Is tourism the same the world over-an example of the contemporary global leisure industry?
Tourism is deemed as a contemporary leisure industry though its output may not be physically evaluated. But, it can not be denied that it makes a contribution to the GDP, plays a significant role in improving the balance of payment, and besides all its economic benefits, is an important factor in forming the country’s image and in devoting to the protection of natural and cultural values.
There is no simple structure for this industry as tourism is apparently different from country to country, region to region, even site to site in the same city. Thus, tourism is created on different purpose and developed toward different direction all over the world as a result of distinct characteristics in almost all dimensions of different areas. These differences are probably the motivation of people planning to travel outside their homes.
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Firstly, also the most obvious, is the differences caused by the geographic or natural conditions. This could be on account of climatic element, natural resources, etc. For example, The Republic of Malta, which has plenty of islands locating in the central Mediterranean Sea. It provided tourists beautiful beaches and scenic views that along with a typical Mediterranean climate.1
Secondly, which this course more concentrated, is cultural and social elements contributing to the attractiveness of a tourism industry. Culture is “the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and generate social behaviour” (Spradley 1979, in Littrell 1996:107). It contains local “behaviours and artefacts, beliefs and values, and underlying assumptions, i.e. ways of perceiving, thinking and evaluating the world, self and others”4.
As far as some countries are concerned, which have a limited supply of particularly attractive or internationally unique natural attractions, culture can be the most significant tourist attractions.
Through the development of tourism industry as a whole in a destination, culture becomes a product as an element of the overall tourist supply and can be marketed to tourists through tangible or intangible elements, e.g. buildings, crafts, art objects, and behaviours and values. Cultural tourism is a fast growing tourism form internationally. (Richards 1996, WTO 1997)
Fine arts, including painting, graphic arts sculpture and architecture, have a great attraction for tourists as they are good display of the specific culture. Some of them are located in rural or peripheral areas, while others are collected together from different location within the country and showed to the public in an exhibition or gallery.
Music, especially in some minority areas, brings enjoyment and relaxation to those holiday tourists, and inspiration and new messages from music to those musicians. Dancing, combined with musical instruments, traditional costumes, is also an effective way for communication between hosts and visitors. Examples here are Folkloric dances of Eastern European countries, Philippine dances, Japanese Kabuki dances2. Therefore, different cultural elements make up of different tour appeals.
Handicraft is, either manufactured or hand-worked, as a result of meeting most tourists’ need and trying to reserve the local landscape or historic places in a physical form. These includes souvenir making of china, textile that place in the shops or booth for sale, as an effective way to gain some monetary satisfaction to the location.
One the other hand, tourism in turn has impacts on the maintenance and development of these original tradition and cultural elements which can attract more and more modern travellers.
Moreover, the literature strength of a country or a state can be a significant appeal of travels, though it seems not as attractive as other cultural elements mentioned above. Some famed libraries are opened all the year-round to the visitors, and some of them are possessed of invaluable paintings and decorations which showing historic stories. Besides, some places are mainly called on because of their appearance in the classic novels or other books. For example, the Notre Dame Cathedral is being well-known from Victor Hugo’s best novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.
Some well-educated people would like to speak more than one language. Therefore, opportunity for learning foreign languages is an attracting element for traveling. Learning and practical application of a foreign language requires good understanding of the social and cultural characteristics of the certain country, due to the inseparable relationship between language and culture. Travel-study programmes are particularly valuable learning experiences in this case and are provided by many private schools or universities. Such programmes are numerous in Europe and USA.2
Being acquaint with history and prehistory can be seen as another motivating force for traveling around the world. Almost every country has its own museum or other exhibitions for showing historical graphs or objects. Some influential museums include the National History of Anthropology at Mexico City, the American Museum of Natural History of New York City, and the branches of the British Museum in London. They preserve and exhibit some information on different field of the country they are situated and other countries as well. Other sites showing historical preservation are some national parks with a history or prehistory theme, such as Mesa Verde National Park in USA. Incidentally, a new direction in tourism over the last decades is so-called “theme parks”, which are the outstanding example of artificial construction of post-modern spaces and become popular during the tour, particularly in the USA, Britain and Japan. The opening of Disneyland and the Sea World proved this phenomenon to some extent.
Furthermore, religion pilgrimage is another motivation for people with different creeds and beliefs to travel through places of religious significance and houses of prominence for worship, such as the visit to Mecca where is regarded as a holy land for Muslims, as are travels to Israel, Vatican City, Lourdes, and Mexico City. However, in the recent years, these places also become increasingly popular visits of most tourist gaze. For instance, Tibet is not only frequently crowded by those Buddhists but also people do not have beliefs in Buddhism, just come to view and admire the temples and valuable inner adornments and Buddhist images and statues. Likewise, “the worshippers at the great Anglican cathedrals of England are greatly outnumbered by the millions of tourists who come simply to view the buildings3”.
In addition, as the nature of the locations varies, condition of infrastructure and means of transportation differ from each tour site. Some modern cities, such as New York or London, these elements are designed to bear the excessive usage of crowded people. In contrast, some other places have to promote their transportation facilities and services, including both access to the country or region they located and the internal transportation systems. For example, Uganda received more than sixty thousands tourist in 1991, but it is also recognized that its international airport facility and domestic transport means to national parks should be expanded to meet the needs of these increasing number of travellers. For most international tourism, main transport is by air while within the Europe, tourists usually travel around by coach or car, taking advantage of its well-constructed motorway connecting with all European countries. Especially, the opening of Channel Tunnel has been an attraction for travelling inside Europe.
In the recent years, heritage tourism has grown rapidly in this industry. “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. They are our touchstones, our points of reference, our identity” (WHC 1996). Heritage includes sites of universal value, but the selection and the nomination of each site is dependent on national concepts of heritage. Tourism as an international movement can contribute to the development of a global heritage awareness, and a better appreciation of our common values. Heritage tourism is defined as “tourism which is based on heritage, where heritage is the core of the product that is offered, and heritage is the main motivating factor for the consumer” (Swarbrooke 1994:222).
This implies that this type of tourism is expanded for the purpose of reserve some historical resources, which are of value and significance and which have been come down to current generation. Most world heritage sites are major cultural tourism attractions and some of them, such as the Pyramids or the Great Wall and other spectacular archaeological relic of China, are universally recognised symbols of national identity (Shackley 1998). The majority of visitors to these sites are generally motivated by an interest in the heritage of the certain culture and nature. It is recognised that only a minority of heritage sites can be considered as international attractions, the rest only in the level of nation or region. “Even on international scale, there are two levels: primary international attractions generate visits from foreign countries on their own, while secondary attractions are not themselves the major determinant in the tourists’ choice of destination, but have sufficient value to make tourists visit them once they have arrived in the given county”. (Jenkins 1993)
Finally, another type of tourism has been given great emphasis since this decade, namely, ecotourism, an environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, with the aim of “enjoying and appreciating the nature, and any accompanying cultural features (both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations.” (IUCN-now called the World Conservation Union stated in 1996)5
In conclusion, tourism is one of the leading sectors of the world economy and its role is invaluable all over the world, though every country has its own tourism strengths and weaknesses and has to make their own planning for sustainable development of tourism in respect of nature, society, culture, history, human and environment.