What is tourism?

by Eche Egbuonu

Tourism has been around for thousands of years with the earliest form of leisure tourism tracing back to the ancient Babylonian and Egyptian empires. A museum containing historic relics was open to the public in Babylon and many flocked to Egyptian cities to marvel at the famous works of arts and architecture.

Presently, tourism is significant to the worldwide economy and accounts for an approximate 5% of the global gross domestic product. Furthermore tourism generates employment prospects in the service industries connected with tourism. Some of the industries that benefit from tourism the most are transportation services, hospitality services and entertainment venues.

Similar to ancient Egyptian times, travellers still seek to discover cultures by exploring the art, architecture, religion and history of a particular region. Cultural tourism also has been fundamental in the regional growth of different countries. To know where we are headed, we must also know where we came from. This is a sentiment shared by many and is one of the reasons why ancient landmarks are popular tourist attractions.

Many ancient ruins across the globe are regarded as double edged swords. Some argue that the promotion of these sites causes more harm than good. There are some landmarks that do not allow public access for the sake of preservation, these are contrasted with others that are run by tourist organizations that prioritize ticket and souvenir revenue.

There are many different types of tourism, one of them being social tourism which involves making tourist leisure available to the majority by offering an exceptional economic opportunity. An example of this includes renting out a spare bedroom for a young couple at an affordable rate. Social tourism has become more prominent in recent years and is important because it allows those that otherwise wouldn’t be able to gain new experiences to do so.

Adventure travel involves discovery or travelling to isolated, unusual and possibly hostile destinations. It is a form of tourism that is quickly rising in popularity, as travellers seek alternative vacation ideas.

Bicycle touring falls within the umbrella of adventure tourism and has also benefited from a surge in popularity. It is essentially cycling over long distances – placing emphasis on pleasure and stamina over effectiveness or speed. It can take shape in the form of single or multi day trips and provides a unique perspective on discovering an area. One of the more prominent bicycle tours was made by distinguished travel writer Dervla Murphy who travelled from London to India in 1963 on a single speed bicycle. Other travel writers such as Eric Newby have used bicycle touring as an instrument for literary endeavours as it brings the tourist closer to the populace and the area they are exploring.

Agritourism involves all agricultural pursuits that bring guests to a farm or ranch- either for educational or recreational purposes. It can include directly purchasing produce from a farm, picking crop, feeding farm animals or lodging at a bed and breakfast on a farm. As a result of economic adversity and global changes in the livestock trades, farmers have recognised that their business models must be adapted in order to generate new forms of income. Equally, as the gap between the production and usage of agricultural goods widens, so too does the end users interest in how crops and livestock are produced. Individuals want to rediscover the agricultural practices of the past.

Czech tramping is a movement that encompasses exploration, backpacking, woodcraft, camping and mountaineering with a style distinctive to the American culture. Tramping started off in Czechoslovakia at the start of the 20th century and is still prevalent nowadays in the Czech Republic and to a smaller extent in Slovakia. Czech tramping is distinguished by unique outfits, mountaineering traditions and tramp music.

The number of tourists looking for adrenaline filled adventures is increasing. The search for the best wave has led to an increase to an in tourism in the form of surfing quests. White water rafting is another extreme sport that has become a popular leisure sport over the last few decades. Manoeuvring through different degrees of rough water provides a challenging and unique thrill for raft passengers.

In addition to this canyoning is another adventure activity that has benefited from increased exposure. It involves travelling down canyons and across rivers and encompasses abseiling, swimming and scrambling. Canyoning usually occurs in remote and rugged locations – requiring route finding, navigational skills and co-ordinated team working.

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