Self-destruction theory of tourism

The impacts of tourism on environment and the need of environmentally sound tourism is well documented almost four decades ago, known as the self-destruction theory of tourism. According to this theory, tourism in a given situation develops and declines in a cyclic manner with four phases (Hall 2006). In first phase, a remote and exotic place provides a peaceful rest and relaxation, and offers an escape for the rich who would like to live in isolation from the resident population. In second phase, tourism begins to develop in a way that a middle class would get attracted for their visit. Tourism facilities are developed to accommodate the influx of upper and middle class visitors. Further, the urban development accompanied with tourism development transforms the original character of the place from escape paradise into just another city visiting moderate number of tourists. With the opportunity of earning more than ever before the local residents become tourism employees, in many cases leaving agriculture and traditional work culture. The inevitable interactions between the residents and increasing number of tourists, leads a variety of social consequences, often inferred as negative. Moreover, the excess supply over demand due to increased tourist accommodation capacity leads to deterioration in product and price and as a consequence rich tourists divert elsewhere.

In third phase, mass tourism development occurs, attracting a crowd of lower standards of social behavior and economic power, causing socio-environmental problems and further degradation of the tourist destination. While in fourth phase, all tourists exit as the place sinks under the weight of social friction and solid waste, leaving behind neglected tourism facilities such as, littered beaches, and a resident population that cannot return to its old way of life. Cancun has already reached close to the point of Phase III of this theory.  A recent survey revealed that only 20% of the visitors intend to return (Simon, 1997). Only recently both the government and developers have considered the problems of large-scale tourism and started to take the efforts to minimize and avoid further impacts on environment (Hall 2006).

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