Table of contents


Tourism is the activities and experience of tourists, the business of travel suppliers and host communities; the economic and culture exchange that are involved in the attracting, accommodating, and entertaining visitors.

Many organizations give their own definitions of tourism based on distance traveled, duration, and the purpose of the trip: The League of Nations, the United Nations, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the National Tourism Resources Review Commission, and the U.S. Senate’s National Tourism Policy Study.
The officially accepted definition of tourism by WTO (UNWTO) is:

“Tourism comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes.”

Here "usual environment" is used to distinguish tourism from the activities of daily life—frequent and regular trips between the abode and the workplace, and other routine community trips are not tourism.


Pilgrimage, to Buddhist sites or Mecca began more than 2,000 years ago, is usually regarded as the earliest form of tourism. In ancient Greece and Rome, at the end of the 18th century, organized travel with supporting road networks, accommodation, dinning, sightseeing, and an emphasis on essential destinations and experiences lay claim to the origins of both “heritage tourism” (aimed at the celebration and appreciation of historic sites of recognized cultural importance) and beach resorts.

Christian pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket

An illuminated manuscript depicting Christian pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket in Canterbury, England, c. 1400. The Granger Collection, New York


  • 4000 Sumerians (Mesopotamia, Babylonia) invent money, cuneiform writing, and the wheel; also, the concept of a tour guide.
  • 2000–332 Phoenicians begin maritime trading and navigating over the entire Mediterranean Sea area, maybe sail as far as the British Isles and probably along the coast of western Africa and to the Azores.
  • 2000–332 Caravansaries (inns), Located on caravan routes, are established in the Near East and the Orient in ancient times, providing overnight accommodation for travelers and traders and for their donkeys and camels. These people travel in groups for mutual assistance and defense.
  • 1501–1481 Queen Hatshepsut makes the journey from Egypt to the land of Punt, believed to be an area along the eastern coast of Africa.
  • 776 Greeks start travels to the Olympic Games which are held every four years since then.


  • 500 Polynesians from the Society Islands sail over 2,000 miles to Hawaii.
  • 800–1100 Vikings establish trade and explore the coast of North America, Greenland and Iceland.
  • 1271–1295 Marco Polo travels to Persia, Tibet, the Gobi Desert, Burma, Siam, Java, Sumatra, India, Ceylon, the Siberian Arctic, and other places.
  • 1492–1502 Christopher Columbus explores the New World, including the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Central America, and the northern coast of South America.
  • 1605 The hackney coach appears in London.
  • 1822 Robert Smart of Bristol starts booking passengers on steamships sailing to Ireland.
  • 1829 The first ‘‘modern’’ hotel, the Tremont House, opens in Boston.
  • 1830 The first passenger train debuts in England.
  • 1838 Stendhal, the pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle of France, writes Memoires d’un touriste, believed to be the first disseminated printed use of the French word tourist.
  • 1841 Thomas Cook organizes a trip of 12 miles for 570 passengers from Leicester to Loughborough, England.
  • 1850 Thomas Bennett, secretary to the British consul general in Oslo, Norway, sets up a ‘‘trip organizer’’ business providing individual travel itineraries and other services.
  • 1902 The American Automobile Association (AAA) is formed in Chicago.
  • 1918 The first scheduled air passenger service from Berlin to Leipzig and Weimar is introduced by Deutsche Lufthansa.
  • 1926 The first airlines in the United States—Varney Airlines and Western Airlines is born.
  • 1928 First passenger flight from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba is performed by Pan Am
  • 1931 The American Society of Steamship Agents is established in New York.
  • 1936 The Air Transport Association (ATA) is founded in Chicago.
  • 1944 The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is formed from the American Society of Steamship Agents.
  • 1945 End of World War II and the beginning of the era of mass tourism.
  • 1951 Establishing of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • 1952 The U.S. Congress develops the National System of Interstate Highways.
  • 1961 The U.S. Congress starts the U.S. Travel Service.
  • 1964 American Airlines launches the SABRE computerized reservation system (CRS).
  • 1978 The U.S. Airline Deregulation Act is passed.
  • 1994 The age of travel. The most complex trip—composition of numerous airlines, cruise ships, sightseeing tours, rental cars, entertainment and other services— can be planned and arranged by a single phone call and paid by a single credit card.
  • 1995 Delta Air Lines announces commission caps on domestic tickets, putting a ceiling on payments to travel agents. 
  • 1995 The White House holds the first Conference on Travel and Tourism.
  • 1996 Alaska Airlines becomes the first carrier to accept online bookings and payment.
  • 2001 Dennis Tito takes the world’s first paid space vacation.
  • 2007 Singapore Airlines introduces the Airbus A380 in commercial service.
  • 2009 The travel industry declines sharply in 2008 and 2009 as the Great Recession lasts in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.

Types of tourism

Adventure Tourism
Adventure tourism

The adventure tourist is seeking the so-called adrenaline high that may come from rock climbing, whitewater rafting, desert hiking, heli-skiing, paragliding, jungle exploration, bungee jumping, Antarctic expeditions, scuba diving, or even visitation to insecure, war-torn areas.

