Tourism, insofar as the practice very early entered an international and extra-European space, is indeed a modality of globalisation as a process of densification of the links between places around the world (Durand, Lévy and Retaillé, 1992; Lévy, 2008). It is therefore a special field of observation (Gay and Violier, 2007).

An issue of method

In order to assess the spread of tourism around the world using a scientific approach, i.e. based on an explicit method that can be reviewed, it is first necessary to break with the use of statistics produced under the World Tourism Organization (WTO) and to refer to a narrower approach to tourism as a social practice (Stock et al., 2000, in particular chapter 2). Consequently, the links between places around the world are woven by tourists in the context of performing practices that differ from other forms of travel, notably by the greater room for manoeuvre available to travellers compared to other journeys such as those linked to work, pilgrimages, school trips, etc. (see the entry on Tourism).

But how can one avoid WTO statistics to examine tourism in the world? With this in mind, authors have applied frequency analysis of place names, some to a corpus of tourist guides (Stock and Antonescu, 2014; Antonescu, 2016 and 2018), others adding other writings, notably scientific and professional (Gay and Decroly, 2018).

We have proposed using the catalogues of tour operators (Violier, 2011; Violier and Taunay, 2019). The rationality of these stakeholders makes it possible to take the proposals found in their booklets, and now via the internet, seriously. Comparing the destinations and itineraries used by tourists who travel on organised tours and those who make their own arrangements confirms the hypothesis that the differences are marginal, in terms of practices and the places visited. There are real variations in the methods, including the use of homestays and local establishments rather than international chain hotels for those who make their own arrangements. There are also variations in transport; instead of local transport, used by tourists who make their own arrangements, those who choose organised tours prefer tour buses, which are reserved for tourists. However, these differences only marginally affect the list of places travelled. This approach leads to a tourist map of the world based on places, not nations (see Globality).

Two types of distribution

The tourist ecumene is now larger than its sedentary counterpart, and few countries in the world ban tourists, even if some nations remain reluctant or fearful. The government of Saudi Arabia, one of the last bastions and largely open to pilgrims but closed to tourists, made the decision to issue tourist visas starting in October 2019. The planet is therefore almost completely open. Similarly, it is now possible to visit North Korea, a country that has long been wayward. How did this happen?

While tourism was a European invention in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, it spread in 1875, according to Laurent Tissot (2000), to Egypt, marking the beginning of early globalisation, in the sense that individual tourists left European society to experience other worlds. But this remained a Western privilege. We call this the first globalisation. From 1964, when the Japanese were allowed to leave the country, a second phase began, marked by the access of non-Western societies to tourism. Japan’s pioneering role was due to US support for the country’s economic recovery as part of the containment policy to prevent the spread of communism. In the wake of Japan, tourism spread to Korea, Taiwan (2008) and Singapore. It has flourished since the process of economic emergence has shaped the world (Sacareau et al., 2015) and is a component of the ‘third tourism revolution’ (Violier, 2016). This evolution confirms the link between the wealth of societies, productivity gains and access to tourism. Some point out that China has become the leading country in outbound tourism since 2014, with 140 million departures, ahead of the United States. However, this is a questionable claim insofar as Hong Kong and Macau, having been reintegrated, are nevertheless considered different states with a border and visas imposed on inhabitants of mainland China. Removing departures bound for these two destinations brings the total number down to about 70 million.

The access of emerging societies to tourism is notably clear in the fact that there is a hub in East Asia, in relation to the population of China (10% leave the country for tourism), but the main destinations are located nearby (namely Japan, Korea and Thailand). The maps below are based on WTO statistics, which are admittedly imperfect, but the only which reflect this process.


Maps 1 and 2: distributions of tourism in the world; the top map from 1985 reveals a world of tourism marked by distribution dominated by Western countries, while the bottom map emphasises tourism access in emerging societies in 2015 (source: WTO statistics, production by Sigrid Giffon ESO Angers)

However, the majority join the most developed countries, which alone offer the infrastructure capable of meeting the expectations of the greatest number of people, and because of the cost involved in travelling. As a result, globalisation appears as regionalisation on a continental scale. Distance continues to be a constraint, contrary to unreliable claims (Lussault, 2014). For these reasons, the current map of the world of tourism underlines three regions with a higher degree of touristicity — the group constituted by North America and the Caribbean; the Mediterranean basin and Northwest Europe; and lastly, East Asia.

The relationship between different types of globalisation

The different types of globalisation are not isolated from each other but contribute together to Globalisation through the use and interrelations between forms of travel (Stock, 2008). In this conquest of the world, tourism has benefited from other forms of globalisation. European colonisation favoured the earliest spread of tourism. On the one hand, this has led to the promotion of European languages, which favours the circulation of tourists from the European continent. The movement of French citizens in Morocco is facilitated by the use of the European language.

