Tourism Industry Problems

Updated May 28, 2021

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Tourism Industry Problems essay

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Drawing on practical examples, identify three moral dilemmas in the tourism, hospitality and/or events sectors and critically review the underpinning ethical theory of each, thereby also discussing any limitations of their application in practice


The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, with the number of international arrivals starting at 25 million in 1950 to now more currently over 1,300 million arrivals in 2017 (United World Tourism Organization, 2017). Despite events that have made the tourism industry’s operating environment more complex, it continues to thrive (Theobold, 2005).

The tourism industry is prone to a number of ethical dilemmas. An increasingly pressing challenge is how companies manage the ethical operations of their business. Ethical issues mainly arise in four areas: the supply chain, the local community in the destination, the workplace, and customers. There may be concerns about forced labour in the supply chain or exploitation of workers in the workplace for example; or the locals may feel that they have an insufficient share in the economic benefits of tourism.

In 1999, the negative impacts of tourism were attempted to be minimised through the UN World Tourism Organisation who adopted a global code of ethics (The Guardian, 2011). This essay will discuss some of the moral dilemmas within the tourism industry, while critically analysing the ethical theory of each dilemma.

Animal Welfare

Lovelock & Lovelock (2013) defined animal welfare as being a “viewpoint which advocates the humane use of animals which involves maintaining animal wellbeing and prohibiting cruelty” (p. 516).

Throughout time, people have often wanted to have a close interaction with animals, and the demand for this has been argued to be fundamentally important for humans. An example of this is the domestication of particular species, such as the feline and canine families. Animals are also a key part of human life due to them consisting of such a large part of the food supply for most cultures.

However, although hunting animals has existed for thousands of years, the activity of observing wild animals recreationally, as a tourist attraction, is a more recent phenomenon (Orams, 2002). A lot of effort has been put into managing the impacts of tourism upon animals, in particular wild animals. However, captive animals have also been a focus for research, as zoos and other related attractions continue to be favourite attractions for domestic and international visitors.

Animals have a wide range of roles within the tourism industry from being objects to gaze at, to sources of labour to appearing on menus in restaurants (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). The main ethical concerns appear to be consumptive wildlife tourism and wildlife viewing. Consumptive wildlife tourism consists of activities such as hunting and fishing. This may be a niche activity in many nations, but is vital income for less economically developed countries.

However, hunting can be seen as being very controversial in places such as Europe and North America, which have well developed animal rights movements (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). The global market size of wildlife tourism today is an estimated 12 million trips annually, growing by an estimated 10% per year (Mintel, 2008). Africa is the main leader for wildlife tourism and accounts for around a half of wildlife tourism trips globally. South Africa, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania are the countries which receive the greatest volume of visitors.

However, there are several emerging wildlife destinations such as the Antarctica, for visitors wishing to see whales, seals and penguins (One Caribbean, 2011). Due to its fragility, Antarctica’s environment causes a concern of its level of sustainability in this form of tourism (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). There are a range of ethical issues which are associated with different tourism and animal interactions. In particular, there can be potential disruption to the bonding of the parent and offspring.

For example, when whale watching is taking place in Antarctica, whale calves generally stay close with their mothers, but when separated, they can transfer this attachment to a boat. This can cause severe problems between the mother and calf. An ethical theory which links to animal welfare is Teleology. Teleological theories are concerned with establishing the meaning of good independently from establishing rights, and where right is later defined as that which maximises good (Fennell, 2006).

Teleological theories are end-based theories with the focus being on optimal outcomes. There are four main teleological theories: Utilitarianism; Hedonism; Egoism; and Virtue ethics. The main teleological theory which can be closely tied to animal welfare is Virtue ethics. This teleological theory is more person based rather than action: it looks at the moral character of the person who is carrying out the action, rather than at ethical duties and rules, or the consequences of the action.

Virtue ethics is not only about the rightness or wrongness of an action, but it provides guidance of what sort of characteristics a virtuous person may carry (BBC, 2014). One of the key strengths of Virtue ethics is that it acknowledges that people have different perspectives. This allows them to make ethical decisions based on his or her moral well-being, not just based on what is morally correct.

A weakness of Virtue ethics is that it can be considered as being too vague in terms of its relation to human traits. It is hard for governments to make ethical decisions on the basis of individual character traits, as they need to look at the consequences of actions on the population as a whole (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). A way in which Virtue ethics is linked to animal welfare is that most hunting would be considered wrong, because it is done for fun. Therefore, since the person’s behaviour is selfish and not virtuous, their behaviour is considered as morally wrong.

