Worldwatch Paper #159: Traveling Light: New Paths for International Tourism

Author: Lisa Mastny

ISBN: 1-878071-61-0
Publication Date: Dec. 2001
88 pages

In today's rapidly shrinking world, travelers are trading in over-commercialized mass tourism for more exotic destinations-most of which are in the developing world. From South America to Asia, countries are rushing to capitalize on a wealth of cultural and biological attractions in order to meet this demand.

Now the world's largest industry, tourism generates much-needed revenue and employment at many destinations. Yet it also brings a host of environmental, social, and cultural problems. Uncontrolled tourism development-on mountaintops, along coastlines, or in remote jungle areas-stresses many of the planet's fragile ecosystems and cultures. And existing strategies for tourism development tend to concentrate the benefits in the hands of a few.

Before September 11th, travel and tourism was the world's largest industry, accounting for one in every 12 jobs and, in the least developed countries, representing the second largest source of foreign exchange after oil. When the massive US$3.6 trillion industry almost ground to a halt after the terrorist attacks, the ripple effects extended well beyond the bounds of the United States, exposing the vulnerability of countries too narrowly dependent on international tourism.

Traveling Light looks at what developed and developing countries can do to ensure that the impacts of this mighty industry are positive for the world's people and their environment