Tourism At Risk: The Impact Of Marine Pollution On Tourism

by | Jun 16, 2023 | Pollution, Trending, Water Pollution

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Marine pollution has a significant impact on tourism, particularly in coastal areas and destinations that rely on pristine marine environments as a major attraction. Tourism and recreation are the two most important industries in the maritime economies. This industry is strongly reliant on sustainable coastal and ocean resources, as well as environmental aesthetics. Changes in beach leisure trips that result from a rise or fall in marine debris have cascading economic consequences for coastal economies.

So through this blog article, we are going to understand the impact of marine pollution on tourism. But before that, firstly, let us discuss what exactly marine pollution is.

What is Marine Pollution?

Marine pollution is an assortment of chemicals and debris, most of which originates on land and is taken into the ocean. This pollution harms the ecosystem, the health of all organisms, and global economic institutions. In today’s world, marine pollution is an increasing issue. Our oceans are being inundated with two kinds of pollution: chemicals and garbage.

  • Chemical contamination, sometimes known as nutrient pollution, is a cause for concern for health, the environment, and the economy. This pollution arises when human activities, most notably fertilizer use on farms, cause chemical runoff into streams, eventually draining into the ocean. The increased concentration of chemicals in the coastal water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, stimulates algal blooms, which can be poisonous to species and detrimental to humans. Algal blooms’ harmful impacts on health and the environment harm the local fishing and tourism-dependent economies.
  • Marine trash includes all artificial objects, most of which are plastic, that end up in the ocean. Littering, storm gusts, and poor waste management all contribute to the accumulation of this material, with land-based sources accounting for 80% of the total. Plastic goods such as shopping bags, beverage bottles, cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and fishing gear are common types of marine garbage. Because of its longevity as pollution, plastic waste is particularly harmful. Plastic things can disintegrate over hundreds of years.

marine pollution

How Does Marine Pollution Affect Tourism-Dependent Countries?

Marine pollution has significant economic and societal impacts on tourism-dependent countries. Tourism and fishing industries and communities rely on marine ecosystems for a living, and marine pollution decreases these economic opportunities. Marine habitats are also highly culturally significant to communities, and plastic pollution endangers the cultural assets and history we have conserved over time. Because many islands rely on tourism, the problem’s transboundary aspect is especially pronounced. A cleaner ocean is critical for island inhabitants’ well-being, biodiversity, and livelihoods.

The following facts and figures provide a brief overview of the impact of marine pollution on tourism:

  • Economic Importance: Tourism is a vital economic sector for many coastal communities. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2019, travel and tourism directly accounted for 4.5% of global GDP and supported over 330 million jobs worldwide. Marine tourism, including activities like snorkelling, diving, and beach vacations, contributes substantially to this sector.
  • Decline in Biodiversity: Marine pollution, such as oil spills, chemical pollutants, and plastic debris, can cause severe harm to marine ecosystems and lead to a decline in biodiversity. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), marine pollution is one of the primary threats to the health of oceans and coastal areas globally.
  • Coral Reef Degradation: Coral reefs, known for their vibrant colors and biodiversity, are a major attraction for tourists. However, pollution, including sedimentation, nutrient runoff, and warming waters due to climate change, can cause coral bleaching and degradation. The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network estimates that approximately 75% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened.
  • Beach Closures: Pollution in coastal waters can lead to beach closures due to health concerns. According to the European Environment Agency, poor water quality resulted in the temporary closure of beaches in Europe on over 2,000 occasions in 2019. This directly affects tourism as visitors are discouraged from swimming or spending time at polluted beaches.
  • Negative Perception and Image: Persistent marine pollution can damage the reputation and image of a destination. A study published in the Journal of Travel Research found that tourists have a negative perception of polluted beaches and are less likely to visit or recommend such destinations to others.
  • Wildlife Impact: Marine pollution poses a significant threat to marine wildlife. Plastic debris, in particular, can be ingested by marine animals or entangled by them, leading to injuries or death. For destinations known for their marine wildlife, such as whale watching or sea turtle nesting areas, the decline in wildlife populations due to pollution can adversely affect tourism revenue.
  • Cost of Cleanup and Restoration: The cleanup and restoration of polluted coastal areas can be costly. According to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the economic impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reached billions of dollars, including the expenses for cleanup, restoration, and compensation to affected industries like tourism and fishing.

Dumped catch, fouling occurrences, net repairs, and time lost cleaning nets all impact fisheries, while ghost fishing can result in extra revenue losses. Tourism can only suffer when people are unwilling to visit due to plastic waste on beaches. Beach cleanup costs must be incurred to avoid this consequence. These are some of the expenses connected with marine plastic contamination.

