Does tourism contribute to residents’ health? Results from Europe

Tourist in Amsterdam

Last month, UPT researchers Anna Bornioli, Susan Vermeulen, Jeroen Van Haaren and Giuliano Mingardo published a study on the effects of tourism pressure on the self-reported health of residents. The study is part of the European project SMARTDEST funded by Horizon 2020. Read more about this research here!

Tourism & health

Understanding the impacts of tourism on the quality of life of residents is a priority for the sustainable tourism agenda and is especially relevant in the recovery post COVID-19. People tend to assume that tourism has positive effects for residents; but is this always the case?

To verify this, we examined the effects of tourism stays on self-perceived health of different groups of residents in European regions using data from Eurostat, EU-SILC, Labor Force Survey and other secondary sources from 2013 and 2018. In our analyses we differentiated the effects on different age groups and residence type (e.g., living in cities, towns, or rural areas).

Younger residents living in cities lose out

We found that tourism has a positive effect on self-reported health only among residents aged over 50 years old living in rural contexts, or over 65 living in towns. For younger groups (under 50) living in high density cities, tourism seemed to have worsen self-reported health over the study period. Hence, urban residents and younger groups do not benefit from tourism in terms of health. This might be due to the several side effects of tourism, such as increased living costs, precarious labor, conflicts related to public space. These might be particularly problematic for younger residents, who might be precarious and not financially stable.

In conclusion, our findings challenge the narrative that urban tourism universally improves residents’ quality of life. Considering the global urgency of creating healthier and more equitable post-COVID-19 cities and societies, the side effects of tourism in cities deserve more attention.

The full article is available open access at https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/14/3/1157

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Anna Bornioli

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