Golden Recursion Inc. logoGolden Recursion Inc. logo
Advanced Search


Tourism is travel for recreational or leisure purposes.


Tourism encompasses the idea of people traveling to other locations, either domestically or internationally, for leisure, social, or business purposes. Often tourism includes travel for less than a year and can be as quick as a day, also known as day tripping. As an industry, tourism involves various other industries, including hospitality, transportation, travel companies, and tourist destinations and landmarks. The inclusion of these various other industries makes tourism sometimes difficult to define, especially as tourism does not have one clear product. This has led to various versions of tourism that refine into a single product, such as tourism for leisure versus tourism for health.

This led the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to develop a project, which ran from 2005 to 2007, to create a common glossary of terms for tourism. This project defines tourism as:

Tourism is a social, cultural, and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. These people are called visitors (which may be either tourists or excursionists; residents or non-residents) and tourism has to do with their activities, some of which implay tourism expenditure.
Definition of the tourist
A 'tourist' which is often considered a different classification as a 'traveler'.

Part of the definition of tourism, as noted above, is the definition of the tourist. The commonly accepted definition tends to be any person who travels at least 80 kilometers from their home for at least 24 hours, for business, leisure, or other reasons. Additionally, according to the UNWTO, a tourist can be domestic or a resident traveling in the country of their residence; inbound, or a non-resident traveling in a given country; and outbound, or a resident of a country traveling to another country. This perhaps expands on the large scope of tourism and the potential activities that can be categorized under the umbrella of tourism.

NAICS for tourism

With the size of the tourism industry and all it encompasses, the industry tends to be broken down into various smaller industry groups using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). NAICS was created by the United States, Canadian, and Mexican governments to ensure a common industry classification across all three countries. Tourism-related grouping created using NAICS are as follows:

  • Accommodation
  • Food and beverage services
  • Recreation and entertainment
  • Transportation
  • Travel services

These industry groups tend to be based on the similarity of the labor processes and inputs. For example, the types of employees and resources needed to run a motel, hotel, or campground are all similar, with each including similar processes in their business, and they can therefore be grouped together under the heading of accommodation. The same is true of the other groupings.

Types of tourism

Tourism has two types and many forms, based on the purpose of the visit. This includes alternative forms of tourism, which can be categorized based on the goals of the travel. The major categorization of tourism is international and domestic tourism, which is based on the movement of people.

International tourism

International tourism occurs when people visit a country they are not a resident or citizen of. To travel to a foreign country, individuals are required to have a passport, visa, health documents, foreign exchange, and more. International tourism tends to be divided into inbound tourism and outbound tourism.

Inbound tourism

This refers to tourists from one country entering another country. Traveling outside of their host or native country to another country is called inbound tourism for the country to which they are traveling. For example, if an American tourist travels to Mexico, it is inbound tourism for Mexico because foreign visitors are coming to Mexico.

Outbound tourism

Outbound tourism refers to tourists traveling from their country of origin to another country. When tourists travel to a foreign region, it is outbound tourism for their own country because they are leaving that country. So, in the above example, when a tourist from America travels to Mexico, it is outbound tourism for the United States, and inbound for Mexico.

Domestic tourism

Domestic tourism refers to the activity of people within their own country. Traveling within the same country tends to be easier because it does not require formal travel documents and formalities such as compulsory health checks or foreign exchange. The traveler does not generally face difficulties with language problems or currency exchange, while it offers a certain familiarity that can be comforting for some people. Or, in some countries, allows those individuals to learn more about the country, which may be too large to otherwise see in a weekend.

Forms of tourism

Tourism has very forms, based on the purpose of the travel and the way in which the travel occurs. The nature of the travel and the goals of the travel also determine the form of tourism. For example, learning about an environment versus learning about a culture can be two different types of tourism. Both could be achieved in a group on a bus or by soloing through a country with nothing more than a backpack.

Forms of tourism


Accessible tourism

Accessible tourism ensures people receive access to tourist destinations, products, and services, regardless of physical limitations, disability, or age. This type of tourism has been promoted through research where stakeholders have provided insight into the complexity involved in accessible tourism. This type of tourism requires barrier-free destinations, activities, exhibits, attractions, and more.

Adventure tourism

Adventure tourism involves the exploration of remote places where travelers can either expect the unexpected or discover places other people may or will never know about. This type of travel involves new cultures or landscapes while being physically active and can involve hiking, backpacking, zip lining, free-fall, rafting, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding, among many others.


