Environmental Impacts of Tourism on Los Angeles

Environmental Impacts of Tourism on Los Angeles



Tutor’s Name

11th, December 2012


There is a relationship between tourism and the environment, as tourism in any place highly relies on the quality of the environment of the place. However, the relationship between tourism and the environment is quite sophisticated, as tourism comprises many activities, which can turn out to be detrimental to the environment. These activities are elements of tourism development and may include the construction of resort hotels, marinas; golf courses, roads, as well as airports (“Travel Weekly”) Tourism development is therefore the main tourism factor that influences the environment. In addition, apart from the adverse effects of tourism development on the environment, it can also result in positive effects on the environment. This will mainly include the protection and conservation of the environment.

Los Angeles located in the Southern California, is a populous city, whose coastal nature makes it a hub for various aesthetic human activities, including tourism. However, the highly urbanized coastal city faces many threats due to the increased human activities in the area, including plans to develop on all the remaining open space. This case continues to fuel heated debates between the government, environmentalists, and developers. Available coastal resources for tourism in the city include beaches, coastal marshes, boardwalks, and ecological attractions such as kelp forests, tide pools, and coastal marshes (“Travel Weekly”).

In Los Angeles, the impact of tourism presents the area with a variety of effects. The high population of Los Angeles city puts pressure on the available natural resources, which are limited. Natural resources include soil, forests, fossil fuels, wildlife, and wetland. Both the residents of Los Angeles and tourists all struggle to experience the resources. On the other hand, humans put a direct pressure on the land’s renewable and non-renewable energy. The construction of multiple skyscrapers in Los Angeles area, for tourists’ accommodation facilities has put pressure on the land, leading to degradation (Schott, 2010).

Tourism has led to different forms of pollution in Los Angeles city. The largest percentage of air pollution and noise pollution by tourism is generated by the transport sector (Lumsdon, 2000). Accommodation is the second largest polluter of the environment, followed by tourist activities. In tourism related transport, the maritime ship emissions contribute to the pollution in the area of Los Angeles. These mainly release Nitrogen Oxides in the atmosphere. This happens along the Los Angeles – Long Beach area of California, which is USA’s busiest port, and with high level of pollution. The original meaning of the name Los Angeles is “valley of smoke.” This is because of the smog that covers the area. The population relies heavily on automobiles for transport of both the tourists and local residents. According to Lumsdon (2000), the aircrafts flying in and out of Los Angeles have contributed to the smog in the city, and this has resulted in increased respiratory diseases in people living close to the airport. In addition, the Long Beach port issue has also contributed to the air pollution of the region. The cruiseships are also another source of air pollution due to the smoke they emit. Similarly, airplanes, buses, and cars cause noise pollution in Los Angeles. In addition, the modern recreational vehicles such as jet skis and snowmobiles too pollute the environment (Lumsdon, 2000).

Tourism has also led to increased waste and littering in Los Angeles. Foreign and local tourists on trips use items such as water bottles and juice cans, which are disposable. This is because of the reluctance to engage in washing, which to them is a tiresome process. Most of them end up throwing these disposable items anyhow, thus littering the environment. These solid wastes are washed away by rainwater and end up in rivers or the ocean (Schott, 2010). This contributes to pollution of the water. Wastes on the shoreline and in the ocean distort the physical attractiveness of the coastal area, as well as causing death of aquatic organisms through suffocation. In the mountainous regions of Los Angeles, tourists on trekking expeditions have left behind their camping equipment, including oxygen cylinders, in addition to the garbage they leave behind. This has led to the degradation of the environment (Schott, 2010).

