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Components of tourism: Structure of the tourism industry

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The travel and tourism industry is argued by many as being the largest industry in the world. It is, therefore, no surprise that the structure of the tourism industry is quite complex, involving many components of tourism.

With many different types of tourism and types of businesses operating within the tourism industry, from private companies to charities and NGOs, the structure of the tourism industry is made up of many different segments and components.

In this article I will provide you with an overview of the structure of the tourism industry, outlining the types of organisations and stakeholders in tourism that are involved.

Structure of the tourism industry

The importance of tourism is demonstrated when you can see how big the industry is!

The structure of the industry is made up of several components of tourism and involves many different stakeholders. These components are all interrelated in one way of another. The components of tourism make up the entire tourism system.

Components of tourism:
The travel and tourism industry is the largest in the world.

Components of tourism

There are several integral components of tourism. Without these components, the tourism industry would struggle to function. I have explained what this means below, but before you read on, take a look at this short video that I made (and if you like what you see, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel)!

This was demonstrated, for example, during the Coronavirus pandemic, which halted air travel around the world. Travel services are a vital component of tourism and without these services being operational, the tourism industry struggled to survive!

There are six major components of tourism, each with their own sub-components. These are: tourist boards, travel services, accommodation services, conferences and events, attractions and tourism services.

Components of tourism:
There are many components of tourism that make up the industry.

Below, I will explain what each of the components offer to the tourism industry and provide some relevant examples.

Components of tourism: Tourist boards

A tourist board is an essential component of tourism and an integral part of the structure of the tourism industry.

A tourism board is responsible for the promotion of tourism in a particular area. This could be a city, a region, a country or a group of countries.

A tourism board is usually Government funded and is usually a public travel and tourism organisation (although this is not always the case).

A tourism board is also often referred to as a Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO).

International organisations

Most tourist boards focus on promoting tourism in a particular area, city or country. There are, however, some organisations which aim to promote tourism across more than one country.

Whilst these organisation often have many functions other than tourism, they will also play a role in the promotion of tourism in particular parts of the world. This could include the European Union, the ASEAN network or organisations such as the United Nations.

National tourist boards

A national tourist board is a national organisation whose aim is to promote tourism across the country.

There are usually several management bodies that are involved with a national tourist board. They are essential stakeholders who determine many aspects of tourism in the country, such as budgets, taxation and regulations.

Said management bodies include the parliament, the tourist board, an auditing committee and the Prime Minister, President or Head of State.

The national tourist board is funded from tourist taxes, membership fees, Government funding and other sources.

Examples of national tourist boards (often most commonly referred to by their ‘campaign title’ as opposed to the Government title) include Visit Britain, Incredible India and Amazing Thailand.

Regional tourist boards

A regional tourist board is a tourist board that focusses on a particular region of a country. They are often a sub-division of a country’s national tourist board.

Regional tourism boards are often funded and operated in the same way as national tourist boards.

Examples of successful regional tourism boards include: Visit Cornwall in the UK, Kerala Tourism in India, Visite Montreal in Canada and Cape Town Tourism in South Africa.

Tourist information centres

A tourist information centre is the place where tourists can go for advice and help with regards to all matters related to tourism in the area.

In the tourist information centre (TIC) you will find staff who are knowledgeable about the local area. There will often be a range of printed and digital information for you, including leaflets, maps, coupons and guidebooks. Sometimes there will be virtual tourism facilities.

Tourist information centres have been an important component of tourism throughout the history of travel and tourism, however, they are coming under increasing pressure as a result of information that is available online. This has resulted in fewer people visiting TICs in person.

Most major tourist areas will have a tourist information centre. These are usually centrally located.

Tourist information centres are funded by the local Government.

Components of tourism:Transport services

The relationship between transport and tourism is strong.

According to the most commonly accepted definitions of tourism, a person must travel away from their home environment for at least one night in order to be a tourist (although I would argue that this definition needs updating given that it doesn’t account for novel forms of tourism such as a staycation or virtual tourism).

Based on this fact, therefore, transport is an integral component of tourism. Without transport, people cannot reach their intended destination.

There are a range of different transport types. The most common and popular methods of transport that make up the structure of the tourism industry, however, are: air, road, train and water.

Components of tourism:

Travel by air

Travel by air has grown exponentially in the past few decades. With the introduction of low cost airlines and deregulation, the competitive market has been a tourist’s paradise.

New routes opening up has introduced tourists to areas that they may never have been able to reach before and low prices have resulted in more of us taking more trips abroad using air travel as our means of transportation.

Travel by air is an essential component of tourism and this was demonstrated during the Coronavirus epidemic. During this time most air traffic was halted, which had a devastating impact of the tourism industry world-wide.