Agri- or agrotourism occurs on farms, and gives the tourist an opportunity to experience rural life, genuine local food, and offers a familiarity with various farming tasks. In some countries, such as Italy, this can also be known as farm stays. And some types of agritourism are direct market agritourism, experience and education agritourism, and event and recreation agritourism.

Alternative tourism

Also known as specific interest tourism (SIT), alternative tourism tends to involve interactions with local government, people, and communities. Travelers may choose alternative tourism because they love nature and want to preserve it. Others may approach alternative tourism through ecotourism, adventure tourism, rural tourism, sustainable tourism, solidarity tourism, and more. But this type of travel typically involves actively taking care of the enviornment as the individual travels and making environmentally friendly choices as they travel.

Atomic tourism

Atomic tourism is a type of tourism where the traveler learns about the atomic age by traveling to sites such as museums with atomic weapons, missile silos, and vehicles that carried atomic weapons. Some of the top sites for atomic tourism include the Trinity Site, Doom Town, The Titan Missile Museum, Hanford B Reactor, Los Alamos, Chernobyl and Pripyat, Hiroshima, and Bikin Atoll.

Nature of tourism

Tourism, as a socio-economic activity, comprises the experiences of tourists and visitors away from their home environment and then serviced by the travel and tourism industry, or the host destination. The total of this experience and related services can be interpreted as the tourism product. And by identifying this product, tourism can be described in terms of supply and demand, with planning on the basis of any company or agency involved in tourism working to balance between demands and supply, which requires an understanding of market characteristics and trends.

The supply side of tourism is often noted to the the facilities, programs, attractions, and land uses designed and managed for the visitors. These can be under the control of private enterprises, non-profit organizations, and the government, with new and emerging forms of partnerships to help ensure the sustainable development and management of tourism-related resources. The demand side of tourism is the tourists which are the core generation of the overall tourism market.

The interaction between the supply and demand sides can be seen as a linked flow of resources including capital, labor, goods, and tourist expenditures into the destination, and flows of marketing, promotion, tourist artifacts, and experiences from the destination back into the tourist-generating region. This kind of looks at the dynamic and complex forces at work in the tourism industry which can be difficult to completely capture, let alone to foster.

Importance of tourism

Tourism, especially when linked with hospitality (some argue they cannot be considered separate), is among some of the major revenue-earning enterprises globally and the top global employers in the world. Travel has become increasingly common, and the methods of travel have become diverse and less cost prohibitive, which has allowed for increased amounts of travel and tourism. This has further globalized the economy, allowing some countries to become tourist destinations and bolster their economy through an influx of foreign money into their economy, which helps develop the financial resources of that country, especially as tourists often bring their expectations of comfort and ease of life that they experience in their home countries. With that said, tourism can contribute to the growth of a country in a series of ways:

  • Employment generation
  • Infrastructure development
  • Foreign exchange
  • Commercialization of art and handicrafts

As tourism is a multi-dimensional activity, with a wide and varied scope, it can have impacts across various fields and sectors of activity. Tourism has ramifications on these sectors and can be influenced by the performance of almost all sectors of a country's political, social, environmental, and economic performance, either directly or indirectly. The twin forces of supply and demand for tourism offer economic, social, cultural, environmental, and ecological impacts that can minimize potential concerns over the outset of establishing or developing a tourism industry, which can involve expenditure, gains, costs, and benefits. The costs and benefits of tourism will vary depending on the destination, the history of tourism in the area, and the potential activities in a destination's local and regional contexts.

Economic impacts

The economic impacts of tourism and its related activities and industries can benefit the economy of a country as well as the local economy of specific destinations. Economic benefits include the following:

  • Tourism generates local employment, both in the tourism sector and in support and resource management sectors.
  • Tourism stimulates profitable domestic industries, hotels, and other lodging facilities, restaurants, and food services, transportation systems, handicrafts, and guide services.
  • Tourism generates foreign exchange for the country and introduces new capital and money into the local economy.
  • Tourism can help diversify a local economy.
  • Increased tourism can improve the infrastructure related to tourist activities.
  • Tax revenues from tourism can help the larger government.

