What Impact Does Tourism Have in Coastal Areas in Spain

Category: Pollution, Spain, Tourism, Water
Last Updated: 15 Apr 2021
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According to Bramwell (2004) a third of the income of the Mediterranean comes from the tourism sector, as tourism is mainly concentrated in the coastal areas of Spain. Nowadays, tourism is indispensable. This paper focuses on the impact that mass tourism has on the coastal areas in Spain.

Bramwell (2004) states that since 1960, there has been a major growth in the tourism sector. Tourists who go to Spain especially travel to the Spanish coasts. In addition, the author argues that tourism has an impact on these areas and this paper will analyse impacts on the coastal areas. First, mass tourism will be defined and discussed, as it is very important to know what it means in order to understand the topic. Secondly, the cultural and social impacts of mass tourism in the Spanish coast are stated. Lastly, the outcomes of the research will be explained in the conclusion.

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What Is Mass Tourism and How Did Tourism Develop in Spain?

According to Wahab and Pigram (1997) mass tourism consists of three basic elements which concerns mainly cooperative group of travelling, cooperative accommodation and mindful integration of the holiday maker in a group of travellers (Wahab & Pigram, 1997). Page and Connell (2009) claims that mass tourism is, “a high volume of tourism that appeals to a large market”. Furthermore, they remark that it can change the area and its population which also concerns the coastal areas in Spain.

According to Gonzales (1996) general Franco dedicated his regime to the promotion of tourism as the main financial program in order to conquer the issues of their payments poverty in the country. Bramwell (2004) states that foreign investment tourism has developed expeditious centred primarily on the recreational zones of the Mediterranean coastline areas. Therefore, Bramwell (2004) maintains that international mass tourism began to develop in the coastal areas and islands of the Mediterranean Europe in the decades of the late 1950s.

The majority significant characteristics of Spanish tourism after the Second World War have been experiencing rapid growth in the visitor numbers and the combination of domestic and inbound middle and lower-class social groups, according to Bramwell (2004). The author discovered that large expansion in tourism came after the 1950s and the visitors totalled 47,7 million by the year 1986. Additionally, Spanish domestic tourism has subsidised considerably to the growth of mass tourism (Bramwell, 2004).

Bramwell (2004) discovered that another element that contributed to the growth of mass tourism was the introduction of package holidays, which are low priced. He states that the Spanish coastline became covered with hotels and flats funded by foreign financiers who presented low package holidays, which in return consumed less cash as well as not giving sufficient income for the countries balance of payment (Bramwell, 2004).

What Are the Cultural and Social Impacts of Tourism in the Coastal Areas of Spain?

The influences on the civilisation and culture of these coastal areas are particularly multidimensional, intricate and contested.

Tourism has acquired and provided individuals more financial and social independence from their family. Besides fathers are less powerful in families than before, even supposing that the family has preserved importance, including as a small “economic unit” that combines diverse sources of income from tourism. Furthermore, it has been argued that tourism has led to depopulation from the villages and a concentration of population in the towns (Bramwell, 2004). Besides, the impacts and consequences of the commercialisation of culture for tourism purposes caused many academic discussions.

With some depicting this process as fundamentally destructive of the meaning through which local inhabitants organise their lives (Greenwood, 1989: 179). Certainly, this tourist commercialisation can affect inhabitants’ culture, however it must not be expected that people automatically are incompetent to withstand these pressures whether local cultures should somehow kept fixed. Nevertheless, mass tourism changes the behaviour of the inhabitants from the coastal areas. The inhabitants adapt to the tourists behaviour due to the fact that they want to make money out of these tourists.

Tourists wear different clothes, eat different food and interact differently with each other. An example is that in restaurants, Dutch, German food can be ordered. With the arrival of the first tourists in the late 1950s, bikinis were prohibited however an exception for tourists was made. The culture in an area changes slowly and finally can disappear due to tourism. Although, certain inhabitants of the coastal areas attach to the old-fashioned things, as tourists like to see cultural things such as traditional costumes and traditional dances.

Regularly, tourists think that inhabitants of the tourism areas still live like these old traditions, while this is not the case (van Rooden, 2010). Also other significant influences on changes in their society, in particular the effects of mass media, increasing living standards, and the evolving awareness of environmental concerns (Bramwell, 2003: 598). According to Salva Tomas(1991) the rapid growth of tourism in the Spanish Balearic islands has encouraged population expansion. Furthermore the islands’ appeared as one of the wealthiest regions in southern Europe.

Besides, Vidal Bendito (1994) is serious about focusing entirely on the impact of tourism on these islands, as a demographic and economical data shows that the Balearic society modernised already before the beginning of mass tourism. Regarding multinational food chains, McDonalds for example, are global and put an end to the unique quality of a location. Universal forms in music, fashion and films lead to a westernisation of civilisation and cultures. Furthermore, it brings down the tourist knowledge and harms the local cultural systems.

Above all, in certain countries religious dances may be commercialised and promoted, glamorised for western visitors and performed out of context. As well there may be trivialising of local trades such as woodworks and mass production of souvenirs (Bramwell, 2004).

