Tourism is a trip, a journey that involves leaving one’s place of daily life to live in another place temporarily, a place outside daily life. At the destination a plan of practices resulting from a combination between rest/discovery/play/shopping and sociability will be rolled out for the “recreation” of the individual tourist. Practising tourism means activating a system of practices, players and destinations (Knafou and Stock, 2013).

A new trip

Tourism is the most recently invented trip in history because it is neither a pilgrimage, nor a business or diplomatic trip, which are mobilities that have existed for centuries. It was invented in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as indicated by the appearance of the word “tourist” in English in 1800, in French in 1803 and in German in 1875. This trip was based, historically, on two practices: one in connection with the “Grand Tour” where this encyclopaedic trip initiated in the 15th century became a thematic trip at the beginning of the 19th century focused on discovery, landscapes, art of the antiques and classics and of society (Towner, 1985); the other was the advent of new ways of healing where water, air and light become therapeutic resources.

In the first case, cities, countryside, seaside and mountains were targeted. In the second, only seaside and mountains were occupied. In the world of the “full”, tourism takes on the world of the “empty” (Violier et al. 2021). The two practices represent the DNA of tourism because they are the doing of the same populations, sometimes as part of the same trip: the therapeutic virtues of Nice (air therapy) were identified by Englishmen, on their way to Italy. Play is an indispensable complement to these activities to the point that it was considered by some researchers as “a formal and informal therapy” (Cossick, 2000). Based on these first rationales, others were initiated and developed throughout the history of tourism.

In what way is the tourist trip different from other trips?

The origins of tourism show the first difference. There are others too and they give a particular meaning and place to this type of mobility.

Tourism is a chosen trip, that is to say a change of place of dwelling that is desired and organised by dedicated people or companies (tour operators or travel agencies) whereby a person voluntarily decides to leave their permanent place of life to go and live elsewhere. Therefore, this means that we accept to leave the routine of everyday life and to go and experience some or a complete “de-routinisation” for a limited period of time. This trip is undertaken in the free time of individuals and families – because it has been proven that going with the family is the primary motivation of people (Mondou and Violier, 2009). For working people, employees, it is largely subject to paid leave and school holidays. For pensioners, the question that arises is the meaning of tourism since work constraints are no longer a major concern, as discussed in the entry on retirement. In addition, they remain tourists because they have been tourists during their working life, they have significant financial resources and enjoy a good health. Of course, the situations vary a lot across people and countries. Tourism is practised in the free time of individuals and families – because it has been proven that going with the family is the primary motivation of people (Mondou and Violier, 2009).

Tourism is a journey during which the individual seeks a difference to experience an encounter with otherness. Indeed, tourism is explained by the fact that elsewhere is not here. “The place where I go is not like home. This differential can be understood as a set of differences interacting between them and triggering the choice of a destination.” (Duhamel, 2018) All these differences operate as a system and form the differential, which historically and even today, is due to a certain number of individual or collective trade-offs (the group with which we travel) based on what we hear, what we see and imagine, our desires and fantasies as well as societal injunctions. Going here rather than elsewhere is not necessarily a simple choice. And this experience of otherness is not proportional to distance, as going on a trip is not a natural mobility: for some, going a few kilometres away from their home is enough for “their happiness”, in the sense that it is a break with everyday life, while others would need to cross half the world to feel elsewhere.

To cope with the diversity of the world and support the traveller, a tourist market had developed since the 1850s, bringing in its wake tour operators and travel agencies, hotels and tourist accommodation as well as new books: tourist guides. This was a wonderful catalyst for the development of tourism and the initial democratisation of the practice, largely driven by European colonisation.

Tourism is a journey during which the tourist seeks a difference to experience an encounter with otherness. It therefore triggers an experience of the world during which we learn to “be a tourist”. Because “one is not born a tourist, one becomes a tourist. (Team MIT, 2002) This learning is acquired during childhood through parents, the family and the educational environment (school outings and classes). The older tourists plan their own mobility which depends on the choice of their studies, their sociability, and the experience of their partner and the moment in the “life cycle”: the arrival of children can lead to the choice of new forms of holidays for a globetrotter couple and give them an opportunity to acquire other skills (having a child who agrees to travel long hours!). At the end of the day, each stage of life brings its share of experience and learning (Brougère and Fabbiano, 2014). Therefore, “knowing how to travel” is a skill (Guibert, 2016). Again, the “tourist market” is a tool that can be very useful.

Tourism is a trip during which one goes to live elsewhere, temporarily, either for a short period (from one to a few days) or a long period (a few weeks). And this tourist occupancy of places has specific features that can lead to tensions or even create local conflicts. Firstly, tourists, being urban dwellers, seek elsewhere what forms their daily life. This is a source of criticism towards the tourists, but it remains the primary feature of this trip.
Historically this was rather well perceived by the inhabitants who saw it as a means to develop their place: new, more modern constructions, new facilities. Currently, it is rather criticised, the idea being that tourism reduces diversity in the world. Secondly, tourists have a different pace of life to the local inhabitants. In tourist destinations, this was not a problem as long as tourists stayed in dedicated accommodation. But cohabitation becomes more difficult with the development of short-term rentals where the tourist is potentially “our neighbour” and is present in areas previously deprived of tourists such as certain suburban areas of Paris and La Barceloneta in Barcelona.