However, as with any benefit, there can be costs. For tourism, some of the economic costs can include the following:

  • Higher demand created by tourism can increase the price of land, housing, and a range of commodities necessary for daily life.
  • Demands for health services and police services can increase during tourist seasons at the expense of the local population.
Social impacts

Tourism and its related activity can affect the society of a destination in both good and bad ways. The social benefits to a tourist destination can include those below:

  • The quality of a community can be enhanced through the economic diversification tourism can help create.
  • Recreational and cultural facilities created for tourism can be used by local communities, not just visitors.
  • Public space can be developed through tourism, which can benefit the local population.
  • Tourism can help to enhance a local community's esteem and can provide an opportunity for greater understanding and communication among people of diverse backgrounds.

However, the social costs of tourism can include the following:

  • Rapid tourism growth can result in an inability of the local amenities to meet service demands.
  • Without proper planning or management, tourism can result in litter, vandalism, and crime.
  • Tourism can worsen traffic congestion and result in overcrowding.
  • Visitors bring material wealth and apparent freedom which can influence the youth of a host community and change their expectations which can result in a disruption of traditional community ways of life.
  • The community structure can change.
  • The authenticity of the social and cultural environment can be changed to meet tourism demands.
Cultural impacts

Tourism can also affect the culture of a destination. This can be through various activities that tourists wish to engage in through the host destination or through impacting the cultural output of the host destination. The following are some cultural benefits of tourism:

  • Tourism can enhance cultural awareness.
  • Tourism can generate revenue to help pay for the preservation of cultural sites, such as archaeological sites, historic buildings, and districts.
  • Despite the ability to alter cultures, sharing cultural knowledge and experience can be beneficial for hosts and guests and can result in the revival of local traditions and crafts.

However, tourism can also come with costs to local culture:

  • Youth in a community can begin to emulate the speech and attire of tourists.
  • Historic sites can be damaged through tourism, development for tourists, and pressures of tourists.
  • There can be long-term damage to cultural traditions, erosion of cultural values, and a resulting cultural change beyond acceptable levels for the host destination.
Environmental impacts

Tourism and an increase in tourism activities can result in a variety of positive and negative impacts on a destination's environment:

  • Parks and nature preserves can be created for ecological preservation and to support nature-based tourism.
  • Tourism can encourage and incentivize improvements to local waste management.
  • Increased awareness and concern for the environment, or local biospheres, can emerge from nature-based tourism activities and their developments.

However, there are potential environmental costs due to tourism, including the following:

  • A negative change in the physical integrity of the area
  • Rapid development, over-development, and overcrowding that change the physical environment and ecosystems of a location
  • Degradation of parks and preserves
Industries related to tourism

Tourism has become a popular activity as it has become increasingly accessible. Depending on the nature and purpose of travel, tourists need and sometimes demand certain facilities and services. This can give rise to a range of commercial activities that have further gained industry proportions, such that travel and tourism represents a broad range of related industries. This includes hospitality services, retail and shopping, transportation and related infrastructure, travel and tour agencies, and various cultural industries.


Cultural industries

Cultural and creative industries are responsible for the creation, production, and distribution of goods and services that are accepted as being cultural in nature, or exhibiting elements of a local culture of an area. They become tourist destinations as tourists often want to visit places of cultural significance and to experience the culture of a given area. The cultural industry works to provide this and therefore is another important part of the tourism industry.


Hotels provide accommodation, meals, and various guest services that play a significant role in tourism, as tourists need a place to stay at their destinations and may require more or fewer services and facilities to suit their specific needs and tastes. The resort is the natural extension of this, where the resort comes to encompass the entire tourist experience.

Leisure, recreation, and sport

Leisure or free time is a period of time spent out of work or essential domestic activity. Recreation or fun can be described as spending time in a manner designed for therapeutic refreshment of the body or mind. While leisure is a similar form of entertainment or rest, which does not require the active participation that recreation requires. As people in wealthier regions lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the need for recreation has increased and therefore can play a role in a tourist's choice of region to visit.


Restaurants are retail establishments that offer food and beverages to customers. In travel and tourism, restaurants and other food and beverage establishments are important as tourists like to experiment with local cuisines of the places they are visiting. Restaurants can even become a part of the reason a visitor may choose one location over another, with some tourism related specifically to food and restaurant experiences.

Retail and shopping

The retail industry and related shopping experiences are important for tourists both for shopping for day-to-day necessities as well as looking for mementos, souvenirs, and cultural items. Some cities in the world have been promoted as shopping destinations to attract people with an interest in traveling to shop by offering various products that may or may not be available only in that city.

History of tourism
Origins of tourism

Travel for leisure and recreation purposes, as tourism is often defined, has evolved from an experience reserved, through exhibitive cost, to a class of very few into something that is accessible enough to be enjoyed by many. Historically, the ability to travel was restricted to the royalty and upper classes. However, there have been periods of time when travel has been easier or less easy, depending on the culture and economy.

