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The consequences of mass tourism: the case of Barbados.

The consequences of mass tourism: the case of Barbados.
Author: Viktorija Kazakova
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This paper outlines the profile of Barbados in terms of tourism development as well as identifies key impacts of this industry on the resort. The paper refers to Strand 1, as there are always both positive and negative consequences of tourism and these consequences could be defined as tragedies, risks and rewards. It could also belong to Strand 5 as the impacts of tourism are results of tourist interactions at the destination but, as the paper outlines the consequences of tourism development rather than the process of tourism development, it is better to refer it to Strand 1. It aims to outline the history of tourism development on the Barbados, to identify key impacts of tourism and to critically evaluate them. It also outlines actions that could be made in order to minimize the negative impacts of this industry.

There were three 'booms' of tourism development across the Caribbean. It began in the late 19th and early 20th century when steamships were used to travel from North America to Jamaica, Cuba and Bermuda. Only wealthy tourists could afford these trips. However, between 1950's and 1960's with the air and sea infrastructure development travelling to Caribbean became much easier. As the international businesses started investing in the Caribbean hotel industry, within only couple of decades several Caribbean islands, including Barbados, became established popular international resort destinations. The peak of tourism development on the Barbados was in 1970s when Barbados, along with other Caribbean countries, has achieved its political independence and tourism industry continued it's grow resulting the expansion of cruise traffic and mass tourism market.
As in many other destinations, tourism industry has several positive and negative economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts on Barbados. The main impacts of tourism industry on Barbados will be further discussed.

Today being the mature and mass tourism destination, Barbados is depending on travel and tourism industry as it is the major industry in terms of bringing income to the country. The industry contributes about 15% of the island's GDP (SIA, 2004). Apart from increasing foreign and domestic earnings, tourism industry has also increased employment on the island, directly and indirectly employing over 53% of the country's labour force for 2009 (Greenidge, 2011). Moreover, tourism development on the Barbados resulted in constructions industry development and a significant development of the infrastructure: improved port facilities, better road and communication networks, as well as improved recreational facilities (Greenidge, 2011). With the infrastructure development on the island the tourist flow has massively increased as the air, water and land transport became more accessible. The increase in visitor numbers has positively affected Barbadian economy and tourism has become the major industry which drives country's development.
However, there is always other side of the coin. Many critics argue that although the flow of international capital has increased within the Caribbean countries, intra-island wealth distribution has been low (King et al, 2000). Many of the hotels, communications and transportation systems on the island belong to international businesses who invested in the tourism industry development on Barbados which means that most of the profit goes abroad (King et al, 2000). This fact raises a question: is the tourism industry actually effective for Barbados' economy? Another critique of mass tourism in the Caribbean is that the fact that despite the employment increase, "in terms of wages and poverty potential impacts may be less positive, or even negative" (SIA, 2004:101). In other words, despite a range of provided tourism and hospitality jobs many of them are low-paid and hard. Moreover, according to MacLellan (2012), the dynamics of the relationship between cruise industry and the Caribbean islands have changed: "the ships themselves became destinations". The development of the cruise industry has lead to variety of facilities onboard decreasing visitors' desire for island's tourism and reducing income for the country. According to MacLellan (2012) critique, "the Caribbean islands now existed only to service the floating hotels called cruise ships".
Being a small and resource limited island, Barbados is also fragile and hence vulnerable to negative environmental impacts. The development of diving facilities resulted in damage of the marine environment (Greenidge, 2011; SIA, 2004). Coral reefs have not only been suffered from divers who used to break them or even take them as souvenirs but also from the diving boats' anchors which were carelessly dropped on the reefs Greenidge, 2011). Apart from that, diving boats and especially cruise ships have caused the pollution of coastal waters. Other negative environmental impacts caused by tourist' activities on Barbados include destruction of the mangroves, beaches and lagoon pollution from sand mining, dredging and sewage dumping (SIA, 2004).
Barbados is also suffering from the high level of water and electricity consumption. According to Greenidge (2011), tourists on this destination consume 6-10 times more water than local people. Barbados' tourism industry "seeks to provide visitors with "first world" amenities" (Greenidge, 2011:90). As a result, tourists are using electrical appliances and air-condition systems which results in electricity over consumption. The most shocking thing about negative impacts of tourism on the environment is that tourism planners often are aware on the consequences, but do little or do nothing to prevent the negative impacts (SIA, 2004).
One of the social impacts of tourism on Barbados is overcrowding. In 2008 the United Nations named Barbados as the World's 11th most densely populated country. Apart from that, the access to some beaches is reduced as many hotels tend to make the nearest beaches an exclusive area for the hotel guests only (Greenidge, 2011). "Residents start to question the presence of tourists and the need for a tourism industry, while the authorities are concerned with increasing the level of infrastructure and attracting more tourists." (Greenidge, 2011:91).
The government of Barbados should seriously think about the solid waste management, wastewater management, sewage treatment, wise use of potable water and energy, as well as land and natural resources consumption. Otherwise, tourism development would not be sustainable and would destroy the environment of Barbados.

To conclude, the development of tourism on Barbados started a century ago and throughout the years this industry became the major source of income for the country. Tourism industry has several positive and negative impacts on Barbados economy, environment and society. Despite raising country's income and employment and positively affecting Barbados' economy, tourist activities on the island have caused pollution, high level of resource consumption, overcrowding and local people irritations and dissatisfaction about tourism in their country.
The aims of the paper were achieved as the profile of Barbados as a tourism destination was provided and the positive and negative impacts of tourism were identified and analyzed. It is important to acknowledge the consequences of every industry, in this case, the tourism industry. Tourism stakeholders should understand that the development of their industry is not only bringing good outcomes but also destroying and damaging the environment and society and should develop strategies of avoidance or the minimization of negative impacts.


Reference list

Greenidge, K. and Greenidge, N. (2011) Sustainable Tourism Development: The Case of Barbados [online] [cited Mar 2 2012] Available at: <http://www.centralbank.org.bb/WEBCBB.nsf/vwPublications/048AC5823915C6E4042577F2005E7CCA/$FILE/Sustainable%20Tourism%20Development%20The%20Case%20of%20Barbados.pdf>.

King, D., LeBlanc, D., Van Lowe, C.R. (2000) The Impact of Tourism in the Caribbean [online] [cited Mar 2 2012] Available at: <http://fama2.us.es:8080/turismo/turismonet1/economia%20del%20turismo/turismo%20zonal/centro%20america/impact%20of%20tourism%20in%20Caribbe.pdf>.

MacLellan, R. (2012) Caribbean Cruise Ships - The Imbalance of Risk/Reward and a Trojan Horse. Barbados Free Press [online] [cited Mar 2 2012] Available at: <http://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/cruise-ship-industry-a-trojan-horse-to-caribbean-small-island-economies-hotel-industries/>.

Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) (2004) Caribbean Region: Tourism [online] [cited Mar 2 2012] Available at: <http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/html/133937.htm>.