Tourism & Natural Resources

Tourism is a global phenomenon that for its success depends on the physical environment and a wide range of natural resources, including water, energy, wildlife, food, and landscapes. Tourism has a significant impact on natural resources and the environment, while it can also contribute to the conservation of these same resources.

The case of Tourism & Natural Resources

Locally, tourism affects the quality, availability and accessibility of natural resources for local users. Regionally, tourism provides revenue for nature conservation, but also contributes to problems such as acidification (through transport-related emissions) and water scarcity. Globally, tourism exacerbates problems such as climate change and the so-called plastic soup, by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and waste to the world’s oceans. In response to these challenges, initiatives have been developed by a range of actors aimed at conserving natural resources (e.g. water, energy), contributing financially to nature conservation (e.g. terrestrial or marine protected areas), stimulating tourist consumers to sustainable choices and practices (e.g. labels, review systems, apps), trying to adapt the tourism sector to  environmental change, etc. Research, in its turn, aims to understand the complex and sometimes contradictory relations between tourism and natural resources from different theoretical angles, and focuses on evaluating the effects and effectiveness of  institutional arrangements of state, market, civil society actors  aimed at improving tourism-environment relationships.

Dynamic interplay

This trajectory focusses on the dynamic interplay between tourism and natural resources, at related processes of environmental governance, and the contemporary theoretical and methodological approaches that assist in understanding and analysing these dynamics. In period 3 and 5 students can either direct their study to understanding the  relations between tourism and natural resources in various contemporary and innovative governance arrangements (ENP-3xx06);  the relation between tourism and leisure and global (socio-economic, technological, ecological and cultural) transformations (GEO 31306); to conceptualisations of governance, particularly with regard to the use of natural resources, and sustainable livelihood strategies (SDC-30806); to current issues and debates in marine governance (ENP-39806). This will then lead to different thesis opportunities such as studying the interplay between climate change and tourism (see e.g. “The role of weather and sea-ice information in Arctic expedition cruising”) and to understanding human-wildlife dynamics (see e.g.  “A lion for some cows: Policy Arrangements in the Payment for Environmental Services at Mbirikani, Kenya”).


The trajectory will:

  1. provide students with a solid understanding of tourism’s relation with a wide range of environmental settings, resources and sinks, in both developed and developing contexts, as well as the ways in which these relations are governed;
  2. offer, compare and reflect on the use of various contemporary social science perspectives and methodologies to enable students to critically analyse the relation between tourism and the environment;
  3. teach students to critically analyse tourism-resource relations and governance arrangements from various contemporary sociological, geographical and political science perspectives


Students need to choose two courses out of the following four:

  • ENP-3xx06 Governance of Tourism and Natural Resources (p3)  
  • SDC-30806 Governance, Livelihoods and Resources (p5)     
  • GEO-31306 Tourism and Globalization (p5)
  • ENP-39806 Marine Governance (p5)