Unsustainable Tourism Approaches in Touristic Destinations: History
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Large investments made because of high tourism revenues in touristic destinations can threaten balanced growth, ecological sensitivity and sustainable tourism principles.

  • tourist destination
  • unsustainable approaches
  • tourism policies

1. Introduction

The economic multiplier effect that the tourism industry has developed has managed to attract the attention of many countries at a high level in recent years [1]. In addition to the increase in the number of tourist arrival visits, strong incentives for tourism policies are provided as a result of foreign exchange inflow, employment, the establishment of enterprises, strengthening of infrastructure, innovations in transportation and improvement of regional welfare level [2]. However, in this process, the unique beauty, natural structure, ecological richness, and intangible and tangible values of touristic destinations face the danger of being ignored [3] as countries compete to make their tourist destinations the most attractive internationally. In this situation, sustainable tourism principles are replaced by short-term solutions and high-profit investments, and the current capacity and future position of the relevant touristic destinations have started to become risky [4].
The big increases in the tourism sector make the situation even more different. As a matter of fact, in the WTTC 2019 report, tourism is an industry of 8.8 trillion dollars on a global scale and it is predicted that this figure will increase to 13 trillion dollars by 2029. The growth of tourism also has environmental consequences. For example, while it has been announced that the effect of tourism on global greenhouse gas emissions is around five percent, this rate is expected to increase to 5.3 percent in 2030. This estimated increase means that CO2 emissions originating from tourism, which was 1.597 million tons in 2016, will reach 1.998 million tons in 2030 and grow by around 25 percent, revealing what unsustainable tourism approaches will mean in the future [5].
Although sustainability is accepted as one of the most basic criteria taken into consideration in tourism policies, similar approaches are not exhibited in practice. Sustainability policies that can hinder or, in other words, stabilize the competitive aspects of touristic destinations that are growing and developing are sometimes overlooked [6]. When the perception of success of touristic destinations is associated with high profits and the number of tourist visitors, responsibilities are not considered and tourism activities do not contribute to the environment, society and sustainable economy. In addition, despite all these negativities, governments continue their incentive packages and develop targets for increasing the number of tourists. This situation emerges as additional problems to the existing unsustainable tourism approaches and makes the complex situation even more difficult [7]. If we look at Turkey in particular, where this research was conducted, while investment incentives that facilitate legal regulations and certification of companies come to the fore in Turkey’s 2023 Tourism Strategy, sustainable policies are not mentioned much. In addition, while the 2023 Tourism Strategy aims to reach 63 million tourists, an 86 billion USD foreign tourism income and a 1350 USD expenditure capacity per tourist, balanced and environmentally friendly growth approaches have not been determined as main criteria [8]. It is thought that this situation does not occur only in Turkey. It is observed that countries such as Greece, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which compete in similar tourism markets, experience the same problems. At this point, the unsustainability of human desires and government policies means that it cannot protect the existing tourism resources in the future.
Economic factors are at the forefront of the issues that will be most affected by unsustainable tourism approaches. Destinations aiming for high returns in short-term planning will likely encounter close to zero income over time. On the other hand, infrastructure problems brought by rapid growth will also be one of the problems of the touristic destination. In addition, the educated workforce capacity, which is called qualified employment, is a capacity that will be gained over time in the light of the sustainable principles [9]. Since tourism is one of the sectors that do not realize final consumption, it serves in a structure with intense environmental and social sensitivity. For example, accommodation establishments that offer room service, professional experts who serve as guides, and individuals working in all areas of the sector, from transportation to service, can serve people again and again. In this context, touristic destinations are not expected to plan for a limited period and ignore the future. On the contrary, tourism needs to keep local development, employment, production and inter-sectoral communication alive by making its current existence permanent [10].
The inflationary effect that arises in the areas where tourism activities take place is a factor that deeply affects all stakeholders, especially the people residing in the region. While the real estate market in the destination is increasing rapidly, food and beverage prices may also tend to increase. However, as the reason for the situation, it is possible to assume responsibility by exhibiting negative behaviors towards tourists. The cost of living caused by tourism is also mentioned in many studies [11][12].
Tourism can make significant contributions to the cultural development of people in the process of visiting different destinations. Especially in international travel, destinations with different cultural values can transfer their original heritage. However, tourism activities, which are a means of intercultural communication, can be perceived with discontent by the people of the region when tourism unconsciousness, price stability and cultural prejudice in tourism planning are not addressed. At this point, the sustainability approach, which is a balanced factor, can play an important role and help different cultures to communicate correctly. As a matter of fact, solution-oriented and sustainable approaches towards emerging problems are known. Due to the fact that tourism activities provide positive economic returns to other sectors, tourism maintains its attractiveness and prestige at the highest level, providing versatile services. However, as a result of this high sense of self-confidence and the rapid movement of tourism activities, its physical capacity is strained and the possible harms to biological diversity can be ignored. In this direction, environmental impact and the correct use of touristic resources may also result in failure [13].
The region begins to suffer economically, socially and culturally in cases of overtourism, which is the level that the destination cannot handle with the excess number of tourists. Cities such as Barcelona, Paris, Miami, Venice and Istanbul are exposed to overtourism pressure, having to host tourists far above their capacity every year [14]. On the other hand, destinations with unique beauties inhabited by local people are struggling with sound pollution due to entertainment venues. Touristic destinations such as Mumbai, New York, Belgrade and Bodrum stand out in noise pollution [15]. A destination needs a sufficient supply of infrastructure and superstructure to turn it into an area of tourism activities. However, when the destination capacity is exceeded for more tourist visits and the ecological balance is taken into consideration in the second plan, distorted construction emerges. Unconscious construction, which is not suitable for the cultural background of the destination and which negatively affects its nature as an image, can seriously damage the identity of the destination. However, due to the pressure of industries such as energy, mining and industry, there may be situations where areas with touristic value are in danger of being destroyed [16].