Water pollution is another environmental effect of tourism on the environment. In Loa Angeles, this comes in form of runoff, which is polluted. This mainly affects the water in the ocean as the runoff flows down the ocean. When it rains, the flowing water picks up pollutants on streets, parking lots, buildings, yards, and golf courses. Both the tourists as well as the local residents litter all these pollutants. This water flows down the ocean through the creeks, and causes water pollution. Consequently, the pollutants are detrimental to the life of aquatic organisms, which may end up dying. Similarly, the development of many tourist hotels and recreational facilities has resulted in the increase of sewage pollution. Wastewater from hotels dumped in water bodies lead also lead to death of marine organisms, thus having a considerable destruction of flora and fauna. Algae have sometimes affected coral reefs in Los Angeles as the sewage pollution triggers their growth. This also results in changes of the water’s salinity, therefore having a variety of adverse effects on the coastal environment, including death of marine organisms.

Physical damage is caused by human activities in tourism. This results in the damage of fauna and flora. The massive number of tourists in Los Angeles, in addition to the local tourists, tromps carelessly in forests. They smash the delicate flower gardens, thus leaving a less beautiful sight. Theses grasses, gardens, and forests, which are tromped act as habitat for different small animals and insects, therefore, this poses a threat to the survival of these small organisms.

Generally, tourism development puts a strain on the already scarce natural resources. Water is a natural resource, and fresh water is regarded as an important natural resource. In Los Angeles, there are many tourist hotels, which serve the different recreational needs of tourists. These hotels receive a high supply of water, which sometimes can be considered as an overuse. This water goes to these hotels to serve the tourists’ personal use, in golf courses, for hotel use, and to fill swimming pools in hotels. It is estimated that an average golf course may require close to 1800kgs of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides annually and needs water equal to volumes used by 60 000 people in the rural areas. This results in the generation of large amounts of wastewater, and may result in future scarcity and shortages of water, degradation of water.

Tourists and the residents close to 150 million times a year visit the Los Angeles beach. Therefore keeping the beaches clean is a priority for the government. The state government has adopted various strategies to counter the rate of pollution experienced in the Los Angeles beaches and other areas of tourist attraction in the environment. The State Water Resources Board (SWRB) monitors quality of water (Scott, Hall & Gossling, 2012). The detection of harmful pathogens has called for combined efforts of the SWRB, with local health departments to disseminate warning information to people and to ensure the waters are cleaned appropriately. The state has also invested in projects concerned with beach cleaning. It has set aside $100 million for Clean Beach Initiative grants that fund the local programs of beach cleaning to lower the degree of bacterial contamination along the coast. The state also funds research for the development of more effective detection methods. This helps in determining when to call for beach closures and to track for sources of beach contamination. In addition, the study of relationship between bacterial indicators and incidence of disease is underway.  The state of California is also working to ensure the residents adopt low-emission vehicles to lower the rate of air pollution (Scott, Hall & Gossling, 2012).

Conclusively, tourism continues to affect the environment in Los Angeles. However, the impact tourism has on the environment in Los Angeles is not positive, as it has resulted in dangerous effects to the environment. Different forms of pollution eventually lead to health hazards in people and other living organisms. Other impacts on the physical terrain such as congestion of buildings, which exert pressure on land, may lead to the destabilization of the land surface, which could further result in shifting of land. This situation therefore, calls for an urgent intervention to lessen the negative impacts. It is therefore, important that Los Angeles and other cities adopt ecotourism. This kind of tourism is mindful of the environment and friendly to the human population around. This tourism type also enhances conservation of the environment and other natural resources. Ecotourism is the solution to the environmental problems caused by tourism in Los Angeles.



“Travel Weekly.” (n.d) Los Angeles Travel Guide. Web. Retrieved


Lumsdon, L (2000). “Transport and Tourism: Cycle Tourism – A Model for Sustainable

Development?” Journal of Sustainable Tourism Vol. 8:5 (361-377). 2000

Scott, D., Hall, M. & Gossling, S. (2012). “Tourism and Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation

and Mitigation.” Routledge, New York.

Schott, C. (2010) “Tourism and the Implications of Climate Change: Issues and Actions.”

Emerald Group Publishing, London.


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