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The geographical components of the tourism system

From a geographical point of view tourism consists of three major components which are: first, the places of origin of tourists, or generating areas; second, the tourist destinations themselves, or receiving areas; and finally, the routes travelled between these two sets of locations, or transit routes (Leiper, 1979). These components are set within differing economic, environmental and social contexts. This simple model is illustrated in Figure 1.2 and the components form the basis for Chapters 2 to 5 in this book.

● Tourist-generating areas represent the homes of tourists, where journeys begin and end. The key issues to examine in tourist-generating areas are the features that stimulate demand for tourism and will include the geographical location of an area as well as its socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. These areas represent the main tourist markets in the world and, naturally enough, the major marketing functions of the tourist industry are found here (such as tour operation, travel retailing). Tourist-generating areas are considered in Chapter 2.

● Tourist-receiving areas attract tourists to stay temporarily and will have features and attractions that may not be found in the generating areas. The tourist industry located in this area will comprise the attractions, accommodation, retailing and service functions, entertainment and recreation facilities. In our view, tourist destination areas are the most important part of the tourism system, not only attracting the tourist and thus energizing the system, but also where the impacts of tourism occur and therefore where the sustainable planning and management of tourism is so important. Features of tourist destination areas are examined in Chapters 3 and 4.

● Transit routes link these two types of areas and are a key element in the system as their effectiveness and characteristics shape the volume and direction of tourist flows.

The differing contexts within which the tourism system is set pervade the characteristics of each component. For example, a tourism system in a developing country is likely to have a generating component more dominated by domestic travel than would be the case in a developed country. The external environment also affects the tourism system in terms of a range of issues – such as terrorism and security, and the need for all components to develop crisis and risk management plans. It is this connection with the real world that makes the geography of travel and tourism such an exciting and vibrant area to study. Spatial interaction between the components of the tourist system Tourist flows While the study of the geography of tourism should include the three components identified above, there is a danger that, in conveniently dissecting tourism into its component parts, the all-important interrelationships are lost. The consideration of tourist flows between regions is therefore fundamental to the geography of tourism and allows the components of tourism to be viewed as a total system rather than a series of disconnected parts. An understanding of tourist flows is critical for managing the environmental and social impacts of tourism, securing the commercial viability of the tourism industry and for planning new developments. Tourist flows are a form of spatial interaction between two areas, with the destination area containing a surplus of a commodity (tourist attractions, for example) and the generating area having a deficit, or demand for that commodity. In fact, it is possible to detect regular patterns of tourist flows. They do not occur randomly but follow certain rules and are influenced by a variety of push and pull factors: ● Push factors are mainly concerned with the stage of economic development in the generating area and will include such factors as levels of affluence, mobility and holiday entitlement. Often, too, an advanced stage of economic development will not only give the population the means to engage in tourism but the pressures of life will provide the ‘push’ to do so. An unfavourable climate will also provide a strong impetus to travel. ● Pull factors include accessibility, and the attractions and amenities of the destination area. The relative cost of the visit is also important, as is the effectiveness of marketing and promotion. Explaining tourist flows The flows, or interaction, between places are highly complex and are influenced by a wide variety of interrelated variables. A number of attempts have been made to explain the factors that affect tourist flows and to provide rules governing the magnitude of flows between regions. An early attempt was by Williams and Zelinsky (1970), who selected 14 countries that had relatively stable tourist flows over a few years and which accounted for the bulk of the world’s tourist traffic. They identified a number of factors that helped to explain these flows. These included: distances between countries (the greater the distance, the smaller the volume of flow) international connectivity (shared business or cultural ties between countries) the general attractiveness of one country for another. A second means of explaining tourist flows is offered by the gravity model, based on two main factors that influence flows. The first of these are the push and pull factors which generate flows, and the gravity model states that the larger the ‘mass’ (population) of country ‘A’ or country ‘B’, the greater the flow between them. The second factor, known as the friction of distance, refers to the cost (in time and money) of longer journeys, and this acts to restrain flows between the country of origin and more distant destinations. Other, more complex, multivariate models based on travel itineraries can also be used to explain tourist flows. Four common types can be identified: point to point – ‘there and back’ trips point to point with an added touring circuit focused on one point a circular tour hub and spoke itineraries. Measuring tourist flows As tourism has become more prominent, national governments and international organizations have introduced the measurement of both international and domestic flows. There are three main reasons why tourism statistics are important: ● Statistics are required to evaluate the magnitude of tourist flows and to monitor any change. This allows projections of future flows to be made and the identification of market trends.

● Statistics act as a base of hard fact to allow tourism planners and developers to operate effectively and plan for the future of tourism.