In the United States, adventure tourism has grown in recent decades, but lack of a clear operational definition has hampered measurement of market size and growth. According to the U.S.-based Adventure Travel Trade Association, adventure travel may be any tourist activity that includes physical activity, a cultural exchange, and connection with nature.

Birth Tourism
Birth tourism

Birth tourism is the travel for the purpose of obtaining birthright citizenship. Other reasons for birth tourism include access to public schooling, healthcare, sponsorship for the parents in the future, or even circumvention of China's two-child policy. Popular destinations include the United States and Canada. Another target for birth tourism is Hong Kong, where some mainland Chinese citizens travel to give birth to gain right of abode for their children.

Even birth tourism as a tourism stimulates consumption, but it's negative impact on society makes most developed countries discourage birth tourism, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have modified their citizenship laws at different times, mostly by granting citizenship by birth only if at least one parent is a citizen of the country or a legal permanent resident who has lived in the country for several years. No European country presently grants unconditional birthright citizenship; however, most countries in the Americas, e.g., the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil do so.

Business Tourism
Business tourism

Business tourism as characterized by conventions, visiting customers, distributor and suppliers, meetings, and seminars is another important form of travel. (The United Nations includes the business traveler in its definition of a tourist.) Business travel is frequently combined with one or more of the other types of tourism.

According to the British Tourist Authority and National Tourist Boards, in 1998, business tourism accounted for about 14% of all trips to or within the UK, and 15% of the tourist market within the UK. A 2005 estimate suggested that those numbers for UK may be closer to 30%. UNWTO estimated that 30% of international tourism falls into business tourism in 2004, through its importance varies significantly between different countries.

Culinary Tourism
Culinary tourism

Culinary tourism activities include sampling local food and wines, attending food and wine festivals, visiting farmers markets, shopping for gourmet foods, and seeking out unique dining experiences. Although food and beverages have always been a part of the tourism experience, culinary tourism is a relatively new niche. The International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA) defines culinary tourism as the pursuit of unique and memorable culinary experiences of all kinds, often while traveling, but one can also be a culinary tourist at home. ICTA states that culinary tourism includes culinary experiences of all kinds. It is much more than just tasting and eating. It encompasses cooking schools, cookbook and kitchen gadgets stores, wine tasting tours, culinary tours and tour leaders, festivals and events, culinary media, guidebooks, caterers, wineries, breweries, distilleries, food growers and manufacturers, culinary attractions, and more.

As always known that food, wine, and other culinary experiences are not only an important ingredient in travel but also a powerful motivation to travel. A U.S. Travel Association study reports 25 percent of leisure travelers say food is a vital factor when choosing a destination. Travelers are stating that food is a key aspect of the travel experience and that they believe experiencing a country’s food is essential to understanding its culture.

Cultural Tourism
Cultural tourism

Cultural tourism is travel to engage with a country or region's culture, specifically the lifestyle of the people in those geographical areas, the history of those people, their art, architecture, religion(s), and other elements that helped shape their way of life. The picturesque setting or "local color" in the destination area is the main attraction. Destination activities typically include meals in rustic inns, costume festivals, folk dance performances, and arts and crafts demonstrations in "old-style" fashion. Visits to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, or to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, are examples of cultural tourism.

Cultural tourism covers all aspects of travel whereby people learn about each other’s ways of life and thought. The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides another widely used definition: "Cultural and heritage tourism is traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes historic, cultural and natural resources."

The 2009 Mandala Research Study identified the top cultural and heritage activities as:

1. Visiting historic site (66%)

2. Participating in historical reenactments (64%)

3. Visiting art museums/galleries (54%)

4. Attending an art/craft fair or festival (45%)

5. Attending a professional dance or performance (44%)

6. Visiting state/national parks (41%)

7. Shopping in museum stores (32%)

8. Exploring urban neighborhoods (30%)

Dark Tourism
Dark tourism

The term dark tourism (black tourism or grief tourism) refers to the ‘‘attraction of death and disaster’’—or more specifically perhaps, those sites where death and disaster have occurred and that attract tourists. People may argue that the main attraction to dark locations is their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering. Auschwitz, the German death camp, is probably the most infamous of all dark tourism sites. Despite its reputation, Dachau, near Munich, is the most important in terms of visitation, with more than 900,000 visitors per year.

The definition of dark tourism may also be expanded to include sites where killing wars are currently being conducted. Iraq and Afghanistan are such examples, where both worldwide media and the truly adventurous tourists are drawn to the ‘‘action.’’ Lesser-known dark attractions include sites where hangings or executions are to occur, are occurring, or have occurred.

