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1 What is Tourism

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What is Tourism



What Is Tourism?
The origins of the concept and the word

happened to spend a period of time, just
because they knew that a true human being
has no home, no name, no job. Or better: a
wise human being has come to the
understanding that the Earth at large is
his/her home. This is what it means to be a
cosmopolitan person, a citizen of the world,
in a planet that is increasingly getting
smaller and smaller thanks to faster means
of transport and new information and
communication technologies. Thus, students
beginning a degree and a career in tourism
belong to an old family, as they have made
up their minds to become professional
tourists themselves and to help other people
discover the inexhaustible beauty, surprise
and mystery of the world.

Tourism is as old as humanity. All of us are
nomads at heart, and we spend a lifetime
moving from one place to another in search
of something that may render our lives
meaningful. A life with a purpose: that is all
we want deep inside. As a matter of fact, the
touristic-drive seems to be inherent in
almost all cultures and times; it is a sort of
anthropological universal whose origins can
be traced back to the very cradle of
humanity. Prehistoric human beings were
already tourists on Earth in one way or
another – traces of dust fallen from primeval
stars. In ancient civilizations there was the
archetype of a travelling god who explored
the world to gain knowledge and experience.
Think of Hermes or Orpheus, for instance.
Life is motion, an unstoppable flow of
energy, whereas stagnancy means spiritual

A handful of definitions
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure, or
business, usually of a limited duration. It is
commonly associated with trans-national
travel, but may also refer to travel to another
location within the same country. In 1991,
the Tourism Society of the United
Kingdom defined tourism in these terms:

Etymologically, the word tour is derived
from the Latin tornare and the Greek
tornos, meaning ‘a lathe or circle; the
movement around a central point or axis’.
One can argue that a circle represents a
starting point, which ultimately returns back
to its beginning. Therefore, like a circle, a
tour represents a journey in that it is a
round-trip, i.e., the act of leaving and then
returning to the original starting point, and
so one who takes such a journey can be
called a tourist. Tourists are people who
spend their lives drawing circles on the
surface of the planet, leaving their footprints
everywhere they go, and taking precious
memories with them back home. There is
something sublime inherent in this concept
of being a tourist, an untiring traveller, a
migrant bird, a vanishing cloud. Ancient
philosophers knew this and they spent their
lives moving from one place to another, just
because they felt at home anywhere they

“Tourism is the temporary short-term
movement of people to destinations outside the
places where they normally live and work, and
their activities during the stay at these

And in an article entitled “The Pleasure
Principle”, published in The Economist,
London, in 1991, Michael Elliot argues:
“This [tourism] is the stuff that changed the
world. Along with a handful of other things –
television, sex, and the computer – the ability to
travel the world freely sets those who live in the
late 20th century (and early 21st century) apart
from those who lived before it.”


Because we are all tourists, the words and
concepts associated with tourism feel
familiar. However, it is a complex activity.
For the World Tourism Organization
(www.unwto.org), a specialized agency of
the United Nations:

affects the economy of both the source and
host countries. Its importance was
recognized in the Manila Declaration on
World Tourism of 1980 as “an activity
essential to the life of nations because of its
direct effects on the social, cultural,
educational, and economic sectors of
national societies and on their international
relations.” Tourism brings in large amounts
of income into the local economy in
payment for goods and services. It also
creates opportunities for employment in the
service sector of the economy associated
with tourism. The service industries which
benefit from tourism include transportation
services, such as airlines, cruise ships and
taxicabs; hospitality services, such as
accommodations including hotels and
resorts; and entertainment venues, such as
amusement parks, casinos, shopping centres,
music venues and theatres.

“Tourism comprises the activities of persons
travelling to and staying in places outside their
usual environment for not more than one
consecutive year for leisure, business, and other
purposes not related to the exercise of an activity
remunerated from within the place visited.”

