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What is domestic tourism and why is it so important?

Domestic tourism is BIG business in some countries, bringing in a significant revenue for the economy of the local area and nationwide. But what is domestic tourism?

In this article I will explain what domestic tourism is and why it is important. I will also give some examples of some of the biggest domestic tourism destinations worldwide.

What is domestic tourism?

As I described in my tourism glossary, domestic tourism is the act of travelling for business or leisure within one’s home country. According to the UNWTO, a person must be away from their usual place of residence (but still in their home country) for at least one night to qualify as a domestic tourist.

Popular destinations for domestic tourism include the USA, India and China. This is because they are big countries with a variety of tourist experiences to offer.

Ever seen the film ‘Into the Wild?‘ This is a great example of domestic tourism! It’s a story of a young guy who sold all of his belongings and hitch hiked through America to Alaska. Here is the trailer-

Domestic tourism definitions

Travelling a few miles away from your home, you don’t expect to be classed as a ‘tourist’ right? But in fact, you often will be classed as a tourist- a domestic tourist!

In general, domestic tourists are anyone who undertakes travel activities in their own country of residence, i.e. living in London and travelling to Glasgow for the day or for an overnight stay.

Unlike other definitions in the tourism ‘vocabulary’, the term ‘domestic tourism’ has not changed in its years. In 2005, Gillian Gale, in her text book designed for BTEC National Travel and Tourism students, defined domestic tourists as;

“People who are travelling in their own country for tourism purposes”

Further to this, Arjun Kumar Bhatia, in his text on International Tourism Management states that;

“In domestic tourism, people travel outside their normal domicile to certain other areas within the country as contrasted with travelling outside the boundaries of the country as in international tourism.”

Why is domestic tourism important?

According to a recent report published by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), domestic tourism accounts for 73% of total Travel and Tourism spending globally in 2018; thus it is a key driver of the tourism sector.

Countries rely on domestic tourism as a tool to reduce poverty, improve infrastructure, generate employment and most importantly to drive economic growth.

The activities of domestic tourists create economic importance as the money spent on domestic tourism feeds back into that particular country’s economy; providing itself with a more viable and prosperous economy.

According to the WTTC report published in 2018, there has been a slight shift in the countries’ positions in domestic visitor spending between 2008 and 2017.

Below I have listed a few examples of domestic tourism.

Domestic tourism in the United Kingdom

According to Visit Britain and its annual review, in 2017/2018, 100.6 million domestic overnight trips were taken and 1.5 billion domestic day visits were taken in England in 2017.

The UK’s domestic overnight trips reached £19 billion, whilst the 1.5 billion domestic day visits reached £50.1 billion. All of which feeds back into the UK economy.

The most popular travel attractions for domestic tourism in the UK are:

  1. The Tower of London
  2. Westminster Abbey
  3. Kew Gardens
  4. St Paul’s Cathedral
  5. Chester Zoo
  6. Windermere Boat Cruises, Bowness
  7. Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, Yorkshire
  8. Stonehenge
  9. London Zoo
  10. Drayton Manor Theme Park

As you can see from the list above, the majority of the locations are based in London, the Capital city of the UK. Most domestic tourism activities in the UK are either centred around the conservation of either natural or heritage sights or theme parks.

Despite living on the outskirts of London for most of my life, I am ashamed to say that I have only actually ever visited a few of these attractions! I guess I will add these to my bucket list and take the kids on a day trip soon…

Domestic tourism in the United States of America

In 2018, domestic tourists spent $933 billion dollars in the United States of America – representing 86% of total tourism expenditures. In 2018, domestic tourism supported 7.7 million jobs.

To me, it is no surprise that the domestic tourism industry in the USA is worth so much. Not only is it a HUGE country with an incredible range of diversity in tourism areas, from the snows of Alaska to the heat of Miami, but it is also true that most Americans do not have a passport!

