Tourism: A Helping but Harmful Hand


This image provides a clear view underwater of Florida’s ecosystem.

Florida’s main income is its huge tourism industry. Florida’s economy is the fourth highest in the US. Tourism might be good for Florida’s economy but how does it affect the environment? With over 137 million people visiting Florida each year, the land, animals, and natural habitats of our large peninsula are in harm’s way. 

Florida’s tourism industry supplies a lot of money to support the state. “In 2021, Florida visitors contributed $101.9 billion (about $310 per person in the US) to Florida’s economy and supported over 1.7 million Florida jobs.” Visit Florida explained how dependent Florida is on their visitors on their (Visit Florida) About Us Page. Visit Florida is a non-profit company that is focused on the tourism aspect of Florida. The website supplies information on Florida for incoming tourists. Information such as top spots for food, hotels, and beaches can be found. 

When traveling to Florida’s “perfect” beaches, this is majority of what you see. (Photo taken by Palm Beach Post)

Tourism does a number of things for Florida’s economy. With people coming to visit the state, they obviously spend money. When that money is spent, it goes back to the state itself. “Tourists spend money on travel, lodging, food and beverage and in retail stores thus creating direct income, government revenue (taxes) and employment.” Bangor Daily News wrote a story on money earned from tourism. It is clear just by the headline of the article in the argument of “Is tourism helpful or harmful” they would take the side of helpful. Yes, tourism does provide jobs and lower taxes for those living in the state. But is it really more important then the safety of our planet?

While tourism helps our economy, it doesn’t really provide help to Florida’s natural ecosystems. Sandy beaches, heavenly clear springs, and not so nasty wetlands all make up Florida’s ideal ecosystems. Inside these ecosystems creatures of all sizes are spotted. Alongside these organisms, people co-live in these areas. But these small areas can only take so many people. Including Florida’s large population and its tourists, 11,545 people take up one square foot of Florida land. The poor ecosystems cannot deal with all the effects people have on the environment. Those 11,545 people make 184,722 tons of pollutants in one year.  

These signs can be seen across beaches when Red Tide gets very bad. (Photo taken by Sarasota County)

One of the main harms to Florida caused by pollutants is Red Tide. Red tide is a harmful algae bloom that produces toxins affecting the respiratory system of organisms. “Red tides, also called harmful algal blooms (HABs), occur when microscopic algae multiply to higher-than-normal concentrations, often discoloring the water.” (“Red tides and algal blooms, facts and information (2023)” Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) explained what this harmful microorganism is caused by. This deadly bloom killed 800 tons in 2021 alone. These toxic blooms are caused by people. Specifically farming, human sewage, and other mineral run off caused by human activities. 

Large housing districts, similar to these cause huge environmental issues. (Photo taken by Investopedia)

Red tide is not the only way tourism harms the natural land. With more and more people visiting Florida each year the state will continuously need to make more space. This is done by destroying forests, beaches, and wetlands for new buildings. Most of these buildings aren’t necessary. When the current state already has a Starbucks every 2 feet, Florida still adds more. It’s not just Starbucks or restaurants. Just in Wesley Chapel alone there is always a new neighborhood or hotel being built for those coming to visit and/or stay. By destroying all this land for human growth we are greatly harming Florida’s natural beauty.

Getting to the point, the entire argument of tourism comes down to money. It comes down to whether the state can make enough money. Money itself is a very crazy and weird concept. The movie Blow does a good job explaining the concept of a piece of paper having worth. “Money isn’t real, George. It doesn’t matter. It only seems like it does.” (Fred Jung played by Ray Liotta). It’s hilarious to “step back from reality” and consider the conception of money. The only reason US dollars or Euro’s have any worth is because people make it worth something. In theory if humans didn’t have an idea they could pay for something, the whole population wouldn’t have this set idea of “we need money”.

So the question actually is, is the destroying of the environment worth a piece of paper? The answer should always be no. The human generation has only be on Earth for 200,000 years. The gl0be can only sustain so much damage. There will never be an official decider on whether tourism is bad, it’s clear it has huge effects. It doesn’t matter if it’s pollution causing red tide or needing more space and demolishing Florida’s land. Sure tourism provides help to those currently living in the state, but none of that will matter in the long run. How much money won’t matter to your great great grandchildren as much as still having enough trees to be able to breathe properly.