Lastly, tourism is also characterised by the adoption of stands and attitudes that are different to the local inhabitants. Historically, it hinged on the urban/rural pair, whereas today this duality takes the form of Western-foreign tourist/native of the place. In any case, this co-habitation generally works very well and has been so for a long time. However, recent tensions have appeared around a so-called “overtourism”, even if fundamentally tourism is also a source of profit for some of the inhabitants, especially those who work in this sector and those who rent properties.

Criticism and overstepping of official definitions: a tool to clarify mobilities

The definition and analysis that we propose are based on a very different approach to those proposed by official bodies such as the World Tourism Organisation: “Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon related to the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal purposes or for business and professional purposes.” This definition raises a number of questions around the reasons, and for a long time the duration was not to exceed a year (although this is no longer the case). It should also be noted that the UNWTO statistics raise several issues.

Can one be a tourist all year round given that mobility is restricted due to paid holidays, family imperatives, health concerns, the school calendar for those who have children? Can a retired or self-employed person be absent for a year and remain a tourist? Finally, isn’t the “tourist” visa when we travel in the world, also a factor that restricts presence in a foreign country? Tourist visas rarely exceed 6 months. Similarly, can the reasons for travelling be professional, medical or religious? For us, it is impossible because the context as well as the sequence, the places as well as the practices are different to those of tourism (Ill. 1).

While there are commonalities between these mobilities, such as leaving your daily life, taking a means of transport and booking accommodation, strong distinctions exist and show that tourism is a specific trip that differs from all others. What the tourist market calls “business tourism”, “health tourism” and “religious tourism” will thus be called “business trips”, “medical trips” and “pilgrimage”. If we assimilate them with tourism, we might not know the expectations of these customers or misunderstand/ignore their needs as well as changes in practices. However, in each of these three trips there can be a “tourist sequence”, that is to say that one takes opportunity of a professional, religious or health trip to, possibly, extend it by a tourist stay or take the time to visit a specific place, etc. However, the trip is not originally a tourist trip. Therefore, and using the keywords stated at the outset, we can distinguish the different mobilities of our life and place each of them in a specific spatio-temporal context (Ill. 2).

Ill. 2. Inputting tourist and leisure mobility in a mobility system

This clarification is necessary and gives tourist travel and tourism their full and rightful place. In sociology, the word “holidays” is more often used (Réau, 2011) but Elias and Dunning (1994) specify: “travelling during one’s holidays”.

In economics (notably Caccomo, 2015) this issue is addressed through segmentation, based on the UNWTO categories. However, as we have pointed out, these are differences in nature and not different modalities within the same whole. The conditions of travel are radically different and if we ignore this reality, we are bound not to grasp the profound meaning of tourism mobility. This is how we interpret the relative or total failure of proposals that have not considered the fact that tourists travel for their pleasure and are not pupils or students. When they are not happy with the proposal, they leave (Violier, 2017).

Ill. 3. Segmentation, according to Caccomo, 2015

In management sciences the positions vary. Some, notably Frochot and Legoherel (2018), adopt the same stand as economists and address it from the angle of segmentation. According to this approach, so-called leisure tourism is a mode of tourism that would also include business trips, school trips, pilgrimages, etc. However, as we argued above, these trips are not of the same nature and they cannot therefore be understood as parts of a whole. In other work (Clergeau and Peypoch, 2019a), there are options that diverge between sensitivity about institutional categories that are not discussed (Petr, 2019), and an openness that takes into account the work carried out in other disciplines, but also specifies the specific contribution of management sciences (Clergeau and Peypoch, 2019b).

Objections underline the relevance of a debate. The latter authors point out: “But [the approach advocated by Stock et al. (2017)] restricts the analysis of the phenomenon in its current evolutions…”. They continue, firstly: “business trips, for example, which give rise to tourist experiences through the discovery of the place of destination; professional events that are complemented by cultural or leisure visits” (Clergeau and Peypoch, 2019b: P. 12). However, as we wrote above, common points exist between the different mobilities, in particular the crossing of distance, the de-territorialisation that justifies the search for accommodation, etc.

Nevertheless, free time is contingent on the performance of the task expected by the employer or set out in a contract for self-employed workers, and in particular the time that it takes. As at their place of residence, the working people have free time which they use for the purposes of tourist sequences, but the entire trip cannot be considered as a tourist trip.

Secondly, the same authors continue: “the new practices of staycation (contraction of stay and vacation) … which consist of taking holidays by staying at home, by experiencing a hotel near home, by visiting one’s city and enjoying its tourist resources are all excluded from this definition” and conclude: “The line between leisure and tourism – leisure outside the place of daily life or in the place of daily life – is blurring” (Clergeau and Peypoch, 2019b: P. 12). “Visiting your city” is a leisure activity and not a tourism activity. The same applies to a night or more spent in a hotel for a change, for fun. Individuals remain in or around their daily environment, and in the latter case it may be appropriate to take up an accommodation. The daily space is not strictly earmarked by a border with a clear line. Its scope varies depending on individuals and social groups.

Philippe DUHAMEL and Philippe VIOLIER


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