Coastal regions, such as beaches and estuaries, are among the top global producers of ecosystem services for leisure and recreation. Hundreds of thousands of marine creatures live in these natural ecosystems, all requiring clean domains to exist, thrive, and grow. Unfortunately, human contamination has infiltrated these areas. “Marine debris” is any solid, persistent, human-made garbage intentionally or unintentionally introduced into a waterway or ocean from the shorelines to the ocean floor. This type of trash not only has a direct impact on marine species all over the world, but it is also having an impact on tourism and travellers’ destination choices.

The Devastating Effects of Marine Pollution on Coastal Communities

Marine waste is complicated and endangers other coastal entities. The garbage has a dual impact on both marine life and the revenue provided by local visitors. The link between marine trash and tourism is complicated since objects might form in places other than where the litter has become stuck and where tourism occurs. Visitors exploring beaches and coastal regions are inclined to choose alternate destinations if their entire experience could be better. Significant scattered litter may play a role in that alternative destination decision.

The shores of Paraná State in southern Brazil are among the most popular tourist sites. This Brazilian coast attracts many tourists, including second-home owners and users (SHOU) and non-regular vacationers. A single soul is a person or group of people who own additional property or a vacation home somewhere. A non-recurrent tourist has no territorial ties to a destination and is looking for a holiday without committing to a piece of property. In a recent study, the impressions and emotions of these two diverse types of beach visitors were contrasted. Some of Paraná’s communities rely on property taxes from second homes and non-recurrent visitor expenditures on services like meals, recreation, and other comforts. The two user groups and their tourism revenue drive the coastal economy.

Also Read: Microplastic Pollution In Marine Environment

The Tourist Dilemma: Balancing Marine Pollution and Sustainable Tourism

Moving forward, an issue such as marine trash should be prioritized to improve beach visitors’ experiences. Marine debris can be a source of concern for coastal tourists worldwide. An analysis of the economic implications of litter presence is a novel technique for determining how to reduce the damage litter may pose to tourism earnings. Beach length, landscape, water quality, amenities, and litter amount are all elements that may influence a visitor’s beach choice. These aspects determine the guest’s overall impression of the trip and the beach visitors’ experiences.

Marine debris can be a source of concern for coastal tourists worldwide. An analysis of the economic implications of litter presence is a novel technique for determining how to reduce the damage litter may pose to tourism earnings.

Impacts on Coastal Tourism and Sustainable Development

Beach length, landscape, water quality, amenities, and litter amount are all elements that may influence a visitor’s beach choice. These aspects determine the guest’s overall impression of the trip. Stranded beach litter is regarded as one of the five essential characteristics of beach quality in Europe, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Through fisheries, tourism, coastal protection, transportation, and resilience to climate change, the Caribbean’s marine ecosystems provide food, livelihoods, and money to millions of people.

Building a sustainable ocean economy by making better and more efficient use of marine resources has immense potential for revenue growth, community development, environmental conservation, and poverty alleviation. This is known as the Blue Economy. Marine pollution is increasingly common in Caribbean waterways, posing a severe danger to the blue economy.

Damaged gear and government expenses to clean beaches where recreational activities occur might influence fishing profits. The indirect costs are associated with biodiversity, habitat impacts, and diminished ecosystem service provision expenses. For example, the revenue of the fisheries sector is further lowered due to lower catches in the presence of marine plastics and lost or abandoned gear. The tourism industry’s revenue may suffer due to reduced visitor visits and spending on marine debris.

Also Read: Green Travel: Travel the World, Leave Only Footprints


Pollutants, such as marine waste, plastics, sewage water, oil, and chemicals, reduce the value of the goods and services offered by the seas, such as fishery quality and the pure marine environment, which are highly prized by the tourism industry. The region is susceptible to marine pollution because its people rely on natural resources, and its beaches are exposed. In addition to the environmental threat, understanding and managing marine pollution in the area is an economic and social responsibility.

Countries now see the ocean’s potential and consider legislative changes to protect their valuable coastal and marine natural capital from reaping the Blue Economy’s full benefits. More research is needed before authorities can decide how to balance spending to eliminate marine litter while minimizing the possible loss of tourism earnings. The sources of waste can be identified, and preventive measures implemented through integrated planning. This would assist in averting a decline in environmental quality and tourism revenue.

Also ReadMarine Plastic Pollution To Triple By 2040: Report


  • Dr. Tanushree Kain

    Tanushree is a passionate Environmentalist with a Doctorate in Environmental Sciences. She is also a Gold medalist in Master of Science (M.Sc), Environmental Sciences. She has 6 years of experience as a guest faculty in Environmental Sciences. With her combination of technical knowledge and research expertise, she can create clear, accurate, and engaging content that helps users get the maximum information regarding environmental topics.


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