Worldwide Issues on Sanitation, Travel and Tourism


The salutary effects of sanitation are widely acknowledged. The United Nations has declared as a Millennium Development Goal the halving, by 2015, of the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Much research has been conducted into the Benefits that tourism can derive as well as the effect of interventions that combine sanitation with improved hygiene (Fewtrell et al. 2009).

In another review, Fewtrell et al. (2005) looked at over 2000 published studies on sanitation and it’s effect on tourism at destinations and some interventions to reduce tourist dissatisfaction at destinations, poor tourist participation and sanitation related diseases and health problems in developing countries, but found only four studies on sanitation which met quality standards and improvement in better tourist participation at destinations. Most studies either ignored baseline sanitation behaviors and it’s impact on tourism. Fewtrell (2005) estimated that sanitation interventions reduced tourist dissatisfaction, poor participation in tourism and diseases at tourist destinations by 32%. One of the studies Fewtrell examined was Azurin et al. (1974), which used data from a field study on four communities in a Philippine city to examine the impact of better sanitation on tourism, tourist participation and tourist satisfaction. Azurin said improved sanitation could reduce tourist dissatisfaction, low tourist participation and diseases prevalence incidence by 68%.

According to the world health organization (2015), 39% of the global population (2.9 billion people) used a safely managed sanitation service, defined as use of a toilet or improved latrine, not shared with other households, with a system in place to ensure that excreta are treated or disposed of safely. Sanitation can affect tourism badly and in a more negative way in as much as it will affect tourism positively. In a case of open defecation, poor sewage treatment and improper waste management, the effect of sanitation will be highly negatively to the extent that it will discourage tourist from participating, hinder tourist satisfaction and destroy the tourism industry of that destination since most tourist wish to visit destinations which have good record of better sanitation and diseases to get their peace of mind and satisfaction.


In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized access to safe sanitation as a human right, and called for international efforts to help countries to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable sanitation. Poor sanitation is a problem and it’s a big issue that the world seek to bring to an end. Some diseases associated to poor sanitation are very deadly and tourist with the exception of some “dark tourist” do not wish to travel to go and die, suffer or get diseases, as such sanitation is a big issue when addressing tourist satisfaction at places. Therefore providing good and improve sanitation at destinations means tourist inflow to such destinations will increase, tourist satisfaction will increase and the entire tourism industry of that destination will be better.

Open defecation perpetuates a vicious cycle of disease and poverty. The countries where open defection is most widespread have the highest number of deaths as well as the highest levels of malnutrition and poverty, and big disparities of wealth. Defecating in the open is a very ancient practice. In ancient times, there were more open spaces and less population pressure on land. It was believed that defecating in the open causes little harm when done in areas with low population, forests, or camping type situations. With development and urbanization, open defecating started becoming a challenge and thereby an important public health issue, and an issue of human dignity. With the increase in population in smaller areas, such as cities and towns, more attention was given to hygiene and health. As a result, there was an increase in global attention towards reducing the practice of open defecation.

The countries where open defecation is most widely practiced have the highest numbers of deaths of children under the age of five, as well as high levels of under nutrition, high levels of poverty, and large disparities between the rich and poor.
The UNICEF District League Table report indicates that, only eight of Ghana’s 216 districts have at least a one-third of their communities not engaged in open defecation.
Ghana was recently noted among the top 10 countries worldwide with the highest percentage of its population without decent toilets according to a report from international NGO, WaterAid.

Ghana has about 85.7 percent of its population without decent toilets, and this equals about 23 million people, according to the report. The government is aware of the problem, and has indicated that, it intends to construct toilet facilities in various homes across the country as an effective measure of addressing open defecation. When this problem is thoroughly addressed, it will go a long way to impact on tourist satisfaction.
Residents around the Cape Coast Castle, including fishermen who incidentally seek their livelihood from the same spot have turned the seaside behind the castle into an open defecation ground. They ease themselves in the water and use same water to wash their anus even in the presence of tourists. This act, according to the tourists is unacceptable and must be discouraged.


The Assistant Director of the Cape Coast Castle, however says the activities of residents along the beach is causing embarrassment to guides at the site, hence he bows his head in shame anytime tourists enquire about open defecation at the beach around the Castle. “In fact it’s difficult to tell them why they’re defecating there because it’s an embarrassment, shameful, disgraceful, distasteful, and therefore, we just try to tell them we have tried our effort to move them away but they will not yield. Diplomats, people of high calibre, you take them around and then you go to meet such situation, you the person taking the visitors round finds it difficult to continue the tour,” he stressed.

Open defecation can pollute the environment and cause health problems. Ending open defecation is an indicator being used to measure progress towards the sustainable development goal number six. Extreme poverty and lack of sanitation are statistically linked. Therefore, eliminating open defecation is thought to be an important part of the efforts to eliminate poverty and its negative effect on tourism.

The effect of sanitation on travel and tourism is so wide that it requires the attention of every government and community.


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