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Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Mauritius

Info: 5445 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Environmental StudiesTourism



Tourism has become the main focus for countries mainly for Small Island developing states and has affected residents in terms of economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts. So, there is a need to understand how local resident’s perceptions contribute towards tourism. The purpose of the study is mainly to provide a theoretical basis and framework for assessing host attitudes on the environmental impacts of tourism in Mauritius. Tourism and the environment are interrelated; the relationship between tourism and the environment has been universally recognized with the rapid increasing demand of tourists interacting with the natural environment. Tourism has the capacity to preserve as well as to destroy the environment. Studying the environmental impacts is a critical component of understanding how tourism affects the environment in Mauritius. An extensive literature covers the nature of the main interaction of tourist and host, characteristics of host-tourist relationship and their association with the environment. Researchers have been more interested towards the interaction between the tourists and the host. However, there are previous studies that have looked into the issue from tourist perspective. For achieving the purpose of the study a questionnaire was designed and a survey was done among the local residents. For the analysis part, quantitative approach was applied and the aim and objectives were in line with the majority of relevant literature. Consequently the methodology was elaborated, the sampling designs adopted, choice of instrument used, data collection follow the requirements, the limitation of the study was discussed and this leading to the conclusion and recommendation of the study.

1.1 Profile of Mauritius

Mauritius is a small island in the Indian Ocean situated in the African continent. The area of Mauritius is about 2,040 sq.km. and its population is around 1.3 million. The ethnic groups consist of: Indo-Mauritians 68%, Creoles 27 %, Sino-Mauritian 3% and Franco-Mauritian 2%.Religions found in Mauritius are: Hindu 48 %, Creoles 27 %, Muslim 16.6 %, Christian 8.6% and others 2.5 %. Since 1968, Mauritius has evolved from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle-income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial and tourist sectors. The economy rests on sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel and financial services and it is also expanding into information technology. Annual tourism growth has been in the range of 5 % to 6%. This remarkable growth has led to more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality and much improved infrastructure. Mauritius is has become is one among the most successful and competitive economies in Africa; 2010 GDP at market prices was estimated at $9.5 billion and per capita income at $7,420, one of the highest in Africa. Moreover, Mauritius also has international relations with countries found in the west ,with India and countries of southern and eastern Africa. It is a member of the African Union (AU), World Trade Organization (WTO), the commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission, the common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

1.2 Problem Statement

Tourism is a major industry and remains a valuable sector in many countries of the world. Tourism also contributes significantly to the country’s economy. Like most destinations; the development of tourism presents challenges to a country’s environment. As tourism development become more widespread, there tend to be changes in the environment (Husband & Harrison, 1996), the capacity to absorb large numbers of people will be challenged (WTO, 1990) and environmental problems tend to rise. Recently, Mauritius has been facing some considerable negative environmental impacts from the tourist industry. This issue is quite debatable, because negative environmental impacts of tourism must be minimized and the aim must be towards building a green Mauritius. The challenge is therefore to maintain the long-term sustainability of tourist industry in Mauritius and subsequently derive benefits from it. Very oftten, tourism is seen as an opportunity for economic development, a tool for natural resource conservation and an opportunity for community development and empowerment of locals. As such, it becomes important to assess resident’s perceptions of the environmental impacts of tourism in Mauritius and to know whether residents support tourism development occurring or not. Understanding resident’s attitudes is complicated. Research shows that resident’s attitudes towards the environment are an indication of support for tourism development (Gursoy, 2002 & Jurowski, 1997). A good understanding of the factors influencing support for development is important for residents, investors and policy makers (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004). Resident’s must have positive perceptions of tourism in order to sustain tourism development in a country and it is agreed that active support from the host population contributes towards sustainability of a country.

1.3 Aims and Objectives

The aim of this study is to assess resident’s perceptions of the environmental impacts of tourism in Mauritius. Tourism impacts are very complex to model as such investigating resident’s perceptions is a good method to analyze the status of tourism impacts prevailing in a country and to know resident’s support for future tourism development. The purpose of this study is therefore, to analyze environmental impacts in Mauritius resulting from tourism activities with the objectives to understand the nature of these impacts. To meet the above goals, four specific objectives have been developed.

