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Reading Exercise 3

Social and cultural impacts of tourism in Cyprus

In Cyprus, hospitality forms an integral part of the culture, and the people have a welcoming attitude towards foreigners. Furthermore’ the society's culture emphasizes ideologies and value systems which attach great importance to individual achievement. As the tourist policy followed by the Cyprus Government and the Cyprus Tourism Organization has been to aim at the middle and high income groups, and the tourists come mainly from Europe, tourism has not had as marked an adverse effect on the values and attitudes of Cypriot society as may otherwise have been the case. In certain areas, such as Ayia Napa, however, the influx of large numbers of tourists has influenced social behaviour and social values, and caused a certain amount of antagonism. Bryden suggests that:

there may be a relationship between tourism density, expressed in the annual numbers of tourists as a proportion of the population ... and the growth of resentment towards tourists. ... The inference here is that tourism density is an indicator of the degree of confrontation between tourists and indigenes and that this confrontation gives rise to the resentment of tourists.

Table 1 Contact ratio values, 1985
Area Contact ratio
  Annual average Peak day value
Limassol 19.5 7.3
Lamaca 24.4 13.9
Ayia Napa/Paralimni 3.0 1.5
Paphos 17.7 10.8
Hill resorts 43.0 16.6
Total 18.0 9.5

The concept of ‘tourism density’ is thus used as a measure of ‘social carrying capacity’ which Mathieson and Wall define as ‘host peoples’ levels of tolerance for the presence and behaviour of tourists'. An alternative measure used by Andronikou is the ‘contact ratio’ which is the inverse of tourism density that is the ratio of the local population to tourist population. Now, whereas Andronikou suggests that the minimum value that the contact ratio can fall to before the social impact resulting from tourist development becomes detrimental is about eight, most authors now do not believe that a single specific value can be given for social carrying capacity. Mathieson and Wall point out that:

Carrying capacity remains an elusive concept, but the time when researchers and managers sought one mythical magic number, which could be approached with safety but exceeded at peril, has passed.

Nevertheless, inspection of table 1 does suggest that it is highly likely that the social carrying capacity in Ayia Napa has been overreached. The extreme concentration of tourists here has resulted in a modification of social attitudes among young people, especially towards sexual behaviour. This is part of the ‘demonstration effect’, which introduces foreign ideologies and ways of life into societies that have not been exposed to tourist lifestyles. The close and continued contact of Cypriot youth with young foreign tourists has resulted in them adopting different sets of values on morality, style of dressing, and so on, in comparison with prevailing traditional attitudes, and as a result the bonds of closely knit families are in some cases being loosened.


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