On the other hand, it has created links that have developed into tourist relationships. The French were thus the first European tourists in Vietnam, just as the British were very present in India and Malaysia. The colonialists, expatriated for long periods, especially before the invention of aviation, eventually created tourist locations generally at higher elevation to enjoy milder temperatures. These hill stations have since been appropriated by the national bourgeoisie (Sacareau, 2012). Some have gone down in history, such as Bandung, Indonesia, which hosted the Bandung conference for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1955.

Furthermore, colonisation also led to the worldwide spread of buildings which physically and symbolically imposed the coloniser’s power — from cathedrals to palaces and other public buildings such as post offices, railway stations and other prefectures or local government offices. These buildings are now included in the list of must-see monuments, such as in Ho Chi Minh City, where city hall and the post office are both monuments to see.

Finally, European control sparked a process of invention of ancient societies based on a Westerner perspective, relating to the spread of heritage value. Therefore, evidence of long-gone societies have been brought out of oblivion, sometimes unearthed from the jungle or from sand, such as Gustave Flaubert writing about Egypt (travel account written in 1851 but published posthumously in 1881). This movement also led to looting and largely supplied Western museums with objects, some impressive in size such as the Parthenon Frieze in the British Museum or the temple in Berlin. Restitution is now being negotiated and is starting to become a reality.

Excerpt from Cambodge et Siam : voyage et séjour aux ruines des monuments kmers by August Filoz, published in 1869. This excerpt highlights the dimension of exploration that took place in the context of colonisation. The description of the famous temple is to be noted in particular, in addition to the abandoned state in which it was discovered (coll. BNF).

But as analysts have shown (Lévy, 2008; Durand et al., 1992), globalisation is not a continuous process. There have been turnarounds. For example, the advent of the communist system resulted in strict control of inbound and outbound border crossings and in a specific tourist system that lasted until the 1990s. Businesses played a major role in organising this flow, as workers carried out professional activities, to related establishments. However, forms of protest were tolerated in varying degrees in certain countries (Poland). The Covid pandemic was a shorter interruption (or so it seems) but during which all international relations were strictly controlled and even blocked, because of the risks of spreading the different variants of the virus. The effects of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine are likely to be longer term, as a break with globalisation and the formation of a new isolated bloc.

Diasporas, i.e. the spread of individuals sharing the same culture throughout the world, give rise to another aspect of tourist mobility, marked in particular by the persistence of links and the need to keep the flame of their origins alive, which manifests itself in a specific way in tourist mobility. Therefore, alongside other destinations, the country, or ‘homeland’, is a regular reference in the choice of holiday destinations according to research (Bidet, 2015; Goreau-Ponceaud, 2015).

Globalisation has not put an end to other forms of spatiality

This has also been demonstrated from a general perspective (Lévy, 2008). In the field of tourism, states remain major stakeholders. Several strategies have been used recently, without necessarily leading to unquestionable success, as in Morocco where Plan Bleu has not achieved the set objectives. However, others have shown how governments have been able to put their countries on the map. Dubai, a small fishing village turned tourist metropolis, is a textbook case, even if challenges have caused the model to falter and the support of the emir of Abu Dhabi has been necessary. Oman can also be cited. Other older examples can be used, such as Mauritius (Pébarthe, 2003), Mexico, Turkey or Bali with Nusa Dua.

The local level can also resist top-down attempts at tourism development without negotiations. The ongoing resistance of Casamance rebels to projects approved by Dakar shows this, whereas the Sherpas of the Khumbu valley have used tourism to ensure the continuation of their society (Sacareau, 1997). Conversely, states have no qualms about negotiating advantages from bodies at the global level in exchange for purely formal commitments to sustainable development policies (Gay, 2004).

However, the spread of tourism always comes up against the harshness of otherness. The diversity of the world’s societies is an obstacle to the circulation of tourists and therefore to the spread of tourism. Spatial technologies provide for this, be it through organisations such as tour operators offering packages or organised tours and stays, international chains providing similar standards of comfort throughout the world, or receptive actors increasing signage in the major languages in use.

This otherness also forces stakeholders to adapt. For example, Club Med in China had to invent clubs in the countryside where Mahjong and karaoke rooms adapt to Chinese-style leisure.

Does this lead to standardisation of the World?

The answer to this question is dialogical. The spread of tourism is already a homogenisation in itself, as a practice previously reserved for Westerners has become more widespread. Moreover, people in emerging societies are appropriating Western practices such as skiing. But there is some resistance; the Chinese prefer the countryside for leisure and continue to regard the beach as a dangerous place.

There are also inventions promoted by different societies locally. National parks were invented in America in 1872 (MIT Research Group, 2005). These places then spread throughout the world, though never entirely replicated. In Europe, parks developed on a more humanised and densely occupied continent; they are therefore smaller in size and less intended for tourism. Another contribution would be shopping, such as East Asian night markets.

