The size of tourism

2.2 How big is the total tourist industry?

Starting in the 1990s, countries began analyzing the size of the tourism industry using a method called a “satellite account”. Satellite accounts measure the size of industries that don’t fit nicely into classic industry classifications. They do so by agreeing upon estimated percentages that one industry is spending within other industries to calculate their total economic value. Classic industries include the petroleum industry, the fashion industry, and agriculture where it’s relatively easy to calculate their economic value. However, the size of the Space industry and even the value of unpaid household work are more difficult to calculate and therefore estimated with satellite accounts.

In 2000, the United Nations and several other intergovernmental organizations agreed to a standard satellite accounting method for valuing tourism that all countries could use. At least 60 countries have used this method to gauge the size of their tourism industries. The United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO) and Statista show now that travel and tourism is the third-largest industry in the world. This is after the service and manufacturing industries. It isn’t always going to be easy to distinguish the travel and tourism industry from the service industry. But we will get back to that.

The United Nations World Travel Organization is a trade body that raises awareness of travel and tourism. It represents the global private sector of Travel & Tourism. It provides a regular assessment of the tourism and travel industries based on the standard satellite accounting system. The latest available assessment shows that Travel & Tourism in 2018:

• contributed $8.8 trillion to the global economy;
• grew faster than the global economy for the eighth successive year;
• generated 10.4% of all global economic activity (including direct spending on accommodation, food, entertainment, and transport, as well as investments by travel and tourism companies, and the spending of workers in the industry);
• contributed to provide 319 million jobs, representing one in ten of all jobs globally;
• is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years;
• is the second-fastest-growing sector in the world, increasing its share of leisure spending from 77.5% in 2017 to 78.5% in 1018;
• increased its share of spending from international tourists 28.8%, up from 27.3% in 2017.
• receives 71.2% of spending from domestic tourists.

According to the latest partial update from December 2019, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew in 2019 with 3.8% compared to the previous year. It was the tenth consecutive year of sustained growth since 2009. United Nations World Travel Organization estimates that destinations worldwide received around 1.5 billion arrivals in 2019, about 54 million more than in 2018. It estimated before the Covid-19 pandemic, that tourism would continue its growth with 3 to 4% in 2020. How bad the Covid-19 pandemic is going to affect the tourist industry is very difficult to predict, but the damage is likely going to be felt for years.

2.3 Seven different forms of tourism

Tourism on the Uros Islands Lake TiticacaTourism affects many layers of a society and its economy. How exactly depends highly on how tourism is presented, sold, and operated. Tourism can be divided into domestic and international tourism. In general, these two can each be divided again into three distinct categories according to the purpose of travel:

• Economical and medical tourism. Many people travel to other countries to earn more money, or to get better or cheaper medical care.
• Convention Tourism has become an increasingly important component of travel. People travel within a country or overseas to attend conventions relating to their business, profession, or interest.
• Recreational or leisure tourism takes a person away from the humdrum of everyday life. In this case, people can spend their leisure time in the hills, beaches, at sea, in the forest, a new city, etc.

The first two groups of travelers aren’t leisure tourists and therefore they’re not relevant for this book which is focused on recreational traveling and tourism. This type of traveling is completely voluntary and therefore the easiest to avoid. Recreational tourism, however, can still combine business and pleasure and is generally divided into the following seven groups:

• Incentive Tourism
Giving a touristic activity to your employees or best customers can have many benefits. It strengthens social relationships with employees and customers. Depending on the activity, this kind of tourism can be good to reduce stress, improve health of your employees, and increase productivity. On top of all, they’re often tax-deductible. No wonder this type of tourism is expanding fast. Today incentive tourism is a more than three billion-dollar business in the USA alone!

• Sports/ Adventure tourism
Since professional sportsmen and women travel to earn money, we can categorize them as ‘economic travelers’, rather than leisure travelers. Here I want to focus on the growing group of tourists who travel to a different location to perform sports for pleasure. Often their main reason to travel is that their sport of interest can’t be performed in their hometown. Think for example about skiing, surfing, and mountain biking, but also horseback riding, rafting, or even paragliding, bungee jumping, and other extreme sports.

More free time, higher budgets, more stress, and more awareness about the benefits of exercise have increased the demand for sports and adventure tourism. Although this type of tourism has several benefits on our physical and mental health, it does come with new risks. Yearly many people end up in hospitals with broken limbs from mountain biking and especially skiing. Often these accidents could’ve been prevented by providing better information and/or training.
Especially when talking about extreme sports it is very important to organize this with experienced companies. Not just for your health, but even for the environment. Extreme sports are frequently organized in (fragile) natural areas. Badly (often cheap) organized companies care less about their environmental impact. In Huaraz (Peru) some trekking companies now add more weight to the load their donkeys can carry, so they can use fewer donkeys and reduce the costs of their trekkings.

