EuroMed Regional Congress 2020
Tourism can be summarized as travel for the purposes of recreation, pleasure or business. In itself, it is often associated with international travel, but it can also refer to visits made to locations in one’s homeland (barring one’s place of residence). The most widely accepted definition of tourism on a global scale is the one put forth by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 1999), which sees tourism as an activity that stems from travel and accomodation of an individual outside of his/her standard place of residence up to a year for the purposes of pleasure, business or other reasons unrelated to the activities for which they would receive compensation in their place of visit.
If we wish to discuss the different types of tourism, we will find various criteria for determining and analysing them among the available scientific literature. Therefore, we can differentiate tourism according to the lenght of stay of tourists, their mobility rate, their age structure, nationality, the mode of organizing their trip, the market conditions that determine the organization, the number of participants, seasons of the year, spatial extent and so on.
However, the most commonly used basic categorization differentiates between mass tourism (large number of tourists, organized travel, tour packages designed by travel agencies and tour operators, low prices) and alternative or sustainable tourism (alternative content and tourist behaviour, focused on the motives of tourists, environmentally friendly organization). Specific types of tourism are created once when the focus of planning and development of a certain destination switches from the strategy of mass consumption (simple and cheap products, large traffic) towards diversification of the tourist market (i.e. putting the focus on the specific niche elements within it).
The goal of this debate is to determine which of these two types of tourism is more desirable when all of their aspects are taken into account. Sustainable tourism can be seen as a very positive thing due to the fact that it is conducted with an awareness of the environment, but is nonetheless focused on providing the tourist with the full extent of available services. As previously stated, it aims to satisfy the needs of the market, however it can face potential problems related to the price hikes of transportation, accomodation, food and so on. Furthermore, it usually implies the reduction of the overall number of tourists visiting a certain destination due to higher prices. A problem could therefore arise in the case where this type of tourism would be so widespread that the low-budget tourists would be excluded from the possibility of travel altogether.
The defining characteristics of mass tourism are mass transit, package deals and – most importantly – low prices. However, compared to sustainable tourism, it has more negative effects on the environment, and is comparatively detached from local economies. From the perspective of tourists, prices play a crucial role to many.
The goal of this debate should be the comparison between the wide availability of mass tourism and the environmental awareness and niche focus of alternative tourism – which is better and why?