However, this view can be argued against by Scruton (1996). For example, when fox hunting in the UK was still legal before 2004, Scruton noted that the pleasure gained from this activity was not specifically through seeing the animal in pain, but rather from other associated features of the activity. He believes that fox hunting shows virtues of traditional social solidarity, which is a morally acceptable action.

Sex Tourism

Sex tourism can be defined as “tourism where the main purpose or motivation of at least part of the trip is to consummate sexual relations” (Ryan & Hall 2001: ix). Sex tourism within tourism studies only gained serious research attention in the 1970s.

The industry is made up of different sectors, from an organised supply of sexual services that are pre-arranged before travel to a more casual supply where the tourist makes their own arrangements upon arrival at the destination. The sex market is differentiated domestically and internationally with both formalised and casualised work.

The sex work labour is supplied locally and has a significant number of migrant workers, with some being voluntary and others ‘trafficked’. The migrant and trafficked workers are usually women and children. Depending on the destination, prostitution can be legal and illegal (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). The main ethical concern of sex tourism is that it has the potential of significant health issues for the sex worker and client. In less economically developed countries, sex workers are particularly poor and so have limited access to education, health services, or sufficient housing.

When came the spread of HIV/AIDS, research was heavily increased in the 1980s and 1990s. There was some conflict that HIV/AIDS served as a catalyst for sex tourism (Ryan & Hall 2001: 48). As well as this, HIV/AIDS was seen as being an economic threat for countries which relied heavily on sex tourism. This was due to the thought of the spread scaring off customers and losing out on revenue. An example of a destination which this impacted was Thailand.

A research report on AIDS in Thailand by Cohen (1988), states that it was thought in the 1980s that the threat of AIDS could be best achieved by playing down the existence of the disease as much as possible. This was in order to prevent any unnecessary AIDS panic. For a large amount of time, the number of people affected by AIDS was not made public. This was because Thailand’s main priority was the tourism industry’s reputation (Cohen, 1988). An ethical theory which links to sex tourism is Social Justice.

Justice is based on fairness, which allows a fair and equitable distribution of goods and individual freedom. It emphasises the importance of rights and addresses what is right for both the individual and social group. This is based on the idea that an absence of justice threatens the social group or community (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). Rawls (1971) stated that it was important for people to set aside their own social position and defining statuses and to embrace what he called a veil of ignorance. This is where people imagine what kind of society they would live in without knowing their race, class and gender.

Rawls (1971) argued that people who adopted the veil of ignorance would be more likely to desire a society which is fair to those who are disadvantaged. If justice is about fairness and equity, it clearly shows that it is an issue in tourism. In particular with sex tourism, this can be seen as unjust and inequitable relationships (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013). A key strength of social justice is that it encourages people to use compassion to help think about those in need. A weakness of social justice is that injustice may not be measured correctly as it is entirely subjective.

Human Trafficking

Trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labour or commercial sex act (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, no date). Trafficking has been recognised as a global concern since the late nineteenth century. It typically starts through traffickers tricking women and children into travelling to another country, where they are offered a better life but this promise never comes true. Those who are trafficked often experience, rape, beatings, intimidation and debt bondage, which is what keeps them bound to their trafficker (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked every year (UNICEF, 2006). Children can often become particularly vulnerable to trafficking after being involved in a natural disaster. For example, when the tsunami hit South Asia during 2004, it resulted in many children being orphaned and subsequently trafficked (The Guardian, 2005). The majority of the ethical arguments against human trafficking are rights based arguments that emphasise justice.

An ethical theory which links to human trafficking is deontology. Deontologists believe that it is more important to uphold rules, follow guidelines and conform to normative behaviour and duties. Deontology focuses on why an act is done rather than focusing on what the outcome is. Trafficking goes against every human right and so is viewed as immoral. When a victim is taken against their will, they lose out on their freedom which we would take for granted (Lovelock & Lovelock, 2013).

A strength of deontology would be that it provides a basis of human dignity and rights. It forces due regard to be given to the interests of a single person even when there are those at odds in a bigger group. However, a key weakness of deontology would be that it allows acts such as human trafficking, which can lead to the world being a bad place. This is because duty-based ethics don’t focus on the results of its actions that produce a reduction of happiness (BBC, 2014).


In sum, I think the tourism industry has a range of social, cultural, environmental and economic ethical problems. While there are several benefits for people who engage in tourism, it is now established that the economic benefits of tourism are not equally distributed and decision making is revolved around few people. The tourism industry cannot avoid ethics but I do think there can however be certain steps taken in order to help overcome ethical problems.

These could involve recognising the problem; analysing the problem; identifying the ethical issues and values and then prioritising the values in conflict. The steps combined should be able to help further minimise the impact of ethical problems.

Tourism Industry Problems essay

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Tourism Industry Problems. (2021, May 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/tourism-industry-problems/


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