With the rapid development of tourism industry in China since 1980, the country has experienced an increasing use of its natural and cultural environment for tourism, resulting in tourism resources being adversely impacted in many tourism destinations. This paper described the research progress in tourism impacts on the environment in the context of China through a review of the growing literature in this field. Specifically, research on tourism impacts on the biophysical and socio-cultural environments, tourism carrying capacity, environmental quality assessment, and measures for the protection and management of tourism resources was reviewed. The review found that the majority of research was qualitative and descriptive in nature, and there was a lack of case studies and theoretical development. Future research should focus on the evaluation of environmental impacts, particularly those gradual cumulative impacts on the tourism environment; examination of the quantitative relationship between the impact and the level of tourism use for different activities; development of methods to estimate the carrying capacity; and understanding of positive impacts of tourism.
Copyright © 2011. Published by Elsevier Ltd.