● Both the public and private sectors use the statistics as a basis for their marketing. There are three main categories of tourism statistics:

● Statistics of volume give the number of tourists leaving an area or visiting a destination in a given period of time and provide a basic count of the volume of tourist traffic. Volume statistics also include the length of stay of visitors at their destinations. A variety of methods are available to measure tourist flows. For volume statistics, tourists can be counted as they enter or leave a country and immigration control will often provide this information. Obviously this is relatively straightforward for international flows, but much more problematical for domestic tourism. For destination areas, an alternative method is to enumerate tourists at their accommodation by the use of registration cards. This method is only effective with legal enforcement and normally omits visitors staying in private houses or ‘VFR’ tourists – those visiting (and staying with) friends or relatives. Statistics of domestic tourism volume may be obtained by national travel surveys or destination surveys. National travel surveys involve interviewing a representative sample of the population in their own homes. Questions are asked on the nature and extent of travel over a past period and the results not only provide statistics on the volume of domestic tourism but also may include expenditure and the character of the flows. Examples of national travel surveys include the UK Tourism Survey (UKTS) and the German Reiseanalyse. In destination surveys, visitors to a tourist area, specific site, or attraction are questioned to establish the volume, value and characteristics of traffic to the area or site.

● The second category of statistics is that of tourist characteristics. While statistics of volume are a measure of the quantity of tourist flows, this second category measures the quality of the flow and will include information on types of tourist (such as gender, age, socioeconomic group) and their behaviour (such as structure of the trip, attitudes to the destination). It is not uncommon for statistics of tourist characteristics and volume to be collected together. Surveys of tourist characteristics have evolved from straightforward questioning, which gives basic factual information (for example, the age profile of visitors), to surveys that now concentrate on questions designed to assist the marketing and management of a destination, or to solve a particular problem. Statistics of tourist characteristics are obtained in a variety of ways. Additional questions can be added to accommodation registration cards, or border checks, but more commonly a sample of travellers is asked a series of questions about themselves, their trip, opinions of the destination, etc. (An example of this approach is the UK International Passenger Survey (IPS) which measures the volume and value as well as the characteristics of UK inbound and outbound tourism.)

● The third type is expenditure statistics. Tourist flows are not simply movements of people but they also have an important economic significance for the tourist system. Quite simply, tourism represents a flow of money that is earned in one place and spent in another. To make comparisons easier, expenditure is usually expressed in $US rather than the national currency. Measurement of tourist expenditure can be obtained by asking tourists directly how much they have spent on their holiday, or indirectly by asking hoteliers and other suppliers of tourist services for estimates of tourist spending. For international expenditure statistics, bank records of foreign currency exchange may be used as another indirect method. Despite the variety of methods available to measure tourist flows, it is not easy to produce accurate tourist statistics. In the first place, the tourist has to be distinguished from other travellers (e.g. returning residents) and, while internationally agreed definitions of tourists do exist, they are not yet consistently applied throughout the world. At the same time, until recently there has been no real attempt to coordinate international surveys. To add to these problems, survey methods change over the years, even within single countries, and comparisons of results from year to year are difficult. A further problem is that surveys count ‘events’, not ‘people’, so that a tourist who visits a country twice in a year will be counted as two arrivals. Those on touring holidays may be counted as separate arrivals in various destinations and will inflate the overall visitor arrival figures. The relaxation of border controls, especially within groups of trading countries – such as the European Union (EU) – compounds the tourist statistician’s problem and makes it difficult to enumerate tourists.

Forms of tourism The geographical components of tourism, allied to the idea of scale and tourist flows, combine to create a wide variety of different forms of tourism, which we can categorize according to:

● type of destination

● the characteristics of the tourism system

● the market

● the distance travelled. Type of destination Tourism can be classified according to the type of destination visited. Here, from a geographical point of view, an important distinction is that between international and domestic tourism:

● domestic tourism embraces those travelling within their own country

● international tourism comprises those who travel to a country other than that in which they normally live.

● International tourism can be thought of as: inbound tourism – non-residents travelling in a given country outbound tourism – involving residents of a particular country travelling abroad to other countries. International tourists have to cross national borders and may well have to use another currency and encounter a different language. Clearly, the size of a country is important here. Larger countries are more likely to have a variety of tourist attractions and resorts and, quite simply, the greater physical distances may deter international tourism. This is exemplified by the volumes of domestic tourism in the USA (almost 90 per cent of all tourism) compared to the Netherlands (around 50 per cent). Increasingly, too, the distinction between these two forms of tourism is diminishing as movement between countries becomes less restricted. Concern for the environmental impact of tourism has focused attention on ways of classifying tourists according to their relationship with the destination. Smith (1978), for example, groups tourists along a continuum ranging from explorers, with virtually no impact, to mass tourists where the impact may be considerable (see Table 1.1). The characteristics of the tourism system Here, we can consider forms of tourism based largely on the destination visited, but also where the destination visited will influence the other components of the tourism system – the market with its motivations to travel, and the means of transport used. In other words, the tourism product determines the nature of the tourism system. For example:

● rural tourism

● urban tourism

● spa tourism

● heritage tourism

● cultural tourism

● sport tourism

● ecotourism The final form of tourism on the list – ecotourism – exemplifies this approach:

● In the generating area for example, the ecotourist characteristically will be motivated by the responsible consumption of nature-based tourism products and will be educated to an above average level.

● In the destination area, nature will be the main attraction and the ancillary services (accommodation, transport etc.) will be well managed, use local employees and be ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’.

● In the transit zone, the ecotourist will seek locally owned companies who attempt to minimize the impact upon the environment caused by their transport operations.


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