The WTO employs three criteria to
determine if a trip is tourism: displacement,
purpose and duration. Displacement is the
most important. Normally transport is
involved, but displacement by bicycle, horse,
or on foot is also included. The key to
purpose is that you are not going to receive
payment for the activity you carry out from
people or organizations in the region you
travel to. The last of the criteria refers to a
maximum stay, which for the WTO is one
year. The WTO doesn’t set a minimum –
day-trippers are clearly tourists.

The Grand Tour
Wealthy people have always travelled to
distant parts of the world, in order to see
great buildings and works of art, to learn
new languages, to experience new cultures,
and to taste different cuisines. Long ago, at
the time of the Roman Republic, places
such as Baie were popular coastal resorts for
the rich. The word tourist was used by 1772
and tourism by 1811. But the origins of
modern tourism can be traced back to what
was known as the Grand Tour, which was a
traditional trip of Europe (especially
Germany and Italy) undertaken by upperclass European young men of means, mainly
from Western and Northern European
countries. The custom flourished from
about 1660 until the advent of large-scale
rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated
with a standard itinerary. It served as an
educational rite of passage. Though
primarily associated with the British nobility
and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were
made by wealthy young men of Protestant
Northern European nations, and from the
second half of the 18th century some South

To put it very simply, tourism is the
business of providing and arranging holidays
and services for people who are visiting a
place. Tourism lies at the centre of a matrix
of industries. Around travel and tourism
there is a wide spectrum of industries,
including transportation, accommodation
and catering, attractions and activities,
tourist information, travel agents and tour
operation. The tourism industry gives rise to
many jobs that involve a wide range of
personal qualities, skills and knowledge.
This is one of the most attractive aspects of
the industry, and students beginning a
degree in tourism are almost guaranteed to
find a job that suits their personality

Tourism has become a popular global
leisure activity; it can be domestic or
international. Today, tourism is a major
source of income for many countries, and

American, North American and other
overseas young people joined in. The
tradition was extended to include more of
the middle class after rail and steamship
travel made the journey less of a burden, and
Thomas Cook made the “Cook’s Tour” a

the United Kingdom – the first European
country to promote leisure time to the
increasing industrial population. Initially,
this applied to the owners of the machinery
of production, the economic oligarchy, the
factory owners and the traders. These
comprised the new middle class. Later, the
developments in technology and transport
infrastructure, such as jumbo jets, low-cost
airlines and more accessible airports, made
many types of tourism more affordable and
accessible to a wider spectrum of the
population. Mass tourism could develop
with the improvements in technology,
allowing the transport of large numbers of
people in a short space of time to places of
leisure interest, so that greater numbers of
people could begin to enjoy the benefits of
leisure time. There has been an up-trend in
tourism over the last few decades, especially
in Europe, where international travel for
short breaks is common. Tourists have a
wide range of budgets and tastes, and a wide
variety of resorts and hotels have developed
to cater for their needs.

Thus, the Grand Tour became a real
status symbol for upper classes’ students,
between the 18th and 19th centuries. In this
period, Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s
theories about the supremacy of Classic
culture became very popular and appreciated
in the European academic world. Artists,
writers and travellers (such as Goethe)
affirmed the supremacy of Classic art, of
which Italy, France, Spain and Portugal are
excellent examples. For these reasons, the
main destinations of the Grand Tour were
France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, where
upper-class students could find rare
examples of classic art and history. In an
article entitled “Lessons from the Frugal
Grand Tour” (The New York Times, 5
September 2008) Matthew Gross has
described the Grand Tour in this way:

Nowadays, there is a wide spectrum of
tourism trends. Innumerable niche or
specialty travel forms of tourism have
emerged over the years, such as sustainable
tourism, ecological tourism or ecotourism,
agritourism, culinary tourism, cultural
tourism, extreme tourism, geotourism,
heritage tourism, medical tourism, nautical
tourism, religious tourism, wildlife tourism,
sex tourism, wellness tourism, doom
tourism, sports tourism, creative tourism,
space tourism, etc. Let us a have a look at
some of them:

“Three hundred years ago, wealthy young
Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek
through France and Italy in search of art, culture
and the roots of Western civilization. With
nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections
and months (or years) to roam, they
commissioned paintings, perfected their
language skills and mingled with the upper crust
of the Continent.”