2. Unplanned Urbanization

As a result of the irregular growth caused by the migration of people residing in rural areas to city centers more and more each year, housing shortages, excess labor force and socio-cultural integration problems may occur [17]. While this situation brings with it unplanned construction and uncontrolled growth in city planning, destination areas with touristic value in the city see the most damage. While creating new structures in line with the increasing needs of the city population, touristic destinations with intangible and tangible values can remain under pressure. In addition, the dense superstructure supply created to provide accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, recreation and entertainment services for tourists generally supports unplanned urbanization [18]. The construction of resort hotels fill the beaches and the sea from one end to the other, especially in regions with sea tourism potential, bringing with them important problems for the future of the local nature. Again, the capacity of the city can be challenged by establishing high-rise hotels in limited areas in city centers. In transportation services, exhaust fumes that harm the nature spread due to heavy vehicle use and the capacity of the destination can be exceeded by highway works, airports and train services. With the haphazard establishment of large entertainment centers, the attractiveness of the destination can be damaged. In recent years, in touristic destinations that are handled with an unsustainable approach, unplanned urbanization practices are encountered more frequently in resorts close to the sea and hotels that are not suitable for city architecture, as well as in surplus transportation infrastructure and large recreation areas [19].

3. Image and Sound Pollution

In light of the industrial revolution and the developments in information technologies, it is seen that touristic destinations, especially city areas, are heavily crowded [20]. Especially destinations located in places of natural heritage may experience difficulties in increased housing and traffic complexity. On the other hand, authentic regions that reveal a more traditional lifestyle are damaged in their architectural culture due to the construction of modern buildings. Buildings that rise alongside the traditional architectural understanding built in a certain period and do not have any cultural heritage value do not reflect anything different from visual pollution. In addition, while playing a role in keeping the historical textures that combine the past and the future, buildings with similar techniques all over the world hide the mystery of the destination [21]. For example, the rise of buildings of the same type in the People’s Republic of China, which has bamboo and wood-dominated architecture; the slow abandonment of the European architecture of Gothic style, known for its rib vaults, pointed arches, and flying buttresses; the spread of skyscrapers in Anatolia and the Middle East instead of the stone architecture built in large vaults due to climate and geographical conditions draws attention to the most basic evidence of visual pollution [22][23][24].
One of the biggest problems experienced in touristic destinations is traffic density, loud music, construction works and noise pollution caused by irregular activities. In cases where touristic areas are located in the city center, more complex problems can be experienced. Museums, cultural buildings with architectural value and historical worship centers are the places most heavily exposed to sound pollution [25]. Moscow, Russia; Mumbai India and Bogota, Colombia stand out as the loudest tourist destinations [26]. Although the situation is not different in rural tourism centers, loud noises coming from entertainment centers negatively affect tourists and local people. Beach parties, horn sounds, loud music and the sounds of vehicles in traffic occur and are perceived as sound pollution. Entertainment activities aimed at increasing the diversity of tourism make it very difficult for the tourists who want to have a restful experience, especially the third age tourism participants. In this context, decibel rate and recreational activity hours of hotels play important roles in the purchasing behavior of tourists in recent years [27].

