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Tourism destroys environment faster than old industries did

Letter from Emil Bruce Lester, Jr.

Industrial Tourism – July 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Mining, Logging, Grazing Would Have to Work at It To Destroy Like Tourism


Soon after someone devises another way of earning a living, others join in, associations are formed, political action committees are financed, and someone adds the postscript “industry” to the business.

Tourism has now matured to the level of an “industry” in this country. Thirty years ago, tourism would have been considered an activity for the marginally employed, for the leisure set, and for retirees; it was not a serious occupation. Today serious money is involved.

Tourism seems also to be a good business for public-relations professionals. Convincing the American people that this industry produces wealth while leaving the environment unaffected must be a daunting task for even the most jaded propaganda artist.

The environmental crimes committed by tourism are well documented and require no repeating. Tourism is now destroying our environment at a faster clip than the combined efforts of miners, manufacturers, ranchers, loggers, and railroaders, and will increase exponentially for states like Colorado with a commercially viable environment. Tourism destroys at all levels: physical, social, spiritual, etc.

To gauge the social impact of tourism, go to Blackhawk or Central City as an extreme example, or visit a town that has been recently discovered by the travel writers. Take note of the people and businesses, and repeat in five years and re-assess.

This is now true for towns like Buena Vista, Salida, even Leadville. These towns are one by one falling for the sales pitches of the tourism or leisure industry.

The effects on the community are so rapid you can almost feel the change in just one year. I notice additions like a new bed and breakfast, new restaurants, the endless rafting places along U.S. 285, and yes, the wider not yet finished road leading into Salida.

I look at the environment and the tourist industry from a different perspective than many people do. I recognize that environmental damage could be social as well as physical, and that they are both extremely hard to repair.

I lost a customer once as a result of my temper on the subject. I was meeting with the general manager for one of the large hotels in Denver (the Hyatt). He made the comment that the tourist industry was environmentally benign and a credit to the Colorado economy. I asked him if he felt a sense of pride after cleaning up after a guest. He threw me out of his office and that was the end of that.

Our environment includes people. To take them out of the equation while addressing only the issues seems to me ludicrous. All human activity pollutes.

There is a qualitative difference, however, in the products of human activity.

Emil Bruce Lester, Jr.

Lakewood, Colorado