The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Tourism can be defined as the act of travel for the purpose of recreation, and the provision of services for this act. A tourist is someone who travels at least fifty miles from home, as defined by the World Tourism Organization (a United Nations body).

A more comprehensive definition would be that tourism is a service industry, comprising a number of tangible and intangible components. The tangible elements include transport systems - air, rail, road, water and now, space; hospitality services - accommodation, foods and beverages, tours, souvenirs; and related services such as banking, insurance and safety & security. The intangible elements include: rest and relaxation, culture, escape, adventure, new and different experiences.

Many sovereignties, along with their respective countries and states, depend heavily upon travel expenditures by foreigners as a source of taxation and income for the enterprises that sell (export) services to these travellers. Consequently the development of tourism is often a strategy employed either by a Non-governmental organization (NGO) or a governmental agency to promote a particular region for the purpose of increasing commerce through exporting goods and services to non-locals.

Sometimes Tourism and Travel are used interchangeably. In this context travel has a similar definition to tourism, but implies a more purposeful journey.

The term tourism is sometimes used pejoratively, implying a shallow interest in the societies and natural wonders that the tourist visits. As such it is used as a pejorative term about heterosexuals who visit gay bars to "watch the natives" and "experience the culture" without integrating themselves into it (unlike a Dyke Tyke), or bisexuals, typically already in a heterosexual relationship, who frequent gay bars for the purpose of procuring one-off gay sex (both terms are used almost exclusively by the gay community).


Prerequisite factors

"Travel", as an economic activity, occurs when the essential parameters come together to make it happen. In this case there are three such parameters:

  1. Disposable income, i.e. money to spend on non-essentials
  2. Time in which to do so.
  3. Infrastructure in the form of accommodation facilities and means of transport.

Individually, sufficient health is also a condition, and of course the inclination to travel. Furthermore, in some countries there are legal restrictions on travelling, especially abroad. Communist states restrict foreign travel only to "trustworthy" citizens. The United States prohibits its citizens from traveling to some countries, for example, Cuba.


Wealthy people have always travelled to distant parts of the world to see great buildings or other works of art; to learn new languages; or to taste new cuisine. As long ago as the time of the Roman Republic places such as Baiae were popular coastal resorts for the rich.

The terms tourist and tourism were first used as official terms in 1937 by the League of Nations. Tourism was defined as people travelling abroad for periods of over 24 hours.

The Grand Tour

The word tour gained acceptance in the 18th century, when the Grand Tour of Europe became part of the upbringing of the educated and wealthy British nobleman or cultured gentleman. Grand tours were taken in particular by young people to "complete" their education. They travelled all over Europe, but notably to places of cultural and aesthetic interest, such as Rome, Tuscany and the Alps.

The British aristocracy were particularly keen on the Grand Tour, using the occasion to gather art treasures from Europe to add to their collections. The volume of art treasures being moved to Britain in this way was unequalled anywhere else in Europe, and explains the richness of many private and public collections in Britain today. Yet tourism in those days, aimed essentially at the very top of the social ladder and at the well educated, was fundamentally a cultural activity. These first tourists, though undertaking their Grand Tour, were more travellers than tourists.

Most major British artists of the eighteenth century did the "Grand Tour", as did their great European contemporaries such as Claude Lorrain. Classical architecture, literature and art have always drawn visitors to Rome, Naples, Florence.

The Romantic movement (inspired throughout Europe by the English poets William Blake and Lord Byron, among others), extended this to Gothic countryside, the Alps, fast flowing rivers, mountain gorges, etc.

Health tourism & leisure travel

It was not until the 19th century that cultural tourism developed into leisure and health tourism. Some English travellers, after visiting the warm lands of the South of Europe, decided to stay there either for the cold season or for the rest of their lives. Others began to visit places with health-giving mineral waters, in order to relieve a whole variety of diseases from gout to liver disorders and bronchitis.

Leisure Travel was a British invention due to sociological factors. Britain was the first European country to industrialize, and the industrial society was the first society to offer time for leisure to a growing number of people. Not initially the working masses, but the owners of the machinery of production, the economic oligarchy, the factory owners, the traders, the new middle class.

The British origin of this new industry is reflected in many place names. At Nice, one of the first and most well established holiday resorts on the French Riviera, the long esplanade along the sea front is known to this day as the Promenade des Anglais; and in many other historic resorts in continental Europe, old well-established palace hotels have names like the Hotel Bristol, Hotel Carlton or Hotel Majestic - reflecting the dominance of English customers to whom these resorts catered in the early years.

Winter tourism

Even winter sports were largely invented by the British leisured classes initially at the Swiss village of Zermatt (Valais) (year?) and St Moritz in 1864.

Until the first tourists appeared, the Swiss thought of the long snowy winter as being a time when the best thing to do was to stay indoors and make cuckoo clocks or other small mechanical items.