Tikal Maya ruins Guatamala• Cultural tourism
This includes traveling to other countries, or even just locations, to experience and/ or learn more about cultures and history. Most people will think directly about visiting archaeological sites like Chichén Itzá in Mexico and Machu Picchu in Peru, but cultural tourism can also include listening to local music and eating local food.

Learning about and from other cultures has always been an important motivation to go traveling. The main reason is human curiosity, although other motivations shouldn’t be underestimated. Many people just like to show off and say/show to others: “Look I’ve been there and done this”. Social media, especially Instagram and the increased ‘selfie-culture’ have strongly contributed to this type of tourism. According to a report by ABC News, before 2015 the average annual number of visitors at the so-called ‘Horseshoe Bend’ in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area was about 4,000. But with Instagram to promote this location, the place is now being mobbed by an estimated 2.2 million people per year. That’s a 55,000 percent increase!

Cultural tourism can be very good to help develop an understanding of the world around us. However, tourism, especially mass tourism, will also change a local culture. These changes can be both positive and negative. How big these changes are and if they are positive- or negative, will depend a lot on how tourism is organized. More about cultural community tourism in chapter 11.

Rural tourism
The term ‘rural tourism’ has been adopted by the European Community (EC) to refer to all tourism activities in a rural area. It often benefits the local community both economically and socially. Rural tourism enables interaction between the tourists and the local people for a more enriching tourism experience. A variety of terms are employed to describe tourism activities in rural areas. Agri-Tourism and Farm-Tourism focus on agrarian activities. They often consist of recreational and educational activities on farms. These activities can include how to plant and harvest, milking cows, making cheese, or just visiting a local farm.

Wilderness and Forest Tourism may be implicitly included within notions of rural tourism, or they may be regarded as separate. Tourists explore the wilderness and natural beauty of a rural area. In wilderness and forest tourism, tourists travel to the natural habitat of plants and animals. It mostly encompasses non-consumptive interactions with wildlife and nature, such as observing and photographing animals in their natural habitats. Wilderness and forest tourism includes various tourism activities such as wildlife photography, safari, bird watching, trekking, hiking, etc. It is often a combination of ecotourism and sports but doesn’t have to be.

• Ecotourism
This form of rural tourism focuses even more on observing and preserving nature. Ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism. Were all forms of tourism can become more sustainable, not all forms of tourism can become ecotourism. Since 1996 the official definition of Ecotourism is: “environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, to enjoy, study and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present). Ecotourism promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations”. Eco Lodges are the best known product of Ecotourism.

Green tourism is portrayed as a new approach to tourism development. It seeks to develop a symbiotic relationship with the physical and social environment on which it depends and implicitly seeks to attain sustainability ideals. Green tourism is similar to ecotourism and also refers to tourism in natural areas. It is however more commonly used to describe forms of tourism that are considered to be even more environmentally friendly than ecotourism.

• Volunteer tourism
Right after ‘Ecotourism’, selling volunteer work is another growing market in tourism. The tourist industry now offers a wide variation of volunteer tours and excursions. Most of these trips are in developing countries and may provide the ability to work with poor children or wildlife. Volunteer tourism, or so-called ‘Feel Good Tourism’ can be a win-win concept for both tourists and travel agencies. It is a popular ‘product’ that sells itself because it makes the clients feel good about themselves. But if the volunteer work that’s been sold is actually sustainable is a difficult question to answer. Sometimes it might even do more harm than good. See chapter 8.8 about the advantages and disadvantages of volunteer tourism.

• Mental/ Spiritual Health tourism
Tourism to heal a tired body, fight stress, prevent burnout, or even find a new version of yourself is also growing in popularity. Traveling to improve your health isn’t new at all and yoga and spa treatments exist already for thousands of years. Until recent this type of travel was mostly for religious and rich people. But with a general improvement of income in many Western countries and an increase in stress levels, more and more people are now looking for new (exotic) ways to improve their health. See also chapter 8.7.

Where people and nature come together there is often a battle between comfort and survival. As humans, we always try to alter our surroundings in a way to improve our quality of life, which often comes with (high) costs for the environment. More and more people are becoming aware that it is important to protect the environment, both for our health and for future generations. Therefore rural, ecological, and humanitarian tourism are gaining quickly in popularity. The tourist industry has picked up on this trend. To improve their image many companies try to sell their products with the words “Eco”, “Green”, “Fair” and “Volunteer”. “Protect the environment and give something back to society while traveling”, makes a very good sales pitch. But is all of this ‘Feel Good Tourism’ really sustainable?

Many organizations try to help to minimize the negative impact of tourism. They can even provide some type of eco or fair certifications. On a global scale there are still no official regulations about when a business or organization is allowed to be called “sustainable”, “environmentally friendly”, and/or “fair”. Therefore it’s important to have a closer look at the effects of tourism on our society, environment and climate.