What about our way of life? Exploring the social impacts of tourism
North Queensland residents feel proud of tourism destinations in their areas and the positive impact tourism has in their communities, but it can also lead to locals feeling detached when transient populations pass through.
Elena Konovalov, a PhD student in JCU’s School of Business, has studied how tourism influences the every day lives of the people who live in tourist destinations and impacts on their quality of life.
Ms Konovalov said advocates of tourism development usually focused on its potential as an employer and source of business income.
However, opponents of tourism typically focus on the potential negative environmental impacts of uncontrolled tourism.
“Social tourism impacts are usually not as obvious, but nonetheless should be taken into account when evaluating tourism development benefits and costs to the community and this is what our research project was focused on,” Ms Konovalov said.
Ms Konovalov conducted a survey of local residents in three Queensland tropical communities (Airlie Beach, Bowen and the Atherton Tablelands) to explore the links between the scale and style of tourism development and various social aspects of community well-being.
“When we compare the results between the three communities, a number of links between social aspects of community well-being and tourism can be suggested,” Ms Konovalov said.
“In the area of human capital, for example, it seems that the scale of tourism development has a direct impact. A more developed tourism industry tends to coincide with more opportunities for work and education as well as attract more residents to the area.
“A more developed tourism industry is also associated with more opportunities to socialise in public places and more community services that are also available to locals.”
Ms Konovalov said the presence of tourists at a destination also contributed to the community pride experienced by locals.
“But these benefits can come at a cost,” she said.
“The research suggests that higher levels of tourism development can increase the transient population of temporary workers, can contribute to locals feeling detached from their community and less willing to give back to their community, and as tourist numbers increase, some locals can begin to feel angry and powerless about these changes.”
Ms Konovalov said overall, the research so far showed that tourism impacts on social aspects of community well-being are affected by the scale and style of tourism development as well as scale and type of community.
“The challenge for the researchers now is to explore further with these communities how to find the right mix of tourism to keep the benefits and manage the costs.”
Ms Konovalov is conducting the study under the supervision of Associate Professor Laurie Murphy and Professor Gianna Moscardo.
For more information, or interviews, contact principal investigator Elena Konovalov, on (07) 4781 3130 or via email: Elena.Konovalov@my.jcu.edu.au
JCU Media Liaison: Caroline Kaurila, tel: (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175
First published September 23, 2014