Philippe Violier


  • Antonescu Andreea, 2016, La dynamique du champ mondial des lieux touristiques. Constitution et analyse d’une base de données historique à partir d’un corpus de guides de voyage. Thèse sous la direction de Mathis Stock, Université de Lausanne.
  • Antonescu Andreea, 2018, «La dynamique du champ mondial des lieux touristiques. Constitution et analyse d’une base de données historique à partir d’un corpus de guides de voyages», Mondes du Tourisme. 2018/14, en ligne.
  • Bidet Jennifer, 2015, «Les vacances au bled des descendants d’immigrés algériens, tourisme domestique ou tourisme international?», dans Sacareau Isabelle, Taunay Benjamin et Emmanuelle Peyvel (dir.), La mondialisation du tourisme. Les nouvelles frontières d’une pratique. Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, coll. «Espace et Territoires», p. 43-58.
  • Durand Marie-France, Lévy Jacques, Retaillé Denis, 1992, Le monde: espaces et systèmes. Paris, Presses de Sciences Po.
  • Équipe Mit, 2005, Tourisme 2. Moments de lieux. Paris, Éditions Belin, 352 p.
  • Gay Jean-Christophe et Decroly Jean-Michel, 2018, «Les logiques de la diffusion du tourisme dans le monde: une approche géohistorique», L’Espace géographique. n°2, p. 102-120, en ligne.
  • Gay Jean-Christophe et Violier Philippe, 2007, «Tous touristes! Le Monde comme espace touristique», dans Retaillé Denis, Mondialisation. Paris, Nathan, coll. «Nouveaux continents», p. 257-272.
  • Gay Jean-Christophe, 2004, «Tourisme, politique et environnement aux Seychelles», Revue Tiers Monde. n°178, p. 319-339.
  • Goreau-Ponceaud Antony, 2015, «Les pratiques touristiques au sein de la diaspora indienne: entre institutionnalisation et désirs d’appartenance», dans Sacareau Isabelle, Taunay Benjamin et Emmanuelle Peyvel (dir.), 2015, La mondialisation du tourisme. Les nouvelles frontières d’une pratique. Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Collection «Espace et Territoires», p. 59-74.
  • Lévy Jacques, L’invention du Monde. Une géographie de la mondialisation. Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 408p.
  • Lin Chi-Fan, 2008, Le tourisme des chinois taïwanais en France. Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. «Points sur l’Asie».
  • Lussault Michel, 20104, «L’espace à toutes vitesses», Esprit. n°410, p. 65-75, en ligne.
  • Ott Laurent, 2013, «La Mondialité contre la mondialisation», dans Ott Laurent (dir.), Travail social, les raisons d’agir. Toulouse, Érès, coll. «L’éducation spécialisée au quotidien», p. 161-162.
  • Pébarthe-Désiré Hélène, 2003, Le Tourisme, moteur du développement de la République du Maurice? Un secteur à ménager, des lieux à intégrer. Thèse Paris IV, 467p.
  • Sacareau Isabelle, Taunay Benjamin et Emmanuelle Peyvel (dir.), 2015, La mondialisation du tourisme. Les nouvelles frontières d’une pratique. Rennes, PUR, coll. «Espace et Territoires», 266p.
  • Sacareau Isabelle, 1997, Porteurs de l’Himalaya: le trekking au Népal. Belin, coll. «Mappemonde», 272p.
  • Sacareau Isabelle, 2012, «Tourisme et colonisation: les hill stations himalayennes de l’Empire britannique des Indes (Darjeeling, Simla, Mussoorie, Nainital) (1820-1947)», dans Saupin Guy, Vidal Laurent, Martinière Guy, Acerra Martine (dir.), Les villes et le monde. Du Moyen Âge au XXe siècle. Rennes, PUR, p. 91-102.
  • Stock Mathis, 2008, «Il Mondo è mobile», dans Lévy Jacques, L’invention du Monde. Une géographie de la mondialisation. Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, p. 132-159.
  • Stock Mathis et Antonescu Andréa, 2014, «Une méthodologie pour reconstruire la mondialisation du tourisme», Mondes du Tourisme. n°9, en ligne.
  • Stock Mathis, Coëffé Vincent, Violier Philippe et Duhamel Philippe, 2020, Les enjeux contemporains du tourisme. Une approche géographique. Rennes, PUR [1re éd. 2017], 500p.
  • Tissot Laurent, 2000, Naissance d’une industrie touristique. Les Anglais et la Suisse au XIXe siècle. Lausanne, Payot, 2000, 302p.
  • Violier Philippe et Taunay Benjamin, 2019, Les lieux touristiques du Monde. De la mondialisation à la mondialité. Londres, ISTE Editions, 322p.
  • Violier Philippe, 2011, «Les lieux du monde», Textuel, 22 août 2011, en ligne.
  • Violier Philippe, 2016, «La troisième révolution touristique», dans Violier Philippe, Clergeau Cécile, Duhamel Philippe et Guibert Christophe (dir.), La Troisième Révolution touristique, Mondes du tourisme. Hors-série, en ligne.