Student Resources

Case Study Archive

BLM

DISCUSSION POINT

The BLM administers 41 per cent of all federal lands, compared to the 13 per cent administered by NPS. The BLM’s mandate is basically to provide revenue for the government, and conservation is less of a priority. As a result of a looming energy crisis, the pressure is on to exploit the oil and natural gas resources in the western states and Alaska, and to relax environmental regulations. This is controversial, as not only such development damages wildlife and Native American archaeological sites on these lands, but the resulting pollution also affects some of the national parks.

In class, debate these issues, representing the views of the various stakeholders such as the Department of Energy, the NPS, tourist organisations and environmental groups.

Climate Change in the Himalayas

DISCUSSION POINT

The government of Nepal has installed an early warning system to protect the villages of a Himalayan valley that are endangered by a flood outburst from a glacial lake (Geographical, December 2007). Glacial lakes are growing in volume as a result of the melting of the glaciers.

Research the evidence for climate change in the Himalayas, and the effect that is likely to have on the livelihoods of mountain communities, and on water supplies to the cities of the Indian sub-continent.

Eco-tourism in Russia

DISCUSSION POINT

Eco-tourism in Russia is barely developed, and the fledgling environmental movement faces many obstacles from industry and government. The controversy over development around Lake Baikal is a good example. Lake Baikal is estimated to contain 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater, due to its extent and immense depth (over 1700 metres), and is remarkable for its purity. The lake supports a variety of unique species, making it a fascinating area for eco-tourists to study. As early as 1916, Russia’s first nature reserve was established here, and the lake is in theory protected by an official ban on shoreline development. Nevertheless, Lake Baikal’s ecology continues to be threatened by effluent from pulp mills, fertilisers and other types of pollution.

Discuss the political and economic circumstances which make the environmentalist’s task more difficult in Russia than in the West. What more can be done to save Lake Baikal?

Golf Tourism

DISCUSSION POINT

Golf tourism is encouraged by many tourism authorities because it brings in a high-spending type of visitor and results in a longer season. Although golf is growing in popularity among Spaniards, the participation rate is a third of that in the UK, and it is well behind football, field sports and basketball. Most of the demand comes from foreign tourists, while the Costa del Sol accounts for the greatest concentration of golf courses in Spain. Golf tourism is controversial, since half the country suffers periodically from severe droughts. It is estimated that an 18-hole course consumes as much water as a town of 10,000 inhabitants. Proponents of golf claim that much is being done to reduce water demand and other environmental impacts. The problem is in fact the developments of second homes that have grown up around golf courses, where a typical villa with its garden and swimming pool consumes four times as much water in summer as a city apartment.

In class, debate the pros and cons of promoting golf tourism as opposed to other types of tourism, in a part of Spain where the beach holiday market is declining.

Guyana Rainforest

DISCUSSION POINT

The government of Guyana has offered its rainforests to ‘global stewardship’ as a means of financing the conservation of its most valuable tourism resource. Investigate the ways in which this forest resource is under threat, and why conservation measures are so difficult to enforce.

Suggest your own solutions to the problem.

Jukkasjärvi Ice Hotel

DISCUSSION POINT

One of the Swedish Lapland’s major attractions is the Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi, promoted as the ‘world’s largest igloo’. The rooms and furniture are made from 30,000 tons of ice and compacted snow, which is taken each November from the frozen River Torne, and the structure is used until it melts, usually in early May. The temperature inside the hotel is kept at a constant –7°C, whereas outside it may fall to –35°C. Bed furnishings are made from reindeer hides and skins which provide insulation against the cold, but most tourists prefer to use the adjoining wooden chalet-style huts. There is also an open air theatre modelled on Shakespeare’s Globe, but made entirely of ice, and where the plays are performed in the Sami language.

Discuss the claim that the Ice Hotel is an excellent example of sustainable tourism, given that the concept has been widely copied, not only in Scandinavia, but also in countries outside the region. Why does it appeal to certain types of tourist, including honeymoon couples from Japan?

Mega-Fires

DISCUSSION POINT

Mega-Fires: Symptom of Climate Change or Man-Made Disaster?

