The social impacts of over- tourism have the potential to be huge. The very communities that we seek to explore through travelling are suffering at the hands of the industry.
Communities and their cultures are far more vulnerable than we realise.
Social impact refers to the cultural, economic and local facets of a destination. As over-tourism begins to hound a particular destination, the local community can become vulnerable.
A classic example is Barcelona.
In the last few years, tensions have risen between local residents and incoming tourists.
The streets have become overcrowded for nine months of the year, the rental market is strangled and locals don't hit the city's hot spots anymore. They want to avoid the hawkers.
Locals feel as though the city is losing its identity. Many people who were born and raised in Barcelona have shifted out in despair.
Barcelona is aching for sustainable tourism.
A new word has been coined to describe this apparently unstoppable process: parquetematización – the act of becoming a theme park. Barcelona has become an imitation of itself.
You can read more about it here.
So what can we do?
As an individual, it’s impossible to zero every negative impact we have on the environment while travelling - but the ball is completely in our court when it comes to our community impact.
The three main areas of social impact are economic, cultural immersion and environmental.
Wherever our tourism has the potential to affect the lifestyle of the locals, our impact must be carefully considered.
Social impact can be positive, too. When it's positive, there is potential for poverty alleviation, income redistribution and employment opportunities.
Go check out the Ultimate Guide to Ethical Travel to learn more about creating a positive social impact.