Global Tourism Controversies

November 9, 2018 – Volume 28, Issue 40
Are destinations at risk from too many visitors? By Barbara Mantel

Current Situation

Hotel Workers Strike

The global tourism industry is facing a host of challenges, ranging from labor strikes to climate change.

Guests at 21 Marriott International hotels in six cities across Massachusetts, California and Hawaii have to cross picket lines as more than 7,000 hotel employees strike at the world's largest hotel chain. Strikers at two hotels, in Oakland, Calif., and Detroit, reached an agreement with Marriott early this month.64

Striking hotel workers walk a picket line in front of a Marriott hotel (AP Photo/Ben Margot)  
Striking hotel workers walk a picket line in front of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco on Oct. 4, 2018. Thousands of workers at the world's largest hotel chain walked out in early October after negotiations for a new labor contract and higher wages failed. The strike is among the challenges facing the tourism industry. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The walkout began in early October, after months of fruitless negotiations between Marriott and Unite Here, which represents approximately 20,000 of the hotel's workers, over the terms of new labor contracts. It is the largest multicity hotel worker strike in U.S. history, according to the union.65

Housekeepers, front-desk attendants, restaurant employees and other non-management workers have joined the strike and are seeking higher pay, employee participation in decisions about automation and improvements in worker safety. “We are encouraged by the progress achieved in resolving the strikes in Oakland and Detroit with strong, fair contracts, and are hopeful that similar progress can be achieved in the other six cities still on strike,” said D. Taylor, international president of Unite Here. The union said it will release contract details once all strikes end.66

The average hourly wage for workers in food preparation in the hotel industry is $11.80, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For maintenance and cleaning workers, it is $11.07.67

“We're starting with the biggest and the richest hotel company and after that we are absolutely going to ensure that all the other hotel companies are giving workers enough pay so they're able to work with dignity,” said Unite Here spokeswoman Rachel Gumpert.68

Travelers are taking notice of the strike and registering their complaints on TripAdvisor. One October guest who stayed at the Westin Boston Waterfront wrote, “We witnessed 2 bar employees FIST FIGHTING. We were and are absolutely horrified!!! When we spoke to the front desk about it at a later time, we were told they were ‘just the replacement bar staff’ due to the strike.”69

In a statement issued before the recent settlements, Marriott said it is “disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike instead of attempting to resolve these disputes at the bargaining table.”70

National Park Funding

Bills to fund long-neglected repairs on National Park Service lands are gaining public support as they move through Congress. The Restore Our Parks Act in the Senate and a similar measure in the House would provide $6.5 billion over five years to reduce $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance. The money would come from existing, unallocated revenues the government receives from energy development.71

The legislation has garnered the support of congressional Democrats and Republicans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and an array of travel and business groups.

“It is critical to preserve and protect our national parks to benefit generations to come,” said Tori Barnes, senior vice president of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association in Washington, a membership organization that lobbies on behalf of the travel industry. “In 2017 alone, visitors to national parks spent $18 billion in gateway communities, which supported thousands of local jobs and fueled nearby businesses, like restaurants, hotels and retail shops.”72

Conservationists also praised the bill but said Congress should do far more.

“America's public lands and wildlife are inextricably linked — and require dedicated funding to conserve and protect them,” said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental advocacy organization in Reston, Va. O'Mara called on Congress to find a similar bipartisan solution to increase funding for wildlife habitat.73

The deterioration in many of the National Park Service's 417 units — national parks, battlefields, national monuments and other lands — is significant and sometimes dangerous, said Marcia Argust and Tom Wathen, who head conservation efforts at the Pew Charitable Trusts, a global research and public policy organization in Philadelphia, and support the bills' passage. “Now, deteriorating historic buildings, eroding trails, outdated water and electrical systems, unsafe roads, disintegrating monuments and timeworn campgrounds, waterfronts and visitor centers need repairs,” they wrote in a September op-ed.74

Both bills have been reported out of committee to the full chambers for action. The number of co-sponsors is growing: As of early November, 17 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one independent are co-sponsors of the Senate version. In the House, 128 Democrats and 84 Republicans are co-sponsors. Supporters are hoping that Congress will turn its attention to the bills by year-end.75

Climate Change and Tourism

Ferrara, Italy, is known among tourists for its architecture dating to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and for its bicycle-riding citizens.

It also is one of 37 World Heritage Sites around the Mediterranean at risk of being inundated by water in a 100-year flood because of rising seas, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature Communications. 76

The researchers analyzed 49 cultural World Heritage Sites — places that illustrate a significant stage in human history — in low-lying coastal areas of the Mediterranean, many of them popular tourist draws. Rising seas also are causing coastal erosion, and the researchers determined that 42 of the sites are at risk.