A lethal combination of high temperatures (over 30°C), high winds (exceeding 30 km/h) and low humidity (under 30 per cent) breeds devastating wildfires that have grown in ferocity and frequency in recent years. Some claim the fires that occurred in Portugal in the summer of 2006 and in Greece in August 2007 are symptomatic of global warming. Similar fires on a much larger scale are a big problem in the Western USA. Here imported grasses have replaced much of the natural scrub vegetation which easily regenerated itself after fire. In the Mediterranean region, tourism and the building of second homes for city dwellers must share part of the blame. It is even alleged that many of the fires have been set deliberately, to clear land designated as forest for development. In the USA and Australia environmentalists could share some of the responsibility. Conservation practices now discourage the controlled burning of forests, allowing a vast quantity of tinder-dry vegetation to accumulate.

What impact do you think these fires have on the demand for tourism to destinations such as Greece, Portugal and California?

Payback Time for Tourists in the Balearics

DISCUSSION POINT

Payback Time for Tourists in the Balearics?
The idea of an ‘eco-tax’, imposed on the tourism sector specifically for environmental projects, came about as a result of pressure from local communities in the Balearic Islands affected by mass tourism. In 1999, it was adopted by an alliance of the socialist and ‘green’ political parties in the regional parliament. The tax was opposed by most of the islands’ hoteliers and the conservative Popular Party who was then in power in Madrid. Outside Spain, opposition came from British and German tour operators, and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) threatened to cease holding its annual convention in Palma. The eco-tax did not come into force until May 2002, and was a watered-down version of the original proposal. The tax was applied principally to hoteliers, who then had to collect it from their guests, instead of the regional government directly taxing all foreign tourists, using all types of accommodation, on their arrival in their islands. The proceeds of the eco-tax, until its abolition in October 2003, were used to fund a large number of small-scale projects to conserve the heritage of the islands.

In class, debate the proposition that the eco-tax was a good example of the ‘polluter pays’ principle as applied to tourism, but one that was flawed in its application. Can you suggest any alternatives whereby the tourist would pay voluntarily toward the funding of conservation projects?

Pompeii

DISCUSSION POINT

Pompeii is one of the world’s most remarkable archaeological sites, visited by more than 3 million tourists a year. It is also one of the largest; since its discovery in the 18th century, more than 40 hectares of the Roman town have been uncovered while another 22 hectares remain to be excavated. The vast majority of foreign visitors arrive by tour bus from Rome and Salerno, allowing only two hours for sightseeing. Some allege that bureaucratic inertia on the part of the authorities is responsible for a situation where the tourism experience is diminished by poor site management, poor signage and damage due to visitor pressure and inadequate supervision. Although Pompeii receives large foreign donations, there is never enough money for maintenance, restoration and further excavations – in fact far fewer excavated buildings can be visited now than was the case in the 1950s. As a solution the tourism councillor for the regional government has proposed that there should be a limit on the number of visitors, to improve the tourism experience, and to increase revenue from the site by leasing the ruins as a location for film-makers or as a setting for corporate business events.

Debate the pros and cons of this proposal and suggest alternative ways of protecting this fragile and unique attraction.

Slum Tourism

DISCUSSION POINT

Group tours of South African townships, such as Soweto, the slums of Mumbai, and the favelas (shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro, which were previously off-limits for tourists, are now offered by tour operators in those countries.

Proponents say they support community activities and generate income for local people, also that it gives affluent foreign visitors an insight into the reality of life for the poor. In the case of South Africa, virtually no white South Africans visit the townships. On the other hand, many feel that these tours are a form of voyeurism. In class, debate the issues raised by such visits in South Africa.

How can tourists interact in a meaningful way with people living in slum areas, so that both can benefit from the experience?

