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The different types of travel | Understanding tourism

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(Last updated on: 10/08/2021)

Travel and tourism is a diverse industry and there are many different types of travel. The type of travel will determine the methods of business, the types of customer that it attracts and the the destination type that is facilitating tourism. In this article I will tell you all about the main types of travel and give you some examples of each.

The Different Types Of Travel | Tou... x
The Different Types Of Travel | Tourism Tutorial

The different types of travel

Separating the different types of travel into clear segments or categories isn’t always an easy task.

Some types of travel may span more than one category- for example a person can go on a short break that is also corporate travel.

And others may be somewhat subjective- what is a short break? Is it two days? Is it four days? This is not clear-cut.

However, whilst accurately segregating types of travel into distinct categories may not be an easy task, it can be useful to have general classifications.

Categorising holidays into different types of travel helps us to better understand and assess the market segment in question. It also enables better tourism management and planning.

So what are the different types of travel? If video is your thing, watch the short video below, which covers all of the different types of travel, if not, read on…

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for all things tourism and academia!

Leisure travel

Leisure travel generally refers to travel that is undertaken for the purpose of pleasure, enjoyment, relaxation or special interests.

Leisure travel is an important component of tourism, and makes up a significant part of the tourism industry.

There are different ways that someone can undertake leisure travel. I have outlined these below.

Short breaks

Short breaks have become increasingly popular since the advent of the low cost airline.

Cheaper fares and regular flights have meant that people have been able to jet off for a weekend break that may not have previously been possible. In fact, [pre COVID] trends have shown that many people are now choosing to take 2-3 short breaks each year rather than a singular, more traditional summer holiday.

Short breaks are especially popular in areas that are well-connected. In Europe, for instance, it is easy to go on a short break from London to Paris. However, if you lived in Australia, the vast distances between destinations may mean that short breaks are less feasible.

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City breaks

City breaks are a popular type of travel.

Cities have lots to offer such as entertainment options (eating out, shows, events etc), as well as a range of tourist attractions and business tourism opportunities.

Cities are usually well connected by transport, making them easily reachable for tourists.

Countryside breaks

Rural tourism is very popular since the COVID pandemic. Countryside breaks enable people to enjoy the fresh air and to be socially distant from others.

There are many things to do on a countryside break, from hiking the Mendips, to adventure sports such as rock climbing in places like Cheddar Gorge.

Stag and hen parties

It is a tradition for brides and grroms-to-be to celebrate their forthcoming marriage with a stag party or hen party. Whilst this might last for just a few hours, many people are now choosing to travel to a place outside of their home for a short break.

There are many destinations that are popular for stag or hen parties. These are usually destinations which have a substantial nightlife scene.

In Europe, many people go on a stag or hen party to Riga, Barcelona, Manchester, London, Lisbon, Benidorm, Krakow, Liverpool, Amsterdam… to name but a few.

Holidays

There are different types of holidays that constitute leisure tourism.

Throughout the history of tourism, package holidays have been a popular type of travel. Packages are put together by tour operators and are then sold by different types of travel agent. This makes travel easier for the consumer.

Many people also choose to undertake independent travel. Whether tourists choose to create a dynamic package or travel on the fly, this is a popular method of leisure travel.

Cruise tourism has also grown considerably in recent years. Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes and are popular with a wide variety of tourist types. Cruising is a form of enclave tourism.

Special events

Many people who travel for leisure are doing so to spectate or be involved in a major sporting event.

There are a large number of events that make up an important part of the sports tourism industry. Some examples include the annual Wimbledon Tennis tournament, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Football World Cup.

There are also other major events that people may choose to travel for. This could be, for example, the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, Songkran in Thailand or the Glastonbury music festival.

Corporate travel

One of the most important (but often forgotten about!) types of travel is corporate travel.

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Business travel is BIG business!

Corporate travel, also referred to as business tourism, is any travel that is associated with or related to a person’s job or work.

Corporate travel may or may not involve staying away from home overnight.

Some types of corporate travel that you may encounter include:

MICE tourism

MICE stands for- meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions. These are four important areas of the corporate travel market.

Learn more about MICE tourism in this 2 minute explanation.

Many people will travel to attend meetings. Although, with the growth of the shut-in economy and software programmes such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, travel for meetings has decreased significantly.

Incentive travel is travel which is given as a reward for good performance at work. It is designed to act as a motivator for staff; encouraging them to worker harder, ac hive better results and ultimately make more money for the business.

Conferences and exhibitions are an important tool for sharing ideas and networking. Similarly to meetings, many of these have now been moved online. However, it is unlikely that the conference market will disappear completely, as networking via a computer screen will never yield the same benefits as having a face-to-face conversation.

Training

Training courses are, and will continue to be, essential to successful tourism operations management. Staff need to be trained for the position that they will/are working in and will need to be regularly unskilled.

Staff may also wish to undertake extra training for promotions or to keep up to date with industry developments.

Training courses can be in your place of work, but they can take place in alternative destinations; meaning that they facilitate a form of corporate travel.

Short-term work contracts

Corporate travel can also consist of temporary work contracts. This is when a person is required to work in a location outside of their home environment for a specified period of time.

Whilst the time-frame is not clearly defined, if somebody relocates for work, they are then classified as an expatriate rather than a business tourist.

Work contracts such as these can be based within the employee’s home country or they can be based overseas.

Specialist travel

Specialist travel, often referred to as special interest tourism, is a form of niche tourism. It groups together an indefinite number of types of tourism that are specialist in nature.

Specialist tourism is often linked to a personal hobby, sport or interest. It may also be a type of travel that meets a specific need of a particular tourist or group of tourists.

Types of specialist travel

I have outlined over 150 different types of specialist tourism in my types of tourism glossary– I told you, there are A LOT of different tourism types!

Some of the most common types of tourism include adventure tourism, health tourism, educational tourism, heritage and cultural tourism, gap year travel, conservation, sustainable tourism, responsible tourism and honeymoon tourism.

Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR)

Visiting friends and relatives (VFR) is one of the biggest market segments in travel and tourism and is one of the most important types of travel.

People travel all around the world to visit their friends and relatives. This is an important form of domestic tourism as well as inbound tourism and outbound tourism.

Sometimes VFR will involve an overnight stay, and other times it will not. Travellers may choose to stay with their friends or relatives in their home or they may book accommodation of their own.

VFR: Migrants and expats

VFR is an especially prominent type of travel in areas with high migration or expatriation. For example, there are thousands of tourists who travel from the UK to India and Poland each year to visit family and friends, This is because there are a high number of Indian and Polish migrants in the UK.

Day trips

Another important type of travel is day trips. Whilst according to some definitions of tourism, one may not technically be classified as a tourist unless they stay away from home overnight, they are nonetheless a valuable contribution to the tourism economy.

Types of day trips

Most people who undertake a day trip will be visiting friends and relatives or in search of leisure or business.

Many people will choose to take a day trip to visit a tourist attraction, to go shopping, to attend an event, to visit the countryside or to take part in various activities.

A day trip can take part close to your home or it can form part of a holiday, i.e. you take a tour from your hotel whilst on holiday.

To conclude: Types of travel

As you can see, there are many different types of travel, which can broadly be categorised as: leisure travel, corporate travel, specialist travel, visiting friends and relatives and day trips. All of these types of travel provide important contributions to the wider tourism industry and segmentation in this way allows us to assess and organise the industry according to the types of travel that are under scrutiny.

If you are studying travel and tourism, I highly recommend that you purchase the following texts. They are core textbooks that cover the fundamentals of tourism management and are a ‘must’ for any travel and tourism student!

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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