According to the World Atlas, the most popular destinations for domestic tourism in the United States are;

  1. Alaskan Cruise, Alaska
  2. Orlando, Florida
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. Maui, Hawaii
  5. New York City, New York
  6. Honolulu, Hawaii
  7. Hawaiian Cruise, Hawaii
  8. Miami Beach, Florida
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Los Angeles, California

The table below shows you the percentage of domestic tourism which took place in each of these locations in 2018.

Rank Top US Destinations Percentage of Domestic 2018 Bookings
1 Alaskan Cruise, Alaska 47.9%
2 Orlando, Florida 38.6%
3 Las Vegas, Nevada 35.4%
4 Maui, Hawaii 30.9%
5 New York City, New York 27.7%
6 Honolulu, Hawaii 25.7%
7 Hawaiian Cruise, Hawaii 16.5%
8 Miami/Miami Beach, Florida 15.5%
9 Washington, DC 14.7%
10 Los Angeles, California 12.9%

Domestic tourism in India

India is home to some of the most beautiful natural and cultural heritage sites in the world, not only making it a popular destination for international tourists, but also for domestic tourists.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, domestic spending in India is at 87.2%, compared to foreign spending at 12.8%. Therefore, domestic tourism in India contributes to 9.4% of its overall GDP.

According to Treebo the top 7 visited states by domestic tourists are;

  1. Tamilnadu
  2. Uttar Pradesh
  3. Madhya Pradesh
  4. Andhra Pradesh
  5. Karnataka
  6. Maharashtra
  7. Rajasthan

India is a beautiful country, with so much to offer! It has certainly been one of my favourite countries to travel and I hope to return with my children someday soon. It is no surprise to see that the domestic tourism industry in India is so significant, given the diversity of attractions and the sheer size of the country, not to mention that many people living in India cannot afford to travel internationally.

Domestic tourism in South Africa

One of our recent travel destinations is South Africa, which is a growing destination for domestic tourism. The Minister of SA has fostered The National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS), which is a strategy that focuses on domestic tourism and its contribution to a sustainable tourism economy.

You can read more on The National Tourism Sector Strategy here.

According to a report by Statistics South Africa, the number of day trips increased from 39.4 million in 2016 to 48.0 million in 2017. Overnight trips also increased to 44.4 million in 2017.

Unlike the other destinations listed above, South Africa is home to abundant wildlife and nature reserves sites that attracts domestic tourism. According to the South African Tourism Board, the top destinations in South Africa are;

  1. Cape Town
  2. The Winelands
  3. Garden Route
  4. Johannesburg
  5. Kruger National Park
  6. Durban beachfront
  7. Robben Island
  8. Soweto
  9. Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
  10.  Wild Coast

I can certainly say that we loved South Africa. You can see a taste of what the country has to offer in our video below.

Domestic tourism in China

According to the Chinese Ministry at a press conference, domestic tourism generated 5.13 trillion yuan ($764 billion U.S dollars) in revenue last year and this figure was climbing steeply each year prior to the pandemic, in fact the Chinese market (both domestically and internationally has been the fastest growing tourism industry in the world in recent years!). In comparison, Chinese tourists spent a total of $115.29 (U.S dollars) on outbound tourism.

According to research by the WTTC, China has been extremely successful in fostering domestic tourism, and is now one of the leading domestic tourism markets in the world.

There is a lot of hidden cultural heritage in China that is often overlooked or ignored with its commercialised industry and giant sky scrapers. Here is a video demonstrating some of China’s most popular tourist attractions.

Domestic tourism: Conclusion

We have all most likely been a domestic tourist in our life at one point or another, whether we realised it at the time or not! As this post has demonstrated, the domestic tourism industry is a huge economic contributor in many destinations, especially in countries that are large or where the local people do not often have the cash to travel internationally.

Do you want to learn more about the tourism industry? Take a look at my types of tourism glossary to see which areas are covered in the blog. You can also refer to some of the texts named below, which are particularly useful if you are a travel and tourism student! Oh, and why not subscribe to the blog for updates on new posts, travel discounts and deals? You can subscribe to the blog using the form below.

Further reading