Some fundamental truths about tourism: Understanding tourism’s social and environmental impacts

Robert Douglas McKercher

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

224 Citations (Scopus)


Tourism’s effects on the social, cultural and physical environments in which it operates are well documented. Yet, it appears that little research has been conducted examining the underlying reasons why such impacts appear to be inevitable. This paper argues that a number of structural realities or ‘fundamental truths’ about tourism exist that explain why adverse impacts are felt, regardless of the type of tourism activity. Eight such truths are examined. They are: (1) As an industrial activity, tourism consumes resources, creates waste and has specific infrastructure needs. (2) As a consumer of resources, it has the ability to over consume resources. (3) Tourism, as a resource dependent industry must compete for scarce resources to ensure its survival. (4) Tourism is a private sector dominated industry, with investment decisions being based predominantly on profit maximisation. (5) Tourism is a multi-faceted industry, and as such, it is almost impossible to control. (6) Tourists are consumers, not anthropologists. (7) Tourism is entertainment. (8) Unlike other industrial activities, tourism generates income by importing clients rather than exporting its product. McKercher.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-16
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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