Image of Pompeii, an example of an early resort town.

For example, in ancient Roman times, where there was an established road system that was monitored by the Roman army, and otherwise maintained, offered individuals wealthy enough to travel to tourist and resort destinations, such as Pompeii. This travel was also supported by experiences found in ancient Greece and Rome, which placed an emphasis on sightseeing and an emphasis on travel to cultural destinations. This was also known as "heritage tourism," in which individuals travel to celebrate and appreciate historic sites of cultural importance. For ancient Greece, the Seven Wonders of the World became tourist sites.

The Hajj, an example of a pilgrimage destination central to the Islamic religion.

The pilgrimage offers a sort of tourism antecedent. Early pilgrimages began in Eastern civilizations, where pilgrimages would take place to the earliest Buddhist sites, more than 2,000 years ago. These pilgrimages to popular Buddhist sites created defined routes along which commercial hospitality could be developed and exist. Pilgrimages to the earliest Buddhist sites brought a mixture of curiosity, adventure, and enjoyment. Pilgrimage to Mecca began around a similar time frame; however, this pilgrimage is done under more hardships and resulted in more deaths. And the pilgrimage hit Europe, where it arguably started travel routes that would become a part of the overall early European tourist infrastructure.

Another important development in the practice and infrastructure that would become part of tourism was the thermal spa. These spas became tourist destinations, regardless of whether the thermal spa was holy or sacred. Even though spas derived their names from Spa, in what is now Belgium, an early European resort. The practice dates much farther back to the Japanese onsen (hot springs), which catered to bathers as early as the sixth century.

The Grand Tour
Painting of an early example of individuals on a "Grand Tour".

The modern concept of tourism has been traced to the European practice of the Grand Tour. Starting in the seventeenth century, young nobles from western and northern European countries began making trips around Europe, in what would be called the Grand Tour. This trip usually covered France, Germany, Italy, and Greece, with the purpose of learning and experiencing history, art, and cultural heritage. For young nobles partaking in the Grand Tour, this was considered to be a part of their education.

By the eighteenth century, the custom was widespread among wealthier classes and had begun to spread to other parts of the world. Pilgrimages continued during this period. And with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, which began in the second half of the eighteenth century, major economic, social, and technological transformations began to spread, which included the development in classes to name the burgeoning middle class. Further, the transportation industry underwent improvements offering new forms of entertainment and travel.

The first travel agencies
Photograph of Thomas Cook & Sons storefront.

By the nineteenth century, the first travel agencies came into existence. One of the initial pioneers of this was Thomas Cook & Son, which offered excursions and holidays for groups, which included transport, accommodations, and food tickets, making the cost of travel less expensive, and offering what would later come to be known as package holidays. Travel agencies increased in importance into the twentieth century and were further supported by increases in the transportation infrastructure, such as new roads, passenger trains, stagecoaches, and sailing ships increasing in commonality and helping tourism continue to grow.

France and Great Britain, for example, during this period had good road and railroad systems that allowed people to travel and increased the availability of travel for people. Thomas Cook & Son would use the railway infrastructure in Great Britain to arrange tours for people to travel from one area to another in Britain for only a day or so. These short periods were important, as most individuals who could afford the one shilling cost of a journey, which included food and entertainment, were increasing, but often these individuals were not offered or guaranteed time off from work.

Development of modern tourism

This period is based on on the innovations of modern tourism, which began in the nineteenth century, but the development of modern or mass tourism is often considered to have begun in 1915 and ended in 1950, which could be considered the beginning of modern tourism. Modern tourism was a period that witnessed the beginning of a change in society that impacted tourism and largely created it into an industry. This was largely based on the growth of the middle class, which saw a surge in a culture of travel and the formation, popularization, and diversification of the tourism industry, or mass tourism.

Besides the increase in accessibility offered both by the growing middle class from industrialization and the increases in speed and availability of transportation systems, the development of travel agencies was largely responsible for early mass tourism. Taking a holiday, let alone receiving paid time off, was not a popular concept prior to the end of the First World War. Austria was one example, where the country passed the Arbeiterurlaubsgesetz (Law on Workers' Holidays) in 1919 that gave holidays to state employees. However, as these contracts used for state employees were increasingly copied and used in other areas of commerce and expectations from those employees moved through society, the concept of the holiday became more entrenched in society.