Disaster Tourism
Disaster tourism

Disaster tourism has been defined as the practice of visiting locations at which an environmental disaster, either natural or man-made, has occurred. Although a variety of disasters are the subject of subsequent disaster tourism, the most common disaster tourist sites are the areas surrounding volcanic eruptions. Opinions on the morality and impact of disaster tourism are divided. Advocates of disaster tourism often claim that the practice raises awareness of the event, stimulates the local economy, and educates the public about the local culture, while critics claim that the practice is exploitative, profits on loss, and often mischaracterizes the events in question.

Doom Tourism
Doom tourism

The concept of doom tourism is believed created based on 2 thoughts: 1. Urge people to concern for the potentially endangered, or “doomed” towards extinction places, which, in fact, speed up the deterioration of the already-threatened sites. Such sites may include the rapidly-disappearing coral of the Great Barrier Reef, or the melting glaciers of Patagonia. 2. Scarcity selling

Drug Tourism
Drug tourism

Drug tourism is travel for the purpose of obtaining or consuming drugs and narcotics, which are unavailable, illegal or very expensive in one's own country/territory.


Definitions of ecotourism abound. Conservation International states, ‘‘Ecotourism is responsible travel that promotes conservation of nature and sustains the well-being of local people.’’ Dianne Brouse defines ecotourism as responsible travel in which the visitor is aware of and takes into account the effects of his or her actions on both the host culture and the environment.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as ‘‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.’’

The Travel Industry Association of Canada (TIAC) adapted a nationally accepted definition of ecotourism to assist and protect the reputation of Canadian tourism. This led to its final definition: Ecotourism is a segment of sustainable tourism that offers experiences that enable visitors to discover natural areas while preserving their integrity, and to understand, through interpretation and education, the natural and cultural sense of place. It fosters respect toward the environment, reflects sustainable business practices, creates socioeconomic benefits for communities/regions, and recognizes and respects local and indigenous cultures, traditions, and values.

The definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia is: ‘‘Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation, and conservation.’’

Genealogy Tourism
Genealogy tourism

Genealogy tourism, sometimes called roots tourism, is a segment of the tourism market consisting of tourists who have ancestral connections to their holiday destination. These genealogy tourists travel to the land of their ancestors to reconnect with their past and "walk in the footsteps of their forefathers".

LGBT Tourism
LGBT tourism

Gay tourism or LGBT tourism, a form of niche tourism marketed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, is a fast growing and highly profitable segment which draw lot of attention recent years. It is also referred to as pink tourism.

For the past 15 years, Community Marketing, Inc. (CMI) has been conducting an annual gay and lesbian tourism study, which covers booking patterns, pride events, top travel brands, top destinations, and estimates of LGBT travelers’ economic impact. The economic impact, estimated as $63 billion for the United States alone, shows that gay men who have the largest amount of disposable income travel more, spend more.

Medical Tourism
Medical tourism

Medical tourism is that people travel from their residence to other places to receive equal or better medical, dental or surgical care, with sometimes lower price.

Nautical Tourism
Nautical tourism

Nautical tourism is a relatively new niche that combines holiday activities of boating or sailing. Tourists not only prefer to travel from port to port in sailing vessels or cruise ships, but also enjoy various activities, such as fishing and snorkeling.

Religious Tourism
Religious tourism

Religious tourism (faith tourism) is a type of tourism where people travel individually or in groups for pilgrimage, missionary, or leisure (fellowship) purposes. Spots with religious significance such as mosques, temples, churches or landforms are some of the most visited places by the religious tourists.

Sex Tourism
Sex tourism

Sex tourism is defined as travel planned, specifically for the purpose of sex, generally to those countries or areas, where either prostitution is legal or the law enforcement agencies are indifferent.

Slum Tourism
Slum tourism

Slum tourism is defined as the practice of travelers visiting poor urban areas of the global South to view its impoverished conditions and understand more of the lifestyles of local inhabitants.

Space Tourism
Space tourism

Space tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes.

Sports Tourism
Sports tourism

Sports tourism refers to travel which involves either observing or participating in a sporting event while staying apart from the tourists' usual environment. Sport tourism is a fast-growing sector of the global travel industry and equates to $7.68 billion.

Virtual Tourism
virtual tourism

A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, that seems to completely defy the very purpose of tourism, usually composed of a sequence of videos or still images. It may also use other multimedia elements such as sound effects, music, narration, and text.

War Tourism
War tourism

War tourism, military tourism, or militarism heritage tourism is recreational travel to active or former war zones for purposes of sightseeing or historical study.

Wellness Tourism
Wellness tourism

Wellness tourism, as a fast-growing trend in the tourism sector that refers to traveling for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities, involves wellness solutions, such as massages, body treatments, weight loss programs, beauty treatments, and so on.

Wellness tourists are generally high-yield tourists, spending, on average, 130 percent more than the average tourist. In 2013, domestic wellness tourists spend about 159 percent more than the average domestic tourist; international wellness tourists spend approximately 59 percent more per trip than the average international tourist. Domestic wellness tourism is significantly larger than its international equivalent, representing 84 percent of wellness travel and 68 percent of expenditures (or $299 billion). International wellness tourism represents 16 percent of wellness travel and 32 percent of expenditures ($139 billion market).