Tourism and Environmental Pollution: Evidence from the One Belt One Road Provinces of Western China
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The rapid economic development of China and the industrial shift from its eastern to western provinces have resulted in significant negative impacts on the environment. Recently, tourism has emerged as an alternative for economic and environmental development, but it is a double-edged sword. Without the required measures to protect environment, the opportunity cost of tourism is environmental degradation. The western part of China holds a significant advantage for the development of travel and tourism (T&T), due to One Belt One Road (OBOR), unique ancient culture and spectacular variety of natural scenic spots. This region is among the less explored and less developed, but important, parts of China. Taking this point into consideration, this paper aims to examine the impact of tourism on the environmental pollution of five provinces located in the heart of OBOR over the period of 1991-2016. To explore this link, we used the fully modified ordinary least squares (FMOLS) approach and Gregory-Hansen test for robustness check. We applied the Zivot-Andrews unit root test to deal with structural breaks in data. Our results confirm a negative impact of tourism on environment for Ningxia, Qinghai, Gansu, and Shanxi. However, tourism improves the environmental quality of Xinjiang. The negative impact of energy consumption and GDP growth is significant than tourism. Our findings suggest that the relationship varies for different provinces in the same region depending on the specific provincial features and government policies. Furthermore, tourism development has great potential to improve the economic and environmental sustainability in these provinces.