Tourism growth and environmental sustainability: trade-off or convergence?

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Besides its socioeconomic benefits, tourism has been documented as one of the leading sectors with deleterious effects on the environment. This study investigates the relationship between tourism dynamics and environmental sustainability using biennial data for 148 countries over the period from 2006 to 2016. The first step develops a tourism growth index that encompasses various dimensions of tourism development and various panel cointegration techniques are then employed to characterize the dynamic association between environment sustainability and tourism growth. Empirical results reveal that tourism growth and environmental sustainability are indeed convergent not only for the full sample countries but also across geographical regions and socioeconomic clusters. In addition, a negative impact of tourism growth on the environmental welfare is evidenced in the long term; suggesting a trade-off between tourism activities and environment performance for the full sample over the past decade. At the regional level, similar finding is reported for Asia and Europe against a positive environmental impact for America and an inconclusive output for Africa. The observed difference might be attributed to the heterogeneity in the unsustainability level of regional tourism development with limited exposure for Africa and America. Interestingly, the convergence of tourism growth and environment well-being tends to exhibit varied speeds of adjustment across sample panels. The observed differences could be attributed to the country-level switching propensity from environment-harmful tourism practices as well as their socioeconomic characteristics. Consequently, policies geared towards minimizing the adverse environmental effects should be integrated with countries tourism management policies to enable the transition to sustainable tourism sector development. Thus, targeting nature tourism becomes a critical approach to tourism development rather than setting traditional goals such as number of visitors, income stream and employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8115-8144
Number of pages30
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Environment sustainability
  • Panel cointegration
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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