The objectives are as follows:

  1. To investigate resident’s perceptions of the environmental impacts of tourism in Mauritius
  2. To find out if residents in Mauritius are aware of environmental issues
  3. To investigate the extent to which locals are involved in sustaining the environment
  4. To measure resident’s attitudes and responsibility towards environmental practices  

Following these objectives two hypotheses have been put forward for testing.

H1: There is a significant relationship between length of residency and positive environmental impacts of tourism

H 5: There is a significant relationship between gender and environment oriented activities

1.4 Outline of dissertation

Chapter 1-Introduction

This chapter outlines the purpose of the research and the layout of the dissertation. The profile of our study that is Mauritius is also found in this chapter.

Chapter 2-Literature Review

In this chapter, the literature review consists of the various issues such as: resident’s perceptions towards tourism, positive and negative environmental impacts of tourism, tourism development and environmental sustainability in Mauritius.

Chapter 3-Methodology

This part covers the type of methodology that was used for conducting the survey and also highlights the limitation of the survey.

Chapter 4-Results and Discussions

This part shows the results obtained from the questionnaires that were distributed to residents in different regions. Data has been analyzed using graphical and Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS) Software.

Chapter 5-Conclusions and Recommendations

The last part identifies the possible solutions for the problems encountered with the poor involvement of locals and of the positive perceptions of residents towards environmental impacts of tourism, leading to a concluding note of the project.



2.1 Introduction

The Tourism Industry is regarded as one of the most important and fastest growing industry around the world. Travel has been of great interest to people since the beginning of the civilization. Recently, it has been noted that there has been an increase in tourist’s arrivals, especially in small island states. According to UNWTO, tourism will continue to grow in 2011. Tourism sector has suffered from the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, but thanks to the improved economic conditions worldwide, international tourism has been able to recover from the decline brought in the financial crisis (United Nations, 2010). The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest and most dynamic industries in the world and this industry is expected to generate about 9% of global GDP and provide for more than 235 million jobs representing 8 % of global employment (Merco Press, 2010).The WTO has set up the long-term forecast of the assessment of the development of tourism up to the first 20 years of the new millennium known as the Tourism 2020 vision.UNWTO’s Tourism 2020 vision predicts that international arrivals are expected to be over 1.56 billion by the year 2020. Among the worldwide arrivals in 2020, 1.2 will be within the same region and 0.4 will be long distance travellers. The top three receiving regions will be Europe with 717 million tourists, East Asia and the Pacific around 397 million and the Americas with 282 million, followed by the Africa, Middle East and South Asia (UNWTO, 2011). As such, the tourist will continue to be a flourishing industry in the coming years. Tourism has been described as the smokeless industry that can bring maximum benefit to a community as compared to other economic activities.

2.2 Tourism impacts

There are many academic researchers that have been done on the impacts of tourism. Many local communities believe that tourism bring changes in social, cultural, environmental and economic positions where tourism activities have had a close connection with the local communities (Beeton, 2006; Richards & Hall, 2000).It is imperative to understand and assess tourism impacts so as to ensure that sustainability is maintained in the long-term of the tourism industry (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008).As such, it becomes important to understand tourism impacts towards the community. Thus, the model at figure 1 helps to illustrate tourism impacts on the community.

2.2.1 Model of Support for Tourism development

In the twenty-first century, researchers on tourism believe that there are two categories of impacts which are the positive and negative impacts and they have a direct occurrence on the host community as a result of tourism development (Fredline and Faulkner, 2000; Upchurch and Teivane, 2000). For example, as Ryan (1991) states that the greatest impacts of tourism will occur when there is a greater gap between the culture and income level of both host and tourist.