Travel by road

Travel by road is also a core component of tourism, particularly for domestic tourism.

Travel by road is more popular in some countries than others. This largely depends on accessibility options (i.e. what is accessible by road), distances required and road conditions.

In destinations where travel by road is popular, there are often many car hire or rental companies.

Travel by train

Travel by train is very popular in destinations that have good rail networks in infrastructure.

In some parts of the world, such as China and Japan, there are world-class high-speed railways that can be more efficient than flying.

In other parts of the world, the rail journey is part of the tourism experience. A good example of this is the Siberian Railway.

In Europe you can buy an affordable interrail pass, which allows you to travel throughout Europe using the rail system.

Components of tourism:
We have taken the maglev train in China many times whilst living in Hangzhou

Travel by water

Travel by water is also an important component of tourism.

The structure of the tourism industry includes cruises, ferries and leisure boats, among other types of travel by water.

Travel by water can vary considerably in price and can include anything from a round the world cruise to a short long tail ride in Thailand.

Components of tourism: Accommodation services

Accommodation services make up an important part of the structure of the tourism industry.

Whilst accommodation services were traditionally focussed mainly around the hotel industry, nowadays accommodation options for tourists are much more varied. This adds an additional layer of complexity to the structure of the tourism industry.

Hotels chains

There are many hotel chains that operate throughout the tourism industry and that are a key component of tourism.

Multinational corporations have expanded throughout the tourism industry with key players being hotel chains such as Marriott, Radisson, Hilton, Travel Lodge and Holiday Inn.

However, hotel chains such as these have come under increased scrutiny as a result of the economic leakage in tourism that they cause.

Hostels and budget accommodation

Hostels and budget accommodation options are popular with budget travellers and backpackers.

There are a range of hostels found throughout the world. These are particularly popular in destinations where accommodation is expensive, such as London, New York and Singapore.

The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) and Hostelling International are popular hostel providers that are found across the UK and overseas.

Holiday parks and campsites

Billy Butlin changed the face of the British holiday market with the introduction of his seaside holiday parks back in 1936.

Since this time, other similar chains have expanded throughout the UK and the rest of the world.

Camping is also an important component of tourism. There are camp sites situated throughout the world ranging from safari camps to glamping (glamorous camping).


Homestays have become an increasingly prominent component of tourism.

Whilst bed and breakfast accommodation has been around for a very long time, nowadays there are many more options that are grounded on the concept of a homestay.

The sharing economy has seen the growth and introduction of many types of accommodations into the travel and tourism sector that did not exist before.

The most popular of these is Airbnb, where people rent out a room or an entire property to tourists. You can read more about how Airbnb works here.

Accommodation innovations

In recent years consumers have been demanding new and unusual experiences more than ever. In response to this, we have seen many accommodation innovations emerge throughout the world.

From staying in an ice hotel in Finland, to sleeping in a hammock in Borneo to a night in a haunted castle in Wales, there are many different types of accommodation options that can make your holiday a little bit more exciting!

Components of tourism: Conferences and events

Conferences and events make up a significant part of the structure of the tourism industry.

Conferences, which often come under business tourism, come in all shapes and sizes around the world.

From a small academic gathering to a large-scale summit involving national leaders from around the world, conferences are an important component of tourism.

Likewise, the event sector is also a significant part of the tourism industry.

There are millions of events that take place around the world each year that vary in size and function. Many of these form an integral part of the tourism industry.

Examples of major conferences and events around the world

There are many major conferences and events that take place around the world every year. Here are a few of my favourites:

World Travel Market

The World Travel Market (WTM) is held in London each November. This is a large event that is held at the Excel venue.

WTM provides travel industry experts with the opportunity to showcase their work, learn more about the industry and to network.


ITB is the world’s leading international travel trade show. It is held in Berlin each year.

Similar to the WTM, this large-scale event enables industry professionals to network and undertake continuous professional development.

Football World Cup

The vast majority of people are familiar with the Football World Cup.

The Football World Cup is held every four years in a different location.

The Football World Cup attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. The event also acts as a stimuli for tourism as the nation will often use the opportunity of hosting the event as a chance to market tourism in the area to those who are tuning in from their TVs from around the world.

Sports tourism, which includes events such as the Football World Cup, contributes significantly to the overall tourism industry.


Glastonbury is a popular British music festival. It takes place each summer in Somerset.

Glastonbury is a five-day festival of contemporary performing arts. In addition to music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts to entertain visitors.

Glastonbury attracts many domestic tourists as well as international tourists.

San Fermin

San Fermin is a festival that is held in Pamplona, Spain each July.