Historic sites in the Northern Adriatic are most in danger from rising seas, from the Palladian buildings in Vicenza just east of Venice to several ancient cities across the water in Croatia. And the risk will only grow as sea levels continue to rise. “Until 2100, flood risk may increase by 50 percent and erosion risk by 13 percent across the region, with considerably higher increases at individual World Heritage Sites,” the researchers said.

Tourists pack a street in Dubrovnik, Croatia (AFP/Getty Images/Savo Prelevic)  
Tourists pack a street in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Aug. 6, 2018. The coastal city, a World Heritage Site, began limiting the number of visitors to its historic old town in 2017 because of the crowds. Popular tourist locations are looking for ways to protect residents' quality of life while keeping visits enjoyable for tourists. (AFP/Getty Images/Savo Prelevic)

Each country is responsible for managing its World Heritage Sites, but management plans rarely consider how to adapt to sea level rise, according to the study.

“We cannot put a value on what we will lose,” said Lena Reimann, a researcher at Kiel University in Germany and the study's lead author. “It's our heritage — things that are signs of our civilization…. It's more an ethical question, a moral question. We will not be able to replace them once they are lost.”77

While climate change hurts the tourism industry, tourism also contributes to global warming, according to the UNWTO.78

The tourism industry generates four times more CO2, a greenhouse gas and driver of global warming, than thought, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in June. The industry accounts for 8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, it said, and “the majority of this footprint is exerted by and in high-income countries.”79

The UNWTO urges tourists around the world to plan trips closer to home and to rely more on public transportation and less on flying. It also urges tourism operators to reduce energy use and to switch to alternative forms of energy. “Our findings provide proof that so far these mitigation strategies have yielded limited success,” the researchers said.80

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Go to Outlook

[64] “Hotel Workers Reach Settlements With Marriott in Oakland, Detroit; Marriott Strikes Continue in 6 Other Cities,” Marriott Travel Alert, Nov. 4, 2018,

[65] “Marriott Strike Escalates With Largest Yet Actions in National Day of Mass Action,” Unite Here, Oct. 19, 2018,

[66] “Hotel Workers Reach Settlements With Marriott in Oakland, Detroit; Marriott Strikes Continue in 6 Other Cities,” op. cit.

[67] “May 2017 National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: NAICS 721100 — Traveler Accommodation,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 30, 2018,

[68] Ting, op. cit.

[69] “The Westin Boston Waterfront,” Trip Advisor,

[70] Nancy Trejos, “Marriott workers on strike in eight US cities,” USA Today, Oct. 8, 2018,

[71] Marcia Argust, “Restore America's Parks,” Pew Charitable Trusts,

[72] “Bishop, Grijalva Introduce Bill to Establish a Fund Addressing National Park Maintenance Backlog,” House Committee on Natural Resources, July 25, 2018,

[73] Kellie Lunney, “Rare bipartisan cheer for rollout of ‘fix our parks’ bill,” E&E News, July 25, 2018,

[74] Marcia Argust and Tom Wathen, “Restoring our national parks would be a bipartisan win for Congress,” The Hill, Sept. 5, 2018,

[75] S.3172: Restore Our Parks Act, GovTrack,; S.3172 — Restore Our Parks Act,,; H.R.6510 — Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,

[76] Lena Reimann et al., “Mediterranean UNESCO World Heritage at risk from coastal flooding and erosion due to sea-level rise,” Nature Communications, Oct. 16, 2018,

[77] Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis, “The latest thing climate change is threatening is our history,” The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2018,

[78] “FAQ — Climate Change and Tourism,” World Tourism Organization,

[79] Lenzen et al., op. cit.

[80] Ibid., p. 526.

Document APA Citation
Mantel, B. (2018, November 9). Global tourism controversies. CQ researcher, 28, 945-968. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2018110905
Document URL:
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Tourism and Vacation
Nov. 09, 2018  Global Tourism Controversies
Oct. 20, 2006  Ecotourism
Jun. 17, 1988  America's ‘Vacation Gap’
May 04, 1984  Tourism's Economic Impact
Jul. 21, 1978  Tourism Boom
May 14, 1969  Summer Camps and Student Travel
May 18, 1966  Tourist Dollar Gap
Apr. 19, 1961  Two-Way Tourism
Jul. 20, 1955  Competition for Passenger Travel
Jul. 03, 1946  Travel Boom
Jun. 17, 1930  Foreign and Domestic Tourist Traffic
Climate Change
Consumer Behavior
General International Relations
Historic Preservation
Internet and Social Media
Land Resources and Property Rights
Motor Traffic and Roads
National Parks and Reserves
Popular Culture
Recycling and Solid Waste
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Regulation and Deregulation
Travel and Tourism
Waterways and Harbors
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