On one hand, tourism wields tremendous economic positive outcomes: it is one of the world’s most significant sources of economic outcomes and employment. However, tourism is a very complex industry involving numerous stakeholders (sometimes with opposite interests) and requiring significant amount of resources. As such, tourism can have very opposite effects according to the way activities are managed. Managed well, tourism can play a positive role in the socio, cultural, economical, environmental and political development of the destination and as such represents a significant development opportunity for many countries and communities. On the contrary, unchecked tourism development can lead to very damageable impacts.
The quality of the environment, both natural and man-made, is essential to tourism. However, tourism's relationship with the environment is complex. It involves many activities that can have adverse environmental effects. Many of these impacts are linked with the construction of general infrastructure such as roads and airports, and of tourism facilities, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, golf courses and marinas. The negative impacts of tourism development can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which it depends.
On the other hand, tourism has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to environmental protection and conservation. It is a way to raise awareness of environmental values and it can serve as a tool to finance protection of natural areas and increase their economic importance.
The socio-cultural impacts of tourism described here are the effects on host communities of direct and indirect relations with tourists, and of interaction with the tourism industry. For a variety of reasons, host communities often are the weaker party in interactions with their guests and service providers, leveraging any influence they might have. These influences are not always apparent, as they are difficult to measure, depend on value judgments and are often indirect or hard to identify.
The impacts arise when tourism brings about changes in value systems and behaviour and thereby threatens indigenous identity. Furthermore, changes often occur in community structure, family relationships, collective traditional life styles, ceremonies and morality. But tourism can also generate positive impacts as it can serve as a supportive force for peace, foster pride in cultural traditions and help avoid urban relocation by creating local jobs. As often happens when different cultures meet, socio-cultural impacts are ambiguous: the same objectively described impacts are seen as beneficial by some groups, and are perceived as negative - or as having negative aspects - by other stakeholders.
The tourism industry generates substantial economic benefits to both host countries and tourists' home countries. Especially in developing countries, one of the primary motivations for a region to promote itself as a tourism destination is the expected economic improvement.
As with other impacts, this massive economic development brings along both positive and negative consequences.
According to the World Tourism Organization, 698 million people traveled to a foreign country in 2000, spending more US$ 478 billion. International tourism receipts combined with passenger transport currently total more than US$ 575 billion - making tourism the world's number one export earner, ahead of automotive products, chemicals, petroleum and food.