San Fermin, also known as the ‘Running of the Bulls’ is a historically-rooted festival that lasts five days. It involves dancing, eating and drinking, games and the famous bull races and fights.

San Fermin has been subject to a lot of controversy in recent years, with many people protesting that it is a cruel form of animal tourism.

San Fermin
I attended the Running of the Bulls festival back in 2012…

Holi Festival

Holi Festival is known as the ‘festival of spring’, the ‘festival of colours’ or the ‘festival of love’.

Holi Festival is celebrated in India each year during the month of March.

Holi Festival is famous for the way in which coloured paints are used and often thrown onto people’s faces and clothes.

This is a Hindu festival that signifies the victory of good over evil.

Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead festival, locally referred to as ‘Dia de los Muertos’, is a festival that is celebrated in November each year in Mexico.

This day is a celebration of the deceased, whereby it is believed that the alive and the dead are reunited. On this day many people will create offerings for the deceased.

Many people choose to dress up as skeletons and in halloween-type outfits and they celebrate with food, drink and music.

Components of tourism: Attractions

An essential component of the tourism industry are the tourist attractions.

There are a multitude of different tourist attractions around the world.

Some are built, some are natural. Some are paid, some are free. Some are famous, others are not. Some are large and some are small.

Natural attractions

Natural attractions are just as it says on the tin – natural. In other words, they are attractions that have not been made by man.

Natural attractions are found all over the world and vary in size and scope. There is even a definitive list of the seven natural wonders of the world.

I have visited many natural attractions around the world, here is a list of some of my favourites:

Built attractions

Built attractions also make up an important part of the structure of the tourism industry.

There are many built attractions throughout the world. Some attractions are built for the purpose of tourism, such as theme parks or museums. Other attractions are built for other purposes but then become tourist attractions, such as the Empire State Building or the Sydney Opera House.

I have visited many built attractions throughout the world. Here are some of my favourites:

  • Robin Island, South Africa
  • The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
  • La Sagrada Familia, Spain
  • The Eiffel Tower, France
  • The United States Capitol Building, USA
  • Statue of Liberty, New York
  • Petronas Towers, Malaysia
  • Marina Sands Bay Hotel, Singapore
  • Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia
  • Houses of Parliament, UK
  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque, UAE

Components of tourism: Tourism services

Tourism services are an essential component of tourism. Without many tourism services, the tourism industry would fail to adequately function.

Below I will explain the three major tourism services that make up the structure of the tourism industry.

Tour operators

A tour operator is the individual or organisation who puts together a trip.

Typically, a tour operator would package together essential elements including accommodation, transport and transfer. They would then sell this package to the tourists.

However, tour operators are becoming fewer in recent years. Consumers are now far more Internet savvy and are more capable of researching the individual elements of their holiday and booking this independently. This is known as dynamic packaging.

Travel agents

Traditionally, a travel agent would sell the product that the tour operator has produced i.e. the package holiday.

While travel agents have and continue to sell individual holiday components, they have historically been most commonly used by tourists who wish to book a package holiday.

In today’s society, there is far less scope for travel agents than there used to be. A few years ago it would be easy to finish school and to get a job in a travel agent selling holidays. Now, however, people are more likely to set up their own travel agent business online or to be employed by an online retailer.

Many high street stores have now closed as there is little demand these days for holidays to be booked in this way. Instead, many people are selling holidays and travel services via their blogs or websites.

The travel agent does still exist, but he has changed the way he looks.

Ancillary services

Ancillary services are another core component of tourism.

Ancillary basically means ‘extra’ or ‘additional’. An ancillary service in the context of tourism, therefore, is any product or service that is additional to the core elements of accommodation, transport and transfer.

Here are some examples of ancillary products:

  • Attraction tickets
  • Meal tickets
  • Insurance
  • Extra luggage
  • Car hire
  • Currency exchange
  • Airport parking
  • Tour guide
  • Sim cards

Components of tourism | Structure of the tourism industry

As you can see, the tourism industry is large and complex, but understanding the different components of tourism isn’t too difficult.

All of the components of tourism are interconnected in one way or another and many rely on one another to be successful.

Want to learn more about the structure of tourism? I have listed some recommended texts below.

Structure of the tourism industry | Components of tourism: Further reading

  • An Introduction to Tourism: a comprehensive and authoritative introduction to all facets of tourism including: the history of tourism; factors influencing the tourism industry; tourism in developing countries; sustainable tourism; forecasting future trends.
  • The Business of Tourism Management: an introduction to key aspects of tourism, and to the practice of managing a tourism business.
  • Tourism Management: An Introduction: gives its reader a strong understanding of the dimensions of tourism, the industries of which it is comprised, the issues that affect its success, and the management of its impact on destination economies, environments and communities.

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