The first packaged winter sports holidays (vacations) followed in 1903, to Adelboden, also in Switzerland.

Organized sport was well established in Britain before it reached other countries. The vocabulary of sport bears witness to this: rugby, football, and boxing all originated in Britain, and even Tennis, originally a French sport, was formalized and codified by the British, who hosted the first national championship in the nineteenth century, at Wimbledon. Winter sports were a natural answer for a leisured class looking for amusement during the coldest season.

Mass travel

Mass travel could not really begin to develop until two things occurred.
a) improvements in technology allowed the transport of large numbers of people in a short space of time to places of leisure interest, and
b) greater numbers of people began to enjoy the benefits of leisure time. A major development was the invention of the railways, which brought many of Britain's seaside towns within easy distance of Britain's urban centres.

The father of modern mass tourism was Thomas Cook who, on 5 July 1841, organized the first package tour in history, by chartering a train to take a group of temperance campaigners from Leicester to a rally in Loughborough, some twenty miles away. Cook immediately saw the potential for business development in the sector, and became the world's first tour operator.

He was soon followed by others, with the result that the tourist industry developed rapidly in early Victorian Britain. Initially it was supported by the growing middle classes, who had time off from their work, and who could afford the luxury of travel and possibly even staying for periods of time in boarding houses.

However, the Bank Holiday Act 1871 introduced a statutory right for workers to take holidays, even if they were not paid at the time. (As an aside, in the UK there is still no obligation to pay staff who do not work on public holidays.)

The combination of short holiday periods, travel facilities and distances meant that the first holiday resorts to develop in Britain were towns on the seaside, situated as close as possible to the growing industrial conurbations.

For those in the industrial north, there were Blackpool in Lancashire, and Scarborough in Yorkshire. For those in the Midlands, there were Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and Skegness in Lincolnshire, for those in London there were Southend-on-Sea, Broadstairs, Brighton, Eastbourne, and a whole collection of other places.

In travelling to the coast, the population was following in the steps of Royalty. King George III is widely acknowledged as popularising the seaside holiday, due to his regular visits to Weymouth when in poor health.

For a century, domestic tourism was the norm, with foreign travel being reserved, as before, for the rich or the culturally curious. A minority of resorts, such as Bath, Harrogate and Matlock, emerged inland. After World War II holiday villages such as Butlins and Pontins emerged, but their popularity waned with the rise of package tours and the increasing comforts to which visitors became accustomed at home. Towards the end of the 20th century the market was revived by the upmarket inland resorts of Dutch company Centre Parcs .

Other phenomena that helped develop the travel industry were paid holidays:

  • 1.5 million manual workers in Britain had paid holidays by 1925
  • 11 million by 1939 (30% of the population in families with paid holidays)

Outside Britain

Similar processes occurred in other countries, though at a slower rate, given that nineteenth century Britain was far ahead of any other nation in the world in the process of industrialisation.

In the USA, the first great seaside resort, in the European style, was Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In Continental Europe, early resorts included Ostend (for the people of Brussels), and Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) and Deauville (Calvados) (for Parisians).

International mass tourism

Increasing speed on railways meant that the tourist industry could develop internationally. By 1901, the number of people crossing the English Channel from England to France or Belgium had passed 0.5 million per year.

However it was with cheap air travel in combination with the package tour that international mass tourism developed after 1963. For the worker living in greater London, Brindisi today is almost as accessible as Brighton was 100 years ago.

Recent developments

There have been a few temporary setbacks in tourism, the latest being related to the September 11, 2001 attacks and terrorist threats to tourist destinations such as Bali and European cities. Some of the tourist destinations, including the Costa del Sol, the Baleares and Cancun have lost popularity due to shifting tastes and perceptions among tourists. In this context, the excessive building and environmental destruction often associated with traditional "sun and beach" tourism may contribute to a destination's saturation and subsequent decline. This appears to be the case with Spain's Costa Brava , a byword for this kind of tourism in the 1960s and 1970s. With only 11% of the Costa Brava now unblemished by low-quality development (Greenpeace Spain's figure), the destination now faces a crisis in its tourist industry. Belated attempts to move towards "quality tourism" are difficult given competition from cheaper, unspoilt holiday destinations on the one hand and the legacy of decades of over-exploitation on the other. In many respects, Tenerife provides a paradigm of the negative impact of mass tourism. Organizations like Greenpeace and ATAN are particularly critical of development on the island, arguing that Tenerife's current tourism industry is both economically and environmentally unsustainable.

Receptive tourism is now growing at a very rapid rate in many developing countries, where it is often the most important economic activity in local GDP.

In recent years, second holidays or vacations have become more popular as people's disposable income increases. Typical combinations are a package to the typical mass tourist resort, with a winter skiing holiday or weekend break to a city or national park.

