Carrying capacity is a notion which recognizes that both natural and human attractions have upper limits in their capacities to absorb visitors, a capacity above which a deterioration of the resource itself takes place. Unplanned and unregulated management of tourism programs leads to structural or visible modifications of the natural and social environment that are often destructive and difficult to remedy. It has been defined by O Grady and Alison as a level of tourist development or recreational activity beyond which the environment is degraded, facilities are saturated or people’s enjoyment diminished (social carrying capacity).
This carrying capacity is a function of a number of tourism factors as well as of a variety of social, economic and environmental features of a destination area. The environmental features like:
- Climate, topography, flora and fauna.
- The level of economic development of the area.
- The sophistication of its social and political organization.
- The scale of tourist infrastructural development.
All these things together govern the capacity of a destination to absorb the demands placed on it by the tourism. Thus this tourism carrying capacity of specific destination can help determine an optimum level of development.