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1.1: What is Tourism?

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    Before engaging in a study of tourism, let’s have a closer look at what this term means.

    Definition of Tourism

    There are a number of ways tourism can be defined, and for this reason, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) embarked on a project from 2005 to 2007 to create a common glossary of terms for tourism. It defines tourism as follows:

    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 imply tourism expenditure (United Nations World Tourism Organization, 2008).

    Using this definition, we can see that tourism is not just the movement of people for a number of purposes (whether business or pleasure), but the overall agglomeration of activities, services, and involved sectors that make up the unique tourist experience.

    Tourism, Travel, and Hospitality: What are the Differences?

    It is common to confuse the terms tourism, travel, and hospitality or to define them as the same thing. While tourism is the all-encompassing umbrella term for the activities and industry that create the tourist experience, the UNWTO (2020) defines travel as the activity of moving between different locations often for any purpose but more so for leisure and recreation (Hall & Page, 2006). On the other hand, hospitality can be defined as “the business of helping people to feel welcome and relaxed and to enjoy themselves” (Discover Hospitality, 2015, p. 3). Simply put, the hospitality industry is the combination of the accommodation and food and beverage groupings, collectively making up the largest segment of the industry (Go2HR, 2020). You’ll learn more about accommodations and F & B in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4, respectively.

    Definition of Tourist and Excursionist

    Building on the definition of tourism, a commonly accepted description of a tourist is “someone who travels at least 80 km from his or her home for at least 24 hours, for business or leisure or other reasons” (LinkBC, 2008, p.8). The United Nations World Tourism Organization (1995) helps us break down this definition further by stating tourists can be:

    1. Domestic (residents of a given country travelling only within that country)
    2. Inbound (non-residents travelling in a given country)
    3. Outbound (residents of one country travelling in another country)

    Excursionists on the other hand are considered same-day visitors (UNWTO, 2020). Sometimes referred to as “day trippers.” Understandably, not every visitor stays in a destination overnight. It is common for travellers to spend a few hours or less to do sightseeing, visit attractions, dine at a local restaurant, then leave at the end of the day.

    The scope of tourism, therefore, is broad and encompasses a number of activities and sectors.

    Spotlight On: United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

    UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible “for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism” (UNWTO, 2014b). Its membership includes 159 countries and over 500 affiliates such as private companies, research and educational institutions, and non-governmental organizations. It promotes tourism as a way of developing communities while encouraging ethical behaviour to mitigate negative impacts. For more information, visit the UNWTO website.

    NAICS: The North American Industry Classification System

    Given the sheer size of the tourism industry, it can be helpful to break it down into broad industry groups using a common classification system. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) was jointly created by the Canadian, US, and Mexican governments to ensure common analysis across all three countries (British Columbia Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, 2013a). The tourism-related groupings created using NAICS are (in alphabetical order):

    1. Accommodation
    2. Food and beverage services (commonly known as “F & B”)
    3. Recreation and entertainment
    4. Transportation
    5. Travel services

    These industry groups (also commonly known as sectors) are based on the similarity of the “labour processes and inputs” used for each (Government of Canada, 2013). For instance, the types of employees and resources required to run an accommodation business whether it be a hotel, motel, or even a campground are quite similar. All these businesses need staff to check in guests, provide housekeeping, employ maintenance workers, and provide a place for people to sleep. As such, they can be grouped together under the heading of accommodation. The same is true of the other four groupings, and the rest of this text explores these industry groups, and other aspects of tourism, in more detail.

    Two female front desk employees speak to a male guest in a hotel lobby.
    Figure 1.1 Front desk personnel, working their hardest.

    It is typical for the entire tourist experience to involve more than one sector. The combination of sectors that supply and distribute the needed tourism products, services, and activities within the tourism system is called the Tourism Supply Chain. Often, these chains of sectors and activities are dependent upon each other’s delivery of products and services. Let’s look at a simple example below that describes the involved and sometimes overlapping sectoral chains in the tourism experience:

    Tourism supply chain. Long description available.
    Figure 1.2 The tourism supply chain. [Long Description]

    The original version of this chapter contained H5P content. You may want to remove or replace this element.

    Before we seek to understand the five tourism sectors in more detail, it’s important to have an overview of the history and impacts of tourism to date.

    Long Descriptions

    Figure 1.2 long description: Diagram showing the tourism supply chain. This includes the phases of travel and the sectors and activities involved during each phase.

    There are three travel phases: pre-departure, during travel, and post-departure.

    Pre-departure, tourists use the travel services and transportation sectors.

    During travel, tourists use the travel services, accommodations, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, and transportation sectors.

    Post-departure, tourists use the transportation sector.

    [Return to Figure 1.2]


    This page titled 1.1: What is Tourism? is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Morgan Westcott & Wendy Anderson et al. (BC Campus) .

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