Local’s perceptions towards the tourism impacts can vary significantly. According to Sharma (2004), if residents have more positive attititudes towards tourism impacts, tourism development will be more successful in a community. If resident’s benefit from tourism development they support additional tourism planning and development in a community. Gursoy & Rutherford (2004) outlines that tourism developers need to consider the perceptions and attitudes of residents before investing in scarce resources. In addition, understanding of residents perceptions towards tourism impacts can also help in identifying the types of tourism which have the potential for building community capacity (Moscardo, 2008, p.86). So, there exist different types of tourism impacts which have been discussed in details.

2.2.1 Economic impacts

In the beginning, tourism was encouraged because of its economic impacts. It is highly accepted that tourism provides economic benefits to the community..Economic impacts are easier to research in a local community because it is small and generally it is more accessible. Moreover, tourism bring positive benefits on local economies and creates a visible impact on a country’s national GDP growth which can be an essential component for community development and poverty reduction. (Ashe, 2005). For instance, tourism creates employment for locals, investment opportunities, business opportunities, tax revenues for government and it also help small and medium enterprises for countries, regions and communities to expand (Ryan, 1998; Choi & Sirakaya, 2005; Dyer, 2007) but on the other hand tourism can have negative economic impacts on the society such as: too much dependency on foreign capital, inflation , leakages and a low education trap for locals (Giannoni & Maupertus, 2007). Yet, more important is the benefits spread to the residents of local communities (Scheyvens, 2001).

2.2.2 Social and cultural impacts

According to (Law, 1993) social and cultural impacts refer to changes to resident’s everyday experiences as well as to their values, way of life and intellectual and artistic products such as: arts, artifacts, customs, rituals and architecture. Social and cultural impacts are strongly interrelated and not limited only to the host area population (Glasson, 1995, p.34).In many destinations, the nature and traditional meanings of culture may be substantially changed when culture is redefined as market share (Earrington and Gewertz, 1996). Because of this, a host community may face cultural problems of the commercialization of culture, religion and the arts together with the misuse of indigeneous culture as attractions and be forced to adopt cultural habits of the tourists, such as their language, dress and manner to satisfy visitors (Cohen, 1979).Another downside of tourism development is seen in many parts of the world where tourism developments threaten the displacement of local people. On the other hand, (Glasson, 1992) argues that along with the downside of development, there are cultural benefits and intercultural communication between hosts and visitors that increase good understanding between them and without tourists, local culture and tradition may have been lost completely, as there is no market for traditional products.

2.2.3 Environmental impacts

Environmental impacts occur as a result of tourism development in many regions of the world as communities struggle to find an optimal balance between optimal and conservation. Recently, it has been found that tourism activities are highly dependent on the environment. Research has shown the impacts that tourism has on natural resources (Green, Hunter and Moore, 1990).Most of the researchers have been conducted on natural or semi-natural areas, with very little research done on urban settings (Green, 1990).Specific sites have been examined such as Alpine areas (Goodman, 1989; Rodriguez, 1987), islands (Wilkinson, 1989), coastal areas (Martinez-Taberner, Moya and Forteza, 1990). In addition, most research has been focused around the negative impacts that tourism has on natural resources after the damage has taken place. As such, tourism is always blamed to be responsible for resource degradation (Farell and McLellan, 1987). Broader perspectives of the environmental impacts of tourism are discussed in the next paragraph.

2.3 The Environmental Impacts of Tourism

“The environment is probably one of the most important contributors to the desirability and attractiveness of a destination. Scenic sites, amenable climates and unique landscape features have an important influence in tourism development and the spatial distribution of tourism movement.” (Coccossis and Nijkamp, 1995, p.4)

Tourism and the environment are interrelated as tourism is dependent on natural resources to survive. There are studies that have identified both the positive and negative environmental impacts of tourism (Burns & Holden, 1995; Puckzo & Ratz, 2000). Some of negative and positive impacts of tourism on the environment are illustrated in table 2.3.

Table 2.3.1 ‘Balance sheet’ of environmental impacts of tourism

Area of effect

Negative impacts

Positive impacts


Disruption of breeding/feeding


Killing of animals for leisure (hunting) or to supply souvenir trade. Loss of habitats and change in species composition Destruction of vegetation

Encouragement to conserve animals as attractions.

