Nike: Tourism and Capacity Essay

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AOHT Sustainable Tourism
Lesson 3
The Need for Sustainable Tourism
Student Resources
Student Resource 3.1
Reading 1: Reaching Capacity
Student Resource 3.2
Worksheet: Reaching Capacity
Student Resource 3.3
Reading 2: The Impact of Superstructure on a Destination
Student Resource 3.4
Reading: Tourism Case Studies

Student Resource 3.1
Reading 1: Reaching Capacity

As you already know, ecological footprints measure the human demands on our planet against the earth’s ability to regenerate the resources we use. On a smaller scale, we can view tourist sites as mini-planets, each with their own limits, or carrying capacity, for managing human impact. We will discuss what carrying capacity means, as well as some of the ways it is measured.

Carrying capacity is a key concept for understanding how tourism can affect a destination. Carrying capacity is the number of people that a given area can support within its natural resource limits. If more people than this number use the destination, it starts to deteriorate. The natural social, cultural, and economic environment cannot remain in a healthy state for present and future generations. Put another way, carrying capacity measures how many people can be in a place comfortably, without causing too much wear and tear, so that the place can continue to comfortably hold that many people in the future.
To determine the carrying capacity of a tourist destination, planners have to look at a variety of factors. They often begin by analyzing the quality of resource management and the development and design of facilities. For example, is the lake that supplies the drinking water getting smaller every year because too many people are using it before it can refill itself? Are there plenty of places for visitors to eat?
These kinds of questions look at infrastructure and superstructure.

To provide services to tourists, a destination must first develop the necessary support systems, or infrastructure, to accommodate visitors. The infrastructure is the whole system of technology that a community depends on, such as roads, water supply, wastewater, power grids, and communications (e.g., Internet, phone lines, broadcasting). Infrastructure is the underlying foundation or basic system of organization of a place. In the case of tourism, infrastructure includes roads, ports, airports, utilities like electricity and water, and sewage systems.
In addition to infrastructure, superstructures are also needed for tourism. Superstructures are the facilities directly associated with serving visitors’ needs, such as welcome centers, hotels, restaurants, car rental facilities, stores, and tour operators.
How the infrastructure and superstructures are developed make a big difference in understanding the human impact on a place. Are there adequate roads, parking lots, and rest facilities? Does the architecture blend in with the landscape or do skyscrapers block a beautiful view? These are some of the questions to consider when you think about the sustainability of a destination.

Once a planner analyzes the infrastructure and superstructure of a tourist destination, it is possible to determine the first element of carrying capacity: physical capacity. Physical capacity is the number of people a place can hold, or accommodate. The physical capacity of a place depends on its infrastructure. If a destination has many good roads, big parking lots, and a good water and sewer system, it can hold a lot more people than a place with just a few roads, only a couple of small parking lots, and outdated water systems. Its physical capacity is greater. Superstructures, such as hotels for example, can also determine capacity. If a hotel is completely full, it’s a sign that a tourist destination has reached physical capacity. Bumper-to-bumper traffic in a national park, blanket-to-blanket sunbathers on a beach, and long lines at restaurants or shops are examples of tourist