What Impact Does Mass Tourism Have on the Economy and Environment of Spain?

Mass tourism provides more jobs for the local inhabitants in the coastal areas of Spain. The inhabitants of the areas work in restaurants, hotels and cafes. Furthermore, they maintain beach chair rentals and sell souvenirs.

Many other benefits have been created through tourism, such as hotels, apartments, roads, railways, waterworks, and restaurants have provided many jobs. Companies from the coastal areas earn lots of money to manufacture and building. Likewise, cleaning companies, travel agencies, bus companies and information agencies are needed. The local citizen discovered methods and businesses to get income via mass tourism, mainly they own bike rentals, miniature golf courses, or amuse tourists with their speedboats. source) Previously, small fishing villages had a high unemployment however this totally changed by the development of mass tourism. Therefore, many people are happy with the development of tourism in the coastal areas of Spain (van Rooden, 2010) The socio-economic disadvantages of this industry contain the possibility for revenue leakage from the local economy to tour operators and carriers in origin countries, and its focus of low-level workers who are badly paid and employed aptly to the rise and fall in tourism (Bramwell, 2004).

Frequently, tourism is associated with complications of seasonal job losses and stages of long hours of intense work, according to Urry (1990: 66 – 88). Therefore, the low payments often contribute to the forms of differences among the populations of tourist areas. Furthermore, there can be critical differences in the distribution of tourism between parts of capital, for instance between tour operators which operate external, and local tourism businesses which are on a smaller scale, as well between different districts. Since the 1960s millions of tourists visit the Spanish coasts.

In order to meet the ever-growing demand, large-scale apartment complexes and hotels along the coasts resurrected. Furthermore, construction of new resorts is continuing nowadays. The result is that many of these beach destinations along the Spanish coast suffer from horizon pollution. This implies that hotels and apartment complexes will rise in the height and only front accommodations have sea views, which shows that the agricultural policy aimed at rapid growth rather than sustainability. A range of accommodations dates back to the 1950s or 1960s, which often are expired nowadays.

Consequently, outdated accommodations attract young travelers who bargain to for example Salou and Lloret de Mar. However, these inexpensive trips do hardly contribute to the local economy (Stichting Fair Tourism, 2012). To turn to the rapid growth, the environmental and temporal attentiveness of the industry often have enhanced its environmental influences (Shaw&Williams, 1994). The ability of infrastructure in an area exceeded the rapid increase of several resorts at that time. Particularly, the demanding summer months resulted to strong environmental concerns (Sharpley, 2000: 283).

Occasionally, these concerns display in defects in road facilities and substrates, collection and discard of refuse, sewage collection systems and water purification. Particularly, where local government is not used to the new intensities of demand, where is a lack of applicable competences or is underfinanced (Priestley & Mundet, 1998: 92). The conjunction of laws in pro-developments and the absence of implementation and enforcement of the principles of land-use and environmental regulation has occasioned in difficulties such as landscape ilapidation, sea pollution, devastation of ecosystem, loss of useful agrarian land and the mixing of inconsistent land usage (Bramwell, 2004). Moreover, almost all disposable products are imported, which in itself is harmful to the environment. Al disposable items are a huge waste. A tourist produces 50% more waste than a local inhabitant. Additionally, a Spanish citizen uses around 250 liters of water per day, while a tourist uses an average of 900 liters. These numbers include use of swimming pools and golf courses.

The huge water consumption of tourists in Spain is a major problem, since the coastal areas already suffer from water scarcity. The wastewater from hotels and other tourist facilities are not handled well. This, in fact is being dumped into the sea a view miles away from the coast (Stichting Fair Tourism, 2012). While developments along Spanish coasts in second-home and retirement home are frequently built at lower volume fractions, this reduced spatial concentration itself can have negative consequences. Including, the more major losses of agricultural land and pollution from traffic is an impact of increased travel distances.

Furthermore, the developments of tourism contribute to diverse pressures on environmental resources in coastal areas, including the stones and sand used for building materials (Bramwell, 2004).


Based on the findings presented in the previous part it can be concluded that tourism has played a tremendous role in the coastal areas of Spain. The development of tourism since the late 1950s has caused many changes in those areas and therefore it has numerous influences in various fields. Since tourism is indispensable, masses of tourists visit the Spanish coastal areas each year.

The tourism industry has left its traces and therefore it is important to be aware of this. There are undoubtedly economic benefits from mass tourism as families become more independent. Furthermore, villages become less inhabited as there are many sources of income in the coastal areas. Additionally, mass tourism leads to a westernisation of civilisation and cultures, wherefore it brings down the tourist knowledge and harms the local cultural systems. All in all, it can be said that tourism has many advantages and disadvantages.

When coming to all the above-mentioned facts, there are generally more disadvantages. It has been argued that, it is very important that tourists become more aware of the downside of tourism. Tourists depart every week however the Spanish inhabitants have to deal with all the consequences of tourism, as they will live there all their lives.


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What Impact Does Tourism Have in Coastal Areas in Spain. (2017, Apr 10). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/what-impact-does-tourism-have-in-coastal-areas-in-spain-since-late-1950s/

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