An introduction to Cornwall and Andalucia
Michele Pooley

Cornwall is the most south-western county in Britain.  It is a rural area with the majority of the population living in a few major towns, and the remainder living in small villages and farms dispersed around the county.  The traditional occupations of farming, fishing and tin mining are in steep decline, and there is very little manufacturing or alternative employment opportunities other than tourism (Ireland, 1999 [see references for a full list of titles).  Surrounded on three sides by sea, and separated from the neighbouring county of Devon by the river Tamar, Cornwall is geographically remote from the rest of England (see Map I).  This has helped the Cornish people retain a strong sense of cultural identity, and their Celtic heritage together with the survival of the Cornish language serves to accentuate their difference and uniqueness (Ireland, 1999). 

Many parallels can be drawn between Cornwall and Andalucia.  Andalucia is the southernmost autonomous community in Spain (see Map II), and has a similar demographic profile to that of Cornwall (www., 2000).  Andalucia faces the decline of the local farming and fishing industries, and has become increasingly dependent on tourism, and like most rural areas both Cornwall and Andalucia are peripheral to the main centres of trade and commerce, and are therefore relatively poor (Ireland, 1997; Richards, 1996; Davidson, 1998).  Andalucians have a distinct culture; as a result of more than five centuries of occupation by the Moors, there is a strong Moorish influence giving the people of Andalucia a unique and exotic identity, and a strong local dialect.  Culture is an important element in attracting tourists and will be a major focus of attention when discussing the social impact of tourism.

Andalucia is much larger in scale than Cornwall, but both regions offer a wide range of dramatic landscapes and areas of outstanding natural beauty.  Both can offer the tourist a choice of seclusion, wildlife and activity sports on the higher inland areas, or attractive fishing villages, golden beaches and water sports along their extensive coastlines. 

A brief history of tourism in both regions
Cornwall was at the height of its popularity in the post-war period, but economic boom in Northern Europe during the 1960s meant that the package tour became accessible to the affluent working class in the manufacturing and industrial centres of England.  Cheap overseas package deals were able to offer easy access to guaranteed sunshine at competitive prices.  A relatively short drive to an international airport would take holidaymakers straight to the Costa del Sol whereas poor roads, particularly in the peripheral south west, meant a long and arduous car journey to Cornwall.  The popularity of overseas holidays grew whilst Cornwall’s appeal began to wane.  By the 1970s Cornish seaside resorts were in decline and as a result of lack of investment in infrastructure they began to look shabby and old-fashioned (Walvin, 1978).  Cornwall’s image became one of nostalgia; a place for elderly visitors and for retirement.

In contrast, phenomenal growth in Andalucia during the 1960s meant supply could not keep pace with demand.  Foreign investment boomed, but created economic problems as benefits were leaked outside the area and dependence on foreign tour operators led to prices being artificially suppressed.  A laissez-faire policy of tourism development resulted in overdevelopment along the Costa del Sol and underdevelopment in rural areas (Robinson, 1996).  This led to unequal distribution of income and employment opportunities which caused people in rural areas to migrate to the coast.  The result of this was depopulation in inland areas and a decline in agricultural production (Sinclair & Gomez, 1996).  Further disruption was caused by the displacement of local people from coastal fishing villages when the unrestricted development of land in tourist areas forced up land prices; this created poverty among the local population whose low incomes meant they had to move out of tourist areas (Jurdao, 1990).  By the late 1980s Spain’s image was tainted by the problems associated with overcrowding and its popularity was undermined by environmental decline.  It came to be seen as a poor quality, mass tourism destination.

Hunter-Jones et al summarise the reasons for the decline of Spanish tourism in the 1980s and catalogue the initiatives introduced in the 1990s to counter this.  They assert that politics played a central role in the overdevelopment of the Costas and suggest that ‘Spain is a microcosm of a global problem’ (1997: 273), therefore contemporary policies and initiatives are worth examining for their success and portability.  Spain was one of the first European countries to encourage mass tourism, and for many years the Spanish Costas were the most popular holiday destination in Europe (Barke, Towner and Newton, 1996).  Therefore, as leaders in the field, it is useful to study the successes and failures of Spanish tourism policies and practice in order to formulate new tourism strategies and initiatives for the future.

The problems of overdevelopment are the same everywhere; water, air and noise pollution, traffic congestion, and pressure on resources and services.  The local environment is damaged by the loss of attractive landscapes, loss of habitat for flora and fauna, and the depletion of marine life through increased sewage outfall.  These problems are compounded in mass tourism areas by massive seasonal increase in consumption of power and water, and increased pressure on waste disposal and emergency services (Sinclair & Gomez, 1996).  All of these problems have been experienced in both Cornwall and Andalucia to greater or lesser degrees.  In Cornwall the cost of water provision and sewage treatment is amongst the highest in the country, whilst in Andalucia water provision is particularly problematic since low rainfall and high demand for agricultural use coincides with the main tourist season. 

In Southern Spain this problem is exacerbated by the widespread building of golf courses, which not only consume vast amounts of water, but also are the cause of much deforestation which has led to soil erosion and flooding.  In both regions the migration of rural workers to resorts has resulted in the loss of agricultural societies and food production, and the decline of villages and traditional lifestyles.  There are many economic similarities between Cornwall and Andalucia as they are both predominantly rural, peripheral areas and are both major tourism destinations, therefore the Cornish experience of tourism can be compared with that of Andalucia.

By the late 1980s the negative aspects of tourism and its impact on local cultures and the environment was widely recognised.  ‘Green tourism’ attempted to address some of the problems associated with tourism, focusing mainly on environmental issues.  This provided an opportunity for the development of rural tourism, whilst growing interest in culture and education nurtured a market for cultural, heritage and urban tourism.  During the 1990s the economic value of tourism in a post-industrial society became apparent, and rural and cultural tourism came to be used as a means of stimulating rural economies and regenerating inner cities and manufacturing sites which were in decline. 

Sustainable tourism aims to combat the environmental and socio-cultural problems created by mass tourism, whilst at the same time allowing sustainable economic development.  The literature review will examine the arguments for and against
sustainable tourism, and draw out the issues and principles involved. 

on to next chapter

back to guest page