.

Environmental impacts
Mountain landscapes are particularly fragile and susceptible to change and degradation. Landslides, avalanches, lava flows, earthquakes, torrents and rock falls can alter the landscape unexpectedly. Mountain ecosystems include a wide range of small and unique habitats, with flora and fauna that may have very short growing and reproductive seasons, and may be particularly sensitive to disturbance by human activity. Tourism activities often involve the development and intense use of tracks, paths and sports slopes by vehicles, non-motorized transport and pedestrian traffic. Visitor presence is also usually concentrated in small areas, contributing to increased noise and waste. The negative environmental effects of poorly managed tourism activities can include vegetation clearing and soil erosion, removal of scarce habitat, altering of critical landscapes and water flows, water and air pollution, and wildlife relocation or behavioral changes. The introduction of exotic and invasive species and diseases can also have a significant negative impact on local plant and animal species.

Socio-cultural Impacts
Mountain communities can also be very susceptible to impacts and change from tourism activities. The negative social impacts of poorly managed tourism can include disturbances from high levels and concentrations of visitor noise and activity, and reduced availability of scarce shared resources such as firewood, fish and fresh water. In addition, exposure to and adoption of foreign traditions, lifestyles and products can pose a threat to the unique culture, traditions, knowledge and livelihoods of mountain populations, particularly in remote and indigenous communities.

Economic Impacts
While tourism can provide significant local employment, if not properly managed, this employment can be short-term and seasonal, providing little skill-building or training to local people. Working conditions can be poor, and revenue can easily leak out of local economies to externally owned companies. However, well-planned and well-managed tourism can play an important role in attracting revenue and supporting poverty alleviation. It can also improve infrastructure, provide community services and help diversify local economies. Employment and income can, in turn, improve the self-sufficiency and sustainability of mountain communities.


5 Comments

  1. Dear Darryl,

    Thank you for your interesting tweets. Yes, mountain communities can be very fragile – but without the ‘right kind of tourism’they would probably not survive. We try to do what we can in some areas in Italy – with good results !

    • Darryl Lombard

      Hi Peter. Thanks for the feedback. As you say, as long as its the ‘right kind’ of tourism, which I would read as ‘responsible tourism’.

  2. Hey Darryl,

    I read your post with great interest as i am from Nepal, a mountainous region. I agree with a lot of things that you have said here. And also with Peter.

    Responsible Tourism is the way forward for country like ours. It is just heartbreaking to see unlawful and unsustainable practises done here even by the big operators from western world as well as Nepali themselves. When will people learn that we need to tread lightly on our planet and love her like you love your mother.

  3. mOzxx

    Thanks for all your efforts which you have put in this. really fascinating information.

  4. Hey Darryl,

    I read your post with great interest as i am from Nepal, a mountainous region. I agree with a lot of things that you have said here. And also with Peter.

    Responsible Tourism is the way forward for country like ours. It is just heartbreaking to see unlawful and unsustainable practises done here even by the big operators from western world as well as Nepali themselves. When will people learn that we need to tread lightly on our planet and love her like you love your mother.

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