Blog post

Understanding tourism's impact on community wellbeing

As the UK moves slowly out of the Covid-19 lockdown, Professor Haywantee Ramkissoon, Head of the Visitor Economy Research Group at the University of Derby’s Derby Business School, considers what the implications of the pandemic have been for the tourism industry and how communities living in popular destinations can be supported to improve their quality of life. Her research draws on multi-disciplinary evidence from environmental, social and cognitive psychology, public health, political science and tourism, and aligns with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

29 April 2021

In the Covid-19 context and moving beyond the pandemic, how tourism impacts on residents’ quality of life, particularly those involved and dependent on tourism, cannot be overlooked. Without the necessary support, tourism businesses have struggled, and are still struggling, to survive.

International travel has been at its worst in tourism history, with one billion fewer international arrivals in 2020 (UNWTO, 2021).  That has real significance for the UK, as the tourism sector has long been an important contributor to Britain’s economy, generating £106 billion and supporting two million jobs in 2019.

As we continue our struggle with the virus, the UK government has introduced an independent review of destination management organisations to promote and strengthen the domestic tourism market and assist with a longer-term recovery from Covid-19 impacts (VisitBritain, 2021).

And, as we start promoting more domestic tourism across a number of destinations to contain the spread of the virus via international travel, an understanding of the factors that contribute to mental and physical wellbeing and quality of life of residents in the pandemic context is key. 

Residents’ perceived social impacts of tourism and their interpersonal trust can define their overall quality of life. The challenge is to advance quality of life research in exploring residents’ engagement and interactivity in their place settings in support of sustainable tourism development in - and post - the immediate health pandemic.

People on a desert island with palm trees and huts in the background

Protecting place through attachment

This requires that we develop and propose a number of mechanisms promoting healthy behaviours among residents for their mental, physical health and wellbeing.

A deeper focus on understanding residents’ perception of social tourism impacts their levels of trust with the people around them, and their emotional bonding with their place is important.

These factors can play a crucial role in influencing their overall quality of life when they participate actively and take pride in promoting their place as a tourist destination.

How residents’ desires are being met and their voices being heard may determine their receptiveness and support for tourism and tourists (domestic and international).

This may help reduce social conflicts and promote support for tourism. Promoting place attachment can contribute to restructuring the economy, allowing stakeholders to prepare for a more sustainable domestic and international tourism industry post-pandemic.

When people are place-attached, they may adopt pro-social and pro-environmental behaviours to protect their place to assist in its functional purpose (tourism benefits) and hence further support tourism development. This, in turn, can contribute to meet other key sustainability and wellbeing goals and promote residents’ quality of life.

People gathered in front of the Taj Mahal in India

Focus on tourist and resident satisfaction

Policymakers and practitioners need to adopt/reinforce the stakeholder engagement approach and develop tourism destinations that are socially sustainable.

Engagement in tourism planning as a key stakeholder can lead to feelings of happiness and promote place-protective behaviours. This can lend further support to tourism stakeholders including the government, and local community planners. Practitioners also need to consider how local people can benefit when setting up businesses.

With a focus on community involvement and participation and tourist satisfaction, they can provide experiences which contribute to both residents’ and tourists’ happiness and wellbeing, hence leading to better quality of life outcomes.

A harmonious relationship between residents, places, government, businesses and tourists could promote social sustainability and contribute to sustainable tourism development. It’s important to consider the mental health and wellness, and readiness of residents to welcome domestic and international tourists during and post the pandemic.

With several international air travel routes re-opening, some people cannot wait to go on their usual holidays. However, the pandemic has taught us that this may be premature, given what we have experienced with the mutated variants, with many governments currently warning against booking a foreign holiday.

This has important implications for those whose livelihoods depend on tourism, demanding a collaborative approach to address these concerns. It might be best is to use the Covid-19 context as a window of opportunity to develop domestic tourism while we get better prepared for international travels.

We need to re-visit our tourism strategies and concentrate on interventions designed for behaviour change, promoting healthier and safer behaviours among tourists, locals and those working in the tourism and hospitality businesses.

Target behaviours can include controlling the visitor flow at tourist sites and promoting hygienic behaviours such as no littering or spitting, hand washing and wearing face masks in the current pandemic.

Intervention designs are also required to foster pro-environmental and pro-social behaviours among both host and guests to promote more sustainable forms of tourism. This will have important implications for the domestic tourism market and international tourism during and post the pandemic, with broader implications for better and healthier societies.

Published in Journal of Sustainable Tourism

Ramkissoon, H. (2020). Perceived social impacts of tourism and quality-of-life: a new conceptual model. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1-17.

Ramkissoon, H. (2020). COVID-19 Place confinement, pro-social, pro-environmental behaviors, and residents’ wellbeing: A new conceptual framework. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2248.

Ramkissoon. H. (in press). Tourism and Behaviour Change. In D. Buhalis. Encyclopedia of Tourism Management and Marketing. Edward Elgar.

(Visitbritain, 2021) retrieved from



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