On 26 December 2004 a tsunami 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake hit Asian countries bordering the Indian Ocean, and also the Maldives. Tens of thousands of lives were lost, and many tourists died. This, together with the vast clean-up operation in place, has stopped or severely hampered tourism to the area.

Special forms of tourism

For the past few decades other forms of tourism, also known as niche tourism, have been becoming more popular, particularly:

  • Adventure tourism: Tourism involving travel in rugged regions, or adventurous sports such as mountaineering and hiking (tramping).
  • Agritourism: Farm based tourism, helping to support the local agricultural economy.
  • Armchair tourism and virtual tourism : not travelling physically, but exploring the world through internet, books, TV, etc.
  • Cultural tourism: Includes urban tourism, visiting historical or interesting cities, such as London, Paris, Prague, Rome, Cairo, Beijing, Kyoto, and experiencing their cultural heritages. May also consist of specialized cultural experiences, such as art museum tourism where one visits many art museums during the tour, or opera tourism where one sees many operas or concerts during the tour.
  • Disaster tourism : travelling to a disaster scene not primarily for helping, but because one finds it interesting to see. It can be a problem if it hinders rescue, relief and repair work.
  • Drug tourism (for use in that country, or, legally often extremely risky, for taking home)
  • Ecotourism: Sustainable tourism which has minimal impact on the environment, such as safaris (Kenya) and Rainforests (Belize), or national parks.
  • Educational tourism: May involve travelling to an education institution, a wooded retreat or some other destination in order to take personal-interest classes, such as cooking classes with a famous chef or crafts classes.
  • Gambling tourism , e.g. to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Macau or Monte Carlo for the purpose of gambling at the casinos there.
  • Gay tourism: Tourism marketed to gays who wish to travel to gay-friendly destinations which feature a gay infrastructure (bars, businesses, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, etc.), the opportunity to socialize with other gays, and the feeling that one can relax safely among other gay people.
  • Heritage tourism: Visiting historical or industrial sites, such as old canals, railways, battlegrounds, etc.
  • Health tourism: Usually to escape from cities or relieve stress, perhaps for some 'fun in the sun', etc. Often to "health spas".
  • Hobby tourism: Tourism alone or with groups to participate in hobby interests, to meet others with similar interests, or to experience something pertinent to the hobby. Examples might be garden tours, ham radio DXpeditions, or square dance cruises.
  • Inclusive tourism: Tourism marketed to those with functional limits or disabilities. Referred to as "Tourism for All" in some regions. Destinations often employ Universal Design and Universal Destination Development principles.
  • Medical tourism, e.g.:
    • for what is illegal in one's own country, e.g. abortion, euthanasia; for instance, euthanasia for non-citizens is provided by Dignitas in Switzerland.
    • for advanced care that is not available in one's own country
    • in the case that there are long waiting lists in one's own country
    • for use of free or cheap health care organisations
  • Perpetual tourism : Wealthy individuals always on holiday, some of them, for tax purposes, to avoid being resident in any country.
  • Regional tourism Tourism bundle of few country in the region, using one of the country as the transit point. The country of transit point is usually a country with good transport infrastructure. e.g. Singapore is the base for tourism for South East Asia due to its strategic location and good transport infrastructure.
  • Sex tourism: mostly men from First World countries visiting Third World countries for purpose of engaging in sexual acts, usually with inexpensive local prostitutes. This form of tourism is often cited the principal way that paedophiles can hire child prostitutes.
  • Sport tourism : Skiing, golf and scuba diving are popular ways to spend a vacation. Also in this category is vacationing at the winter home of one's favorite baseball team, and seeing them play everyday.
  • Space tourism
  • Vacilando is a special kind of wanderer for whom the process of travelling is more important than the destination.


The World Tourism Organization forecasts that international tourism will continue growing at the average annual rate of 4 percent [1]. By 2020 Europe will remain the most popular destination, but its share will drop from 60 percent in 1995 to 46 percent. Long-haul will grow slightly faster than intraregional travel and by 2020 its share will increase from 18 percent in 1995 to 24 percent.

Space tourism is expected to "take off" in the first quarter of the 21st century, although compared with traditional destinations the number of tourists in orbit will remain low until technlogies such as space elevator make space travel cheap.

Technological improvement is likely to make possible air-ship hotels, based either on solar-powered airplanes or large dirigibles. Underwater hotels, such as Hydropolis , slated to open in Dubai in 2006, will be built. On the surface of the ocean tourists will be welcomed by ever larger cruise ships and perhaps floating cities .

Some futurists expect that movable hotel "pods" will be created that could be temporarily erected anywhere on the planet, where building a permanent resort would be unacceptable politically, economically or environmentally.

See also

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy