Tourist Behavior and Unregulated Activities
Sometimes, our dream vacations can have serious negative consequences on the environment. Though we dream of splashing in the waves with dolphins and seeing coral reefs up close, the reality is that the effects of these actions can long out-live our enjoyment of them.
What Is “Tourist Behaviour?”
In the broadest sense, “tourist behaviour” loosely defines anything that visitors to a location might do. This includes regulated tourist activities such as sitting on the beach and playing in the waves, but this also includes things that tourists do that aren’t strictly legal or regulated. These activities include actions like touching and interacting with wildlife, scuba diving and fishing just to name a few.
Tourist Behaviour and the Environment: Changing Ecosystems
Tourist behaviour, both regulated and unregulated, affect the environment and the ocean significantly. The largest way that they do this is by causing changes to the ecosystem that wildlife, marine fish and plants live in and depend on. These changes in the ecosystem force some wildlife to change their behaviours—something that further disrupts and changes the ecosystem as a whole. This never-ending cycle eventually leads to the degradation of the environment resulting in a loss of profitability within the natural landscape.
Coastal development for tourist activities is really where the damage begins. In order to improve the impact that tourist activity and behaviours have on these areas, improved infrastructure for their visits needs to be put in place.
Coastal development can destroy natural ecosystems from mangrove forests to coral reefs. These areas, which are home to an untold number of plants, wildlife and fish can be destroyed in a matter of days and months, killing the wildlife in the process and forcing the survivors to find and adapt to a new home.
Harassment of Wildlife
The changes in the ecosystem are not just limited to land. Tourist behaviours are especially detrimental when it comes to interacting with wildlife that frolic in the ocean.
A classic example of this is tours that swim with dolphins. These animals, some of the most intelligent and complex creatures on the planet, have long been the focus of many tour groups and attractions. While we can’t blame humans for wanting to swim with them (they are pretty interesting), these activities disturb their sleeping and socialization patterns.
As Daniel Victor wrote for the New York Times back in 2016,
“Dolphins typically forage offshore in the night for fish, shrimp and squid, then return toward land during the day to relax. They swim even when they are sleeping. But officials say the presence of boats and swimmers is disrupting their habits, causing ‘a departure from natural behavioral patterns that support the animal’s health and fitness,’ according to the proposed guidelines.”
Dolphins are the classic example of how tourist behaviour can lead to the harassment and disruption of wildlife. Additionally, other animals also experience the detrimental impacts of tourist behaviour. Whale watching can affect breeding and migration patterns and seals are running away from tourists. These are just a few examples of how human interaction can change the daily behaviours of sea life.
Even though dolphins are one of the most classic examples, they aren’t the only animals that are negatively impacted by tourist behaviour. Scuba diving can seriously hurt coral reefs. As divers swim through the ocean, their fins can hit the fragile corals and destroy the animal, which can take decades to repair. Many different species rely on the coral, therefore coral reef deterioration would be extremely harmful to the ecosystem if activities like diving aren't done mindfully.
In the long run, destinations lose their profitability when they lose their beauty. As a result, the ultimate goal for many companies should be to generate tourist activity can actually improve the local environment, economy, and society.
This is why Sea Going Green is working with tourism companies to alleviate their negative impacts on the marine environment and empower them to #GoGreenForTheBigBlue.