Socotra

DISCUSSION POINT

The remote island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean belongs to Yemen but is geographically closer to Africa. During the Cold War, it served as a military base for the Soviet-backed regime of South Yemen. Socotra has been described, perhaps misleadingly, as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean’, as many of the plant species, such as the ‘dragon trees’, are unique to the island. Like other isolated tropical islands, Socotra is highly vulnerable to the environmental impact of tourism, which needs to be carefully controlled. At present, access is limited, as the scheduled services from Aden and Sana’a provided by Yemenia, the national airline, are infrequent, and there is a lack of hotel accommodation.

Investigate the potential of Socotra as a tourism destination, by looking at a number of niche markets, such as diving. What are the threats to the island’s natural and cultural heritage, and what are the opportunities for tourism development?

The Grand Canyon Skywalk

DISCUSSION POINT

Substantial areas of the Grand Canyon lie outside the boundaries of the National Park and belong to the reservations of the Havasupai and Haalapai. As full owners of the land, these Native American tribes are not subject to the same regulations as the NPS as regards ‘flight-seeing’ tours and the operation of boats and rafts on the Colorado River. For this reason the Haalapai were able to go ahead with the ‘Skywalk’ project that allows sightseers an uninterrupted view of the canyon floor 1200 metres below.

Discuss why this has proved controversial. What activities and facilities, in your view, are appropriate to the Grand Canyon, given its unique character?

The Great Barrier Reef

DISCUSSION POINT

The Great Barrier Reef is by far the largest ecosystem of its kind in the world, containing around 1500 fish species, 350 species of hard corals and 240 bird species. It is designated as a marine park, and is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) which shares responsibility with the state government of Queensland.

Discuss the effectiveness of the various measures that have been taken to control fishing and pollution, cope with the tourist influx (over 4 million arrivals a year), manage a diverse range of recreational activities and not least, educate the public on conservation and sustainability issues.

The Great Bear Rainforest

DISCUSSION POINT

The mountains of the Great Bear Rainforest 300 kilometres north of Vancouver are a sought-after destination for hikers and nature lovers. However, the only practical way of getting there is by helicopter from the eco-resort at Nimmo Bay on the coast. Proponents of heli-hiking downplay the environmental impact of helicopters and claim that they are now much safer than in the past due to improved technology. Road building would produce much more pollution, while hiking to the destination would be a feat of endurance, given the trackless terrain, and anyway, such hikers would produce waste, light fires and scare wildlife.

Discuss the pros and cons of heli-touring, heli-hiking and heli-skiing in remote areas of North America.

The Pros and Cons of Sunbathing

DISCUSSION POINT

The Pros and Cons of Sunbathing

Attitudes to sunbathing have changed dramatically since the early 20th century. Following the Industrial Revolution, there was an emphasis on sunshine as a source of vitamin D in the fight against rickets and tuberculosis; in the 1970s a deep tan became a status symbol; whilst more recently there has been an awareness of the disadvantages of sunbathing. On a global scale the discovery of an ‘ozone hole’ in the stratosphere, increasing the risk of cataracts and skin cancer, led to international action to ban CFCs. Since the 1980s health authorities in the USA, South Africa and particularly in Australia have promoted media campaigns aimed at both residents and tourists to raise awareness of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun.

With climate change, do you think that sunbathing will once again become unfashionable?

Tourism for All

DISCUSSION POINT

Tourism for All?

In 1999, the French government under a socialist prime minister set up a state-funded agency to act as an intermediary between charities helping poor families unable to afford a holiday and facilities in coastal holiday resorts with surplus capacity. In its first year the scheme provided holiday accommodation for up to a thousand exclus – people who feel excluded from society, such as single-parent families, the unemployed, low-paid workers and immigrants. Many of these people live in grim suburban ghettos which were the scene of riots in the summer of 2007. Supporters of the scheme see it as a way of healing social divisions and propose that the right for all to go on a holiday should be enshrined in French law. Opponents claim that the tax-payer is being asked to subsidise a project that is open to abuse. Government officials maintain that the overall cost of the scheme is minimal, as only low-cost accommodation such as campsites and holiday villages would be used.

In class, debate the proposition that access to culture, sport and holidays is a fundamental human right like housing, education and medical care. What are the practical difficulties in carrying out social tourism projects in France, where individualism is a strong part of the national character?