Community impact

Hotels and other accommodation offers can have direct negative impacts on surrounding communities, not only during development and construction, but also in their daily business. 

When planning new hotels and accommodation offers, hotel companies and developers often fail to sufficiently take the interests and needs of local communities into account. In some cases, land for construction is illegally purchased (sometimes unwittingly) and local communities evicted without receiving appropriate compensation and opportunities to build a new livelihood. Indigenous peoples and traditional fishing communities are particularly vulnerable as they live on land which is often desirable for accommodation development (beach resorts, lodges close to nature reserves) and their land rights are often not secured by title deeds.

Once built, hotel infrastructure can inflate the prices of housing and goods and cause a shortage of and reduced access to water and other natural resources, loss of agricultural land and related income opportunities and restricted mobility. It can also lead to restricted access to beaches and subsequent loss of income opportunities for fishermen, and increased wastage.

Furthermore, inadequate consultation with local stakeholders and communities by hotels and accommodation offers pose the risk of economic leakage, meaning that only a fraction of the money tourists spend in hotels benefits the local community. This is the case when most of the tourism revenues flow to large international hotel chains, mostly international staff are contracted and products such as food, drinks, or souvenirs are imported from abroad or bought through intermediaries and not the local neighbouring communities.

In addition, mostly small and locally owned hotels and guesthouses often face challenges meeting the standards set by European tour operators. They are therefore sometimes not considered for tour operators’ offers and therefore accommodate less international tourists.

All-inclusive hotels and resorts have been found to have particularly negative economic effects on local communities in some destinations. With guests not leaving the hotel compounds, other local businesses, such as restaurants, shops, taxi drivers and small guest houses, may lose important income, sometimes resulting in them shutting down. This in turn can lead to tourists refraining from spending their holidays in these locations, as there are fewer offers for lodging and eating.

Land grabbing: Sri Lanka
Rising prices: Mallorca
Access to beaches: Sri Lanka
All-inclusive hotels: Kenya
Testimonies of a tourist conflict: Costa Rica
Territorial dispossession: Panama
Tourism drive vs. climate resilience: Antigua and Barbuda
Land grabbing: Sri Lanka

Land grabbing for tourism projects in Sri Lanka

Without informing the inhabitants of the village of Panama in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Agency (SLTDA) developed a tourism project on their lands under the patronage of the World Bank. 350 families from the village were affected by the project and had to move another place. The families were told their land was being taken to be used for a military camp. The former inhabitants only learned at a later stage that a hotel had been built on their lands, which is run by the Sri Lankan navy. The report by the Society for Threatened Peoples highlights many similar examples of military-run tourism projects in Sri Lanka, which were built at the expenses of local communities.

Rising prices: Mallorca

Rising prices because of private holiday homes

With the ever-rising number of tourists to Mallorca, the number of private holiday homes has increased exorbitantly in recent years and such offers are becoming more and more popular. According to reports, almost a third of all visitors no longer stay in official hotels, but in informal accommodation, such as AirBnB or private holiday apartments. Many of these accommodations are rented unofficially and thus bypass the tax office. It is estimated that in addition to the 350,000 or more official beds on Mallorca, at least 100,000 illegal beds are being offered. To curb these negative effects, a new Tourism Act was installed in 2017, imposing severe penalties for illegal vacation rental without the necessary licenses.

Access to beaches: Sri Lanka

Restricted access to beaches for fishermen

In Sri Lanka, fishing is a family business and often involves entire families. For their business, fishermen need access to beaches. When boats can be moored close to the villages, women can support their husbands to get the fish out of the nets and sell them to intermediaries. If the mooring areas are difficult to reach because of beach resorts and restricted access to beaches, women may be excluded from the fishery production. This may cause a significant loss of income from fish sales and thereby put the livelihoods of entire families at stake.

All-inclusive hotels: Kenya

World Bank study on Kenya's tourism sector

The World Bank found that all-inclusive packages, which tend to place the greatest demand on local natural assets and infrastructure, appear to be contributing the least to public sector revenue in Mombasa on the Kenyan coast.

Testimonies of a tourist conflict: Costa Rica

Testimonies of a tourist conflict in Guanacaste

This article provides information on what progress or decline has been in the conflict between the community and real estate developments in Marbella, Costa Rica.

Territorial dispossession: Panama

Best Practice - The Red Frog Beach

The tourist complex Red Frog Beach projected in the Island of Bastimentos, in Panama, is an example of the local communities' mobilization to face the property speculation threat and the use of natural resources linked to tourism.

Tourism drive vs. climate resilience: Antigua and Barbuda

Effect of coastal developments on climate resilience

The issue of important ecosystems being removed in order to build new beaches or resorts is more relevant than ever. The linked article describes the situation of two Caribbean islands, Antigua and Barbuda, where Chinese investors continue their construction projects despite damaged ecosystems. In addition, the article highlights the importance of ecosystems such as the mangroves and explains the current tourism drives and new Chinese rules.

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Take action

Policy and process

  • Integrate clauses in the (Supplier) Code of Conduct to respect local communities and to prevent the exacerbation of ongoing or the creation of new (legal) disputes over land ownership through hotels and accommodation offers (business partners).

Impact assessment

  • Consult local stakeholders and potentially affected rightsholders in the context of an in-depth human rights impact assessment on potential/actual issues related to the hotel industry.

Training and capacity building

  • Offer trainings and capacity building measures on community impact and inclusion of hotels and accommodation offers for direct suppliers or encourage business partners to carry out such trainings themselves.
  • Offer trainings and capacity building for locally-owned guesthouses and hotels on international (quality) standards to ensure they can receive international tourists.

Responsible product development

  • Consider the needs of and potential impacts on local communities when planning new accommodation offers.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.