Establishment of protected or conserved areas to meet tourist demands

Erosion and physical damage

Soil erosion

Damage to sites through trampling Overloading of key infrastructure (e.g. water supply networks)

Tourism revenue to finance ground repair and site restoration

Improvement to infrastructure prompted by tourist demand


Water pollution through sewage or fuel spillage and rubbish from pleasure boats Air pollution (e.g. vehicle emissions) Noise pollution (e.g. from vehicles or tourist attractions: bars, discos, etc.) Littering

Cleaning programs to protect the attractiveness of location to tourists

Resource base

Depletion of ground and surface water

Diversion of water supply to meet tourist needs (e.g. golf courses or pools) Depletion of local fuel sources Depletion of local building-material sources

Development of new/improved sources of supply

Visual/structural change

Land transfers to tourism (e.g. from farming)

Detrimental visual impact on natural and non-natural landscapes through tourism development

Introduction of new architectural styles

Changes in (urban) functions Physical expansion of built-up areas

Regeneration and/or modernization of built environment

Reuse of disused buildings

For the negative impacts of tourism, Puckzo and Ratz (2000) observed that tourism development that are not well-planned often leads to increased stress on destinations and in negative changes in the destination’s physical and socio cultural attributes. According to Wood (1991), it is possible to identify broad categories of impacts that may affect all destinations. Therefore, it is important to elaborate on the positive and negative impacts of the environment. The negative environmental impacts of tourism can be as follows:

2.3.1 Water Pollution

Water pollution is believed to be one of the environmental impacts caused by tourism. It can affect surfaces such as rivers, lakes and oceans. Chemical and oils spills from boats can cause devastating water pollution that kills water birds, shellfish and other wildlife. Tourists can also contribute to the degradation of the marine life also through:snorkelling,scuba diving and sport fishing can threaten fisheries and other marine resources. For example, tourism is known to have contributed to inappropriate development around Lake Tahoe in the United States (Iverson, Sheppard & Strain, 1993) and at Pattaya in Thailand (Mieczkowski, 1995); oil pollution in water at King George island (Harris, 1991).

2.3.2 Waste Disposal

Apart from the consumption of large amounts of natural resources, the tourism industry also produces considerable waste and pollution. In fact, disposal of liquid and solid waste generated by the tourism industry has posed a problem for many developing countries and some countries are incapable of treating these waste materials. This has led to reducing the availability of natural resources such as fresh water. For example, in Kerala state the tourist industry collapses after two decades of fast growth because there was inadequate disposal of solid waste. Tourists also contribute to land pollution from solid waste and the contamination of marine waters and coastal areas from pollution generated by marinas, hotels and cruise ships. For example: the cruise ships in the Caribbean Sea alone produced more than 70,000 tons of liquid and solid waste a year during the mid-1990s (UN,1999).the cruise sector around the world are facing this problem. In fact, the expansion of the cruise sector ensures that the environment is protected across the world oceans and between the world’s tourist destinations (Johnson, 2002).

2.3.3 Coastal area degradation

Tourism has already had adverse effects on coastal areas, especially in small islands developing states. Beaches are destroyed by sand quarrying and are normally not being replenished because of the destruction of coral reefs by waste disposal and pollution. Erosion occurs because of tourism facilities and infrastructures built too close to beach destruction and coastal degradation. Destruction to coastal areas is the removal of the mangrove forests which act as a home for birds and other animal which act as a barrier against damage to sea. Marine life can be disturbed by intensive use of thrill craft, boat tours and boat anchors. Anchor damage is regarded as one of the danger to coral reefs in the Carribean Sea as there are a growing number of both small boats and large cruise ships in the region (Michael Hall, 2001).

2.3.4 Climate Change

External environmental shocks could be threatened to tourism, especially climate change such as: global warming and sea-level rise. Rises in sea level could threaten tourism activities particularly in coastal regions and small islands. Global warming is expected to change climate temperature and provoke climate events such as: tropical windstorms, coastal flooding and storms that may affect tourist activities in a destination (UN, 2000).