The summer retreat

Married to the increase in societal expectation was the concept of the "summer retreat." From the 1870s, the term was used to refer to a middle-class holidaying practice, in which people sought relaxation in the countryside as an alternative to the seaside during the summer. The lower middle and working classes, who could not afford summer retreats with their family, would go on Sunday excursions, which would slowly extend to the whole weekend before being several days. Especially after the First World War, the summer retreat was more accessible to employees and workers on low incomes, where a love for the countryside and a desire for simplicity a rural life seemed to promise offered a refreshing retreat from increasing urbanization.

Mass tourism in Nazi Germany
Example of leisure and recreation offered in Nazi Germany.

Perhaps the largest moment in the development of modern tourism came between 1933 and 1939 in Germany. At this time, the National Socialist regime brought a new belief that all people of the country should engage in tourism, and they increased the amount of travel and holidaying aimed at the masses. State organizations encouraged holidaying and recreation while also offering less-expensive opportunities. This was used politically to support the National Socialist claim to democratize travel and tourism to the general workforce.

To further achieve their political aims, the National Socialists would implement the National-socialistiche Gemeinschaft Kraft durch Freude (KdF), or "The National Socialist Association Strength through Joy," a tourism and recreation-focused ministry to develop holiday packages for workers. At the time, workers received between three and six days of holiday per year. By 1937, the party had increased this to six to twelve days for the majority of wage earners, who then could use the time offer to benefit from the new, inexpensive, opportunities for holidays and travel. This included walking tours, train journeys, and cruises with accommodations, and meals achieved popularity.

This change was evident in some of the statistics, which saw 2.3 million journeys undertaken in 1934, which rose to five million in 1935, and further grew to 9.6 million in 1937 and 10.3 million in 1938. The KdF tourists traveled en masse, as a kind of expression of the ideology of national community. And these trips contributed to repeat tourism and its democratization. The KdF was able to command a closely meshed network that adapted travel to workers' needs rather, than the other way around. Adding together the increase in availability, the lower cost of travel, and an organization that reduced the need for individuals to plan their travel, led to a boom in the tourism sector, as both KdF tours boomed and German private tourist industry further boomed during this period. All of this would, unfortunately, come to an end at the outset of the Second World War.

The Modern Era and mass tourism

At the conclusion of the Second World War grew an eagerness to travel, especially in North America. In many places around the world, gas was no longer rationed, economies were going, cars were being mass-produced, and new technologies—such as commercial airliners—were making international travel more accessible and easier. Many factors contributed to the growth of the tourism industry. Hotels and motels began to franchise, which led to an expansion of their business, offering travelers "familiar" places to stay all over the world.

The jet airliner was a major improvement in the capability and affordability of tourism in the 1950s.

As well, in the 1950s, the Diners Club card, the first credit card, was introduced, which allowed travelers the means to purchase things wherever they were in the world and delay some of the costs of traveling. Credit cards still remain one of the most popular ways to spend money when traveling. This gave people the money to spend on travel that they may otherwise not have had. Since the 1950s, the experience of travel has increased, as tourists have come to expect more from their travel. This can include sustainable options and chances to give back to the local community, while increases in wealth across various countries have further increased the mobility of citizens.

However, the industry continues to go through peaks and valleys as terrorism, health scares, political and economic instability, and other concerns will impact and discourage travel. Tourism changes as consumers become more savvy, more fussy, and more aware. They care about environmental conservation, community impact, economic leakage, and related issues when they plan and undertake their travels.


Further Resources


63 Types of Tourism in the World | Complete Guide - ColorWhistle



September 12, 2019

Chapter 1. History and Overview - Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC



May 13, 2019
Sainsbury's Bank Travel Money has analysed its Travel Money currencies(1) to identify which destinations are on the rise for travellers looking to get away from mainstream tourist locations., , , , Four currencies have jumped up in use over the past four years, indicating the growing popularity of the countries. British travellers are choosing to stay closer to home as European destinations dominate some of the most bought currencies., , , , Polish Zloty has leapt up in popularity, moving from the...
May 7, 2019
Hominy Grill has closed. Sean Brock is gone. Tourism and prices are booming. What does all that portend for this influential food city?
Ken Research
April 30, 2019
GURUGRAM, India, April 30, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Key Findings Government Regulations for Cab Aggregator Market is Expected to be introduced soon in Costa Rica....


Golden logo
By using this site, you agree to our Terms & Conditions.