The primary value of the Grand Tour, it
was believed, laid in the exposure both to
the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and
the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and
fashionably polite society of the European

(1) Sustainable tourism is “envisaged as leading
to management of all resources in such a
way that economic, social and aesthetic
needs can be fulfilled while maintaining
cultural integrity, essential ecological
processes, biological diversity and life
support systems.”, according to the World
Tourism Organization. It implies meeting
the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs.

The emergence of leisure travel, mass
tourism and new trends
The emergence of leisure travel was
associated with the Industrial Revolution in

(2) Ecological tourism or ecotourism is
responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and
usually protected areas that strives to be low
impact and (often) small scale. It helps
educate the traveller, it provides funds for
conservation, it directly benefits the
economic development and political
empowerment of local communities, and it
fosters respect for different cultures and for
human rights. Take only memories and
leave only footprints is a very common
slogan in protected areas.

remembrance, education, macabre curiosity
or even entertainment. Its early origins are
rooted in fairgrounds and medieval fairs.
(6) Doom tourism (also known as ‘tourism of
doom’ or ‘last chance tourism’) is an
emerging trend which involves travelling to
places that are environmentally or otherwise
threatened (such as the ice caps of Mount
Kilimanjaro, the melting glaciers of
Patagonia, or the coral of the Great Barrier
Reef) before it is too late. This type of
tourism is believed to be on the rise and
some people see the trend as related to
sustainable tourism or ecotourism due to
the fact that a number of these tourist
destinations are considered threatened by
environmental factors such as global
warming, overpopulation or climate change.
Others worry that travel to many of these
individual’s carbon footprint and only
hastens problems threatened locations are
already facing.

(3) Pro-poor tourism, which seeks to help the
poorest people in developing countries, has
been receiving increasing attention by those
involved in development; the issue has been
addressed through small-scale projects in
local communities and through attempts by
Ministries of Tourism to attract large
numbers of tourists.
(4) Educational tourism developed because of
the growing popularity of teaching and
learning of knowledge and the enhancing of
technical competency outside of the
classroom environment. In educational
tourism, the main focus of the tour or
leisure activity includes visiting another
country to learn about the culture, such as
in Student Exchange Programs and Study
Tours, or to work and apply skills learned
inside the classroom in a different
environment, such as in the new Erasmus +

The World Tourism organization
forecasts that international tourism will
continue growing in the future. With the
advent of e-commerce, tourism products
have become one of the most traded items
on the Internet. Thus, tourism as a global
phenomenon shows no signs of substantially
abating in the long term. Furthermore, it has
been suggested that travel is necessary to
maintain relationships, as social life is
increasingly networked and conducted at a
distance. For many people, holidays and
travel are increasingly being viewed as a
necessity rather than a luxury. After all, we
live in a small world.

(5) Dark tourism involves visits to ‘dark’ sites,
such as battlegrounds, scenes of horrific
crimes or acts of genocide, for example
concentration camps. Dark tourism remains
a small niche market, driven by varied

Jig-saw reading

This text consists of four sections: (1) The origins of the concept & the word; (2) A handful of
definitions; (3) The Grand Tour; and (4) The emergence of leisure travel, mass tourism and new
trends. Firstly, students work in groups of four people (expert groups) and they will focus only
on one particular section to identify the main ideas under their heading. Secondly, experts from
each group work with experts from the other groups to exchange information and ideas on every
single section of the text. Thirdly, the whole class discusses their own conclusions.


Think about the reasons why human beings have travelled since antiquity.
What is the etymology of the word ‘tourism’?
Identify at least three different definitions of ‘tourism’.
Which service industries benefit from tourism? Explain the idea of the matrix.
Identify key landmarks in the history of tourism. Why was the Industrial Revolution important?
How has modern technology made mass tourism possible?
Was the Grand Tour elitist? Why?
Why is tourism important to economy?
What are the emerging trends in tourism? Make a list and explain a couple of them.
What do predictions say about the future of tourism?


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