2.3.5 Land Degradation and littering

Land resources include minerals, fossil fuels, fertile soil, forests, wetland and wildlife. Pressures on natural resources have been increased due to intensive tourism development. Tourism can lead to the clearance of native vegetation for the development of new facilities and infrastructure; demand for fuel wood will be increased and even forest fires. Fragile areas such as: rain forests, wetlands and mangroves are threatened by tourism activities. Littering cause by tourists degrade the physical appearance of the environment. For example: tourists on expeditions leave behind their garbage and belongings. Such practices by tourists degrade the environment and some areas have few disposal facilities.

2.3.6 Damage to ecosystems

The delicate ecosystems of most small islands are damaged by tourism activities, because they rely heavily on tourism. Tourism activities which are not properly controlled can also cause severe disruption of wildlife habitats and increased pressure on endangered species. For example, in Africa’s national parks tourists vehicles approach wild animals and very often distract them from hunting and breeding, (Masny, 2001). Trampling occurs by tourists, they use the same trail and trample the soil, causing damage which lead to loss of biodiversity and other impacts. Habitat loss, fragmentation and erosion in Nepal (Croall, 1995); destruction of wildlife at Zakynthos in Greece (Prunier, Sweeney & Green, 1993); disturbance of animals and loss of area for production in Kenya (Sindiga & Kannunah, 1999).

2.3.7 Air pollution

Tourists contribute towards air pollution. Transport by air, road and rail are continuously increasing. Moreover, polluted air and water, dust, fumes from traffic congestion also degrade the quality and natural beauty of tourist destination (Williams, 1998, p.2) .Air pollution is the result of emissions from vehicles. Although, tourism is not so concerned for the overall emissions problems, recent issues such as: ozone destruction, greenhouse effect and global warming make tourism related to air pollution (Wheatcroft, 1991).But tourism is responsible for a large share of emissions, it accounts for more than 60% of air travel.

2.3.8 Noise pollution and visual pollution

It is a fact that noise pollution from airplanes, cars, buses, discotheques and recreational vehicles are becoming an ever growing problem for modern life. Noise pollution cause disturbance and annoyance to the lives of people, stress for humans and it also causes distress to wildlife in sensitive areas. For example, noise generated by vehicles of tourists can cause animals to change their natural activity patterns .There is a lack of planning that fails to integrate tourism structures. Large resorts may clash with indigenous design. Building and structures; poorly designed do not comply with local building control and cause negative impacts on the picturesque scenery (Williams, 1998, p.2). These may include violations congestion of buildings and structures that are not harmonious with the natural landscape.

2.4 Preservation and conservation

On the other side, tourism also contributes positively towards the environment. Tourism is regarded as the catalyst for preserving natural areas. Doswell (1997) argues that tourism lays emphasis to conserve and protect the environment. Tourism also draws attention to subjects regarding biodiversity, natural resources,endangered species and human impacts on the environment. Tourism is also used as a means to preserve natural areas rather than to develop them for alternative uses such as: agriculture, forestry and mining (Master, 1998). Mathieson and Wall (1982) further argued that tourism has fostered the protection of many species since they serve as major attractions. For example, in Ghana tourism has helped in maintaining the natural reserves.. In this way, natural areas become valuable and this can lead to creation of national parks and wildlife parks. National parks in East Africa were developped almost exclusively because they attract large number of international tourists .For example, in Hawaii, new laws and regulations have been set to preserve the rainforest and to protect native species.

2.4.1 Improvement of infrastructure

The government is encouraged to invest more in infrastructure and recreational facilities when there are large number of tourists coming to a destination. As such, there is an improvement on road system, sewage disposal, and telecommunications among others which tourists use. Tourism can also act as a medium for improving the environment, according to Youell (1998) revenue received from park-entrance fees can be used to pay for protecting and managing sensitive areas. On the hand, in some places government collect money from tourists in indirect ways. For example: revenue obtained from recreation of equipment, license fees  obtained from hunting and fishing can help the government to fund and manage natural resources and finance infrastructure. As such the community will be able to benefit from facilities such as: attractive places, signage, lighting, litter bins and renovation of parks.