4. Exterminate and Non-Recyclable Waste

If waste management in the tourism industry harms the ecological cycle, the natural resources and environment of the touristic destination are adversely affected. Despite the recent announcement of regulations on solid and liquid waste management, it is observed that environmental practices are not carried out at the desired level [28]. It is suggested that the reason for this situation is the cost of the filtration devices used in the waste system [29]. On the other hand, the environmentally sensitive approach that is respectful to ecology, called green tourism, has not reached a sufficient level of awareness in terms of tourism enterprises [30].
In cases where the business objectives are concentrated in the material dimension and environmental sensitivity is not considered, irreversible wastes and their damage to the environment arise. There are intermediate consumption and final consumption opportunities provided by tourism service elements to tourists. In this context, as well as providing intermediary services, there are also results where final consumption takes place. Touristic businesses, which constantly act for profit and determine their mission in this direction, may not take action in recycling and sustainable policies [31]. As a result, natural habitats and consumed products in touristic areas do not come back. For example, in food and beverage businesses, by throwing away vegetable peels and excesses during the food preparation process, both the nature is harmed and the food components that could be reused are destroyed. On the other hand, while the region should be reforested after forest fires, issuing licenses for accommodation businesses brings environmental disasters. Chemical damages caused by wasted fuel in transportation services without full capacity cause erosion of the ozone layer and air pollution. The understanding that harmful components from the vehicles of countries with oil resources threaten nature to a great extent and that underground resources can be wasted with the thought that they are unlimited is one of the biggest obstacles to sustainability. Similarly, attempts made to bring tourism to uninhabited islands in South American resulted in the loss of their original nature [32].

5. Overtourism

Known as the highest number of tourists and the amount of tourism investment that touristic destinations can accept, overtourism is defined as the concept that most clearly reveals the limits of carrying capacity [33]. While a destination’s exposure to tourism activities that it can handle without taking into account its current conditions provides high benefits in the short term, it can cause great negative effects in the long term. Because, in addition to the economic, social and cultural benefits of tourism movements, negative effects such as inflationary, waste generation and deterioration of natural heritage are ignored [34]. In this respect, while creating infrastructure opportunities for a touristic destination, it is necessary to establish an optimum level of business and the number of tourists should not be exceeded. In addition, when the purchasing power of the local people residing in the touristic area is not planned, the cost of living begins to rise. This situation, as stated in the Goodwin [35] study, can turn negative tourism perceptions into hatred. As a result, conflicts may occur by displaying angry behaviors towards tourists.
Due to the high number of tourists in Barcelona, which is one of the touristic destinations that attracts the most tourists in the European continent, the dissatisfaction with the tourists is increasing day by day. Especially the architectural works made by the famous artist Gaudi carry the risk of being damaged by being visited by too many people. In this context, the structures that are taken into maintenance periodically try to reduce the effects of overtourism [36]. On the other hand, although destinations such as the Greek Islands, Venice and Amsterdam have made serious improvements in their infrastructure due to intense tourism structuring, they have difficulties in tourism growth activity. Destinations that begin to suffer under conditions where the carrying capacity is exceeded in touristic destinations are exposed to erosion in their ecological structures and socio-cultural values, contrary to sustainable development [37].
In short, touristic destinations can become the center of activity that degrades natural habitats instead of bringing benefits. At this point, it is imperative to determine the maturity level of touristic destinations well and to manage them with a sustainable policy in order to protect their existing resources in the future. In addition, in the context of promotion and marketing strategies, it is necessary to adopt realistic approaches beyond popular trends by acting within the limits of the tourism carrying capacity.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/su15064744


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