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What is industrial tourism and why is it so popular?

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Industrial tourism is a growing industry – but what it is and why is it becoming so popular? Read on to learn all about it…

What is industrial tourism?

Industrial tourism is the concept of visiting places linked to the industries that are most common in a particular place. It commonly involves:

  • Visits to operational companies and industrial heritage
  • Provides an experience with regard to specific products
  • Allows visitors to learn about and experience the production process
  • Teaches tourists about the history and background of that particular industry
What is industrial tourism

Industrial tourism is not a new type of tourism, and it happens across the globe where different industries have existed for centuries. People might visit traditional sites, or more modern places. The most common industries that people like to visit the sites of include branded luxury goods, food and drink, symbols of particular regions (such as bananas in Guatemala) and handcrafted goods.

According to Frew (2000) industrial tourism occurs when a tourist visits an operational site(s), where the core activity of the site is non-tourism oriented. In other words, it is when tourists visit a site that is associated with an industry other than tourism. Many people believe that this is limited to the manufacturing industry, but in actual fact industrial tourism encompasses it relates to any organisation or business that open their doors to tourists.

Industrial tourism is a great example of educational tourism, because it often revolves around learning about a particular industry or organisation.

Examples of industrial tourism

Examples of industrial tourism comes in different shapes and sizes around the world, but they generally all rely on the premise of visiting an attraction that is focussed on a particular industry. Here are some examples of industrial tourism:

  • Work watching
  • Factory tours
  • Mine tours
  • Farm tours
  • Wine tours
  • Parliament tours
  • Tours of specific company premises (e.g. Ford)
  • Factory visits by business tourists

Why has industrial tourism grown in popularity?

Industrial tourism is growing ever-popular. This is for a few reasons. One reason is that people in general are stepping away from traditional ‘vacation’ travel – we are less likely to want to spend time lazing by a pool or tanning on a beach, and more likely to want to get to know a destination a little deeper. This comes as information becomes more accessible; when we see photos, read blogs or watch documentaries about industries in certain cities or countries, we are more likely to want to see it for ourselves.

What is industrial tourism

It also becomes more popular as tourist boards and individual companies push it. For some countries who have an industry or type of product which is specific to them, they may be inclined to present this as a tourist activity or opportunity. By doing so, they provide a boost to their economy.

This is especially true of industries that are no longer as necessary or popular as they might have been. With technology taking over the creation of many products, traditional industry techniques wall by the wayside. In order to capitalise on income the area may have lost by not getting as much business, places can invite tourists to see how things used to work instead. This is commonly seen in the agritourism industry, where farms are being used for tourism purposes as well as for traditional farming.

Another reason that industrial tourism is growing in popularity is that people are always looking for something new. As humans, new experiences are vital to us. Many tourists have done churches and walking tours and museums, and want to see something else. Industrial tourism provides a brilliant way to do this.

Benefits of industrial tourism

There are many benefits of industrial tourism. One of the main benefits is education- industrial tourism can be fantastic for students or for people who just generally want to learn more about a particular industry. From taking a tour of a gold mine during a Canada road trip to visiting a tea plantation when visiting Sri Lanka, there are plenty of exciting and fun educational opportunities.

Another key benefit of industrial tourism is money. Industrial tourism can help to boost the economy by bringing in money. Money can be made through entrance tickets, souvenirs and more. Plus, the tourists may spend more money in the area too on things such as hotels and food. This can then be reinvested into the economy.

Disadvantages of industrial tourism

However, there can also be disadvantages of industrial tourism. Sometimes there may be sensitive issues, such as poor human rights records, that can be difficult to address. This could may tourists feel uneasy and could upset locals too.

There is also the risk that industries may see more opportunity to make money from tourism than in their traditional lines of work. This can cause businesses to pivot away from their traditional methods of earning money and to move towards tourism. Whilst this can be a good move, over dependency on tourism is never a good thing- because you never know when the next pandemic or natural disaster could hit.

Industrial tourism destinations

There are many destinations offering industrial tourism. From salt mines in Poland to blacksmiths’ forges in rural England, there are so many options. Below are some popular industrial tourism destinations!

Industrial tourism at the umbrella factory Chiang Mai

What is industrial tourism?

Located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the Umbrella Factory is where you can visit to see paper umbrellas, as well as handmade paper, being made. You’ll see every step of the process it takes to create a paper umbrella: firstly, making handmade paper from mulberries. The result is a purple-hued rough piece of paper, beautifully textured, and used to make paper umbrellas, greeting cards, handmade gift wrap, and gift bags, photo albums, bookmarks and much more. There is a gift shop where you can buy these products, and they are around 50% cheaper than you’ll find them at the Thai markets.

