The Economic and Environmental Effects of Seasonality of Tourism: a look at Solid Waste
Tourism is traditionally associated with great opportunities of growth with relatively small investments in physical and human capital, but also with high levels of negative externalizes, particularly referred to the environment. Sometimes those externalizes are easy to be quantified even though are difficult to be internalized because of poor management schemes. This paper aims at giving some evidence of the environmental cost of tourism in terms of solid waste produced in municipalities in Tuscany. There is very little literature that addresses the relationship between the production and cost of solid waste and tourist presences, and none, that I am aware of, that look at the seasonality of tourism. I borrow from the literature on Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) to estimate the efficiency of Decision Management Units (DMU) where the units are represented by municipalities, and I then relate the measure of relative efficiency to spatial and tourism related variables. I also look at the scale of the DMUs to see if the seasonality of tourism has a particular impact on the ability to operate at the optimal scale. The empirical analysis suggests that (1) seasonality has a negative effect on the efficiency of solid waste management, (2) that this effect is primarily due to the difficulty to operate at optimal scale and (3) that it is especially the seasonality of arrivals that negatively impacts efficiency while the average stay at pick season has an opposed positive effect. The implications of these results are that more effort has to be made in managing flexibly solid waste collection in those localities affected mostly by seasonal tourism, or spread more evenly tourism over the year and incentivate longer stay rather than higher number of visitors. Alternatively, or as a policy instrument for these objectives, a flexible tourist taxation as a function of touristic presences and length of stay could be introduced.