2.4.2 Creating environmental awareness

People of the community become more environmental conscious of the problems prevailing in the environment. Tourism makes people becomes more environmental conscious. As such, people’s behavior towards the environment will change. Ross & Wall (1999) suggested, tourism has the potential to contribute to both conservation and development and it involves the creation of positive synergetic relationships among tourism, biodiversity, and local people through the application of appropriate management strategies.

2.5 Resident’s perceptions towards tourism

Sustainable tourism development can be achieved normally when all stakeholders are involved in tourism development process (Bryd, 2007). Sustainable tourism believes that the community is the focal point of tourism and planning process (Choi and Sirakaya, 2005).In addition, investigating the resident’s perceptions towards tourism is important because it influences their behaviour towards tourism (Andriotis and Vaughan, 2003). Studies show that the perceptions of residents towards tourism differ from resident to resident. Sustainable tourism development largely depends on the host’s acceptability of tourists and tourism-related programs, offerings and activities by locals (Musa, Hall, and Higham 2004). The active support of the local population is required for tourism development to occur in a community. One indicator that affect’s tourism development in a destination is the host attitude (Lepp, 2007). In a destination area, the attitudes of the tourists and residents are taken into account. Another factor that is likely to influence the negative and positive impacts of tourist’s destination is resident’s attachment to community. Some researchers, Canan and Hennessy (1989) states that the longer the residents live in a community, the more negative they are towards tourism development. The lengths of residency of locals have a direct impact on tourism development.

Theories such as the attribution theory (Pearce, 1989); dependency theory (Preister, 2008), the social representation theory (Andriotis & Vaughan, 2003), Butler’s (1980) tourist area life cycle, Doxey’s Irridex model (1970), the intrinsic and extrinsic framework (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997) and the social exchange theory (SET) (Ap, 1982) have been developed  in an attempt to better understand the host perceptions towards tourism. However, it is the SET that have received the greatest attention by scholars attempting to study resident’s attitudes towards tourism and their support towards tourism development (Gursoy & Rutherford, 2004).

2.5.1Social Exchange Theory

In a tourism context, social exchange theory would mean an exchange of resources between the tourists and the host population where each of them supply each other with valued resources (Ap, 1990).SET implies that residents who gain benefits from the tourism industry are likely to perceive the industry as positive and thus support tourist industry, while those who perceive themselves incurring costs because of tourism would display negative attitudes towards tourism thereby opposing such development. Social exchange theory firmly believes that a need exists to measure the level of active participation of residents in the planning and development process associated with tourism development (Wang & Pister, 2008). But, the theory has been criticized by stating that humans are isolated individuals and they respond like computer machines (Pearce, 1996). Furthermore, this theory needs to be further tested due to the complex nature of residents both in isolation and as collective individuals (Zhang, 2006). So, to have a better idea of resident attitude it is important to look at the intrinsic and extrinsic model.

2.5.2 Factors affecting resident’s attitudes towards tourists

2.5.2 Intrinsic and Extrinsic Model

The factors that affect resident’s attitudes towards tourism are intrinsic and extrinsic variables (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997).The intrinsic variables refer to “the characteristics of the host community that affect the impacts of tourism with the host community” (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997, p.6) and includes factors such as: employment, length of residence, proximity to tourist zones and involvement within the tourism industry. Length of residency affect tourism development in a community, native born of the community have been found to have more negative perception of tourism development because they are attached to that place (Madrigal, 1995). On the other hand, Bisle and Hoy (1980) found a positive relationship between distance of residence from the tourist zone and perceptions. As regards to community attachment, studies showed that the longer a host has been a resident in the area; as such they become less attached to tourism (Weaver, 2001). Residents who are dependent and involved in the tourism sector are more likely to have positive attitudes towards tourism (Lindberg, 1

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