It’s not often we get to see paper being made from scratch, why is why the Umbrella Factory is such a fantastic example of industrial tourism. 
You can visit as part of a Chiang Mai handicraft tour, which costs less than £30 GBP and takes you to many factories in the area.

Industrial tourism at the tea Plantations, Sri Lanka

What is industrial tourism?

Sri Lanka is the perfect place to visit tea plantations. There are locations right across the country, and these popular tours are a great way to see more of Sri Lanka while enjoying the weather as well as the breathtaking scenery. Sabaragamuwa is home to the largest tea plantation in Sri Lanka, and you’ll get to see the tea picking-and-making process from start to finish. Always be sure to look for tours which visit plantations focused on workers’ rights, as tea pickers are some of the most disadvantaged citizens in Sri Lanka.

Industrial tourism at the Britannia Mine, Canada

What is industrial tourism?

Located in British Columbia, the Britannia Mine a must-see if you’re looking for industrial tourism in Canada. The museum is a non-profit organisation, which has preserved artefacts and information related to British Columbia’s history of mining. There are 23 buildings here, housing over 7000 artefacts, almost 10,000 photographs and around 3000 documents. You’ll get to ride a train through a historic haulage tunnel, and see how historic mining and lighting equipment worked. Mining has always been an incredibly important industry, and this glimpse into is is completely fascinating for visitors.

Industrial tourism at Kawasaki, Japan

What is industrial tourism?

There are various industrial tourism spots in Kawasaki, Japan. I’ve listed some below, along with what you’ll be able to see there…

  • Kawasaki EcoLife Museum for the Future – head here to learn about global warming and renewable energy.
  • Toshiba Science Museum – visit here to explore the history and future of science and technology. The Discover Kawasaki website says the museum is split into 3 zones: The History Zone allows you to look back over the progress that Toshiba has made, the Science Zone introduces you to science and technology, and the Future Zone reveals the latest in cutting-edge technology.
  • Kawasaki Mari-en – this is Kawasaki’s port, an important location for industry and industrial tourism. See a 360-degree view of the port from the observation deck.
  • Ajinomoto Umami Science Square – go here to see historical materials and resources about Ajinomoto with an interactive room where you can create your own Ajinomoto and a Umami Hall where you can experience the taste of umami.

Industrial tourism at the Airbus factory, France

Airbus have their headquarters in Toulouse, France, and you can visit the factory here. Discover the history of aviation, see how planes are made, watch flight tests and so much more. This is a brilliant example of exciting and hands-on industrial tourism, especially as so many tourists travel by plane every single day. It costs around 16 euros, and a guided tour takes roughly 2.5 hours. You can choose three different visitation ‘routes’:

Visit “Airbus” :

  • A unique opportunity to discover the latest generation of Airbus aircraft
  • Presentation of the history of aviation in Toulouse
  • Bus tour of the 700 hectares of Airbus infrastructure in Toulouse
  • Stopover on the A350XWB assembly line lookout. Detailed presentation of the production process

Visit “Airbus XL”:

  • In this new formula, military and commercial aviation reveals all its secrets
  • Presentation of the flight tests
  • Departure to the A350XWB assembly line (Airbus visit)
  • All aboard the A400M MSN1

Visit “Airbus Kids”:

  • The mysteries of aviation explained to 6/12 year olds
  • Do you know how a plane flies?
  • An Airbus assembly line: a giant international puzzle
  • Climb aboard the A400M

Industrial tourism at the Bataan Power plant, Philippines

This is a nuclear power plant, completed under the Marcos regime but never actually used. You can go on a 1.5 hour tour, which is brilliant for understanding nuclear power. You’ll see the turbine hall, some electrical gear, the control room and also the reactor room. It’s a great chance to get up close to a nuclear reactor in a very safe way – given that no nuclear fission ever took place here! It has been open to tourists since around 2011, although since around 2019 the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute have been lobbying the government to reopen it for its intended purpose.

Industrial tourism at Balaklava submarine base, Ukraine

Crimea is an interesting area, annexed by Russia and formally recognised as part of Ukraine. With current tensions, visiting Crimea is unlikely but when it is possible, a visit to the Balaklava Submarine Base is a great example of industrial tourism. Located near Balaklava Bay, this underground submarine base was a top-secret Cold War military facility. Now, the museum offers information about naval warfare, submarines, and the Cold War itself. The complex can allegedly withstand a category-I nuclear explosion!

Industrial tourism at the BMW plant in Munich, Germany

As mentioned above, people love to visit industrial sites which make or have made luxury goods. BMWs are, by many, seen as luxury cars. A trip to the BMW plant in Munich is a must if you are interested in cars; it’s a museum, open for guided tours. You can explore the BMW Welt and the BMW Museum, located around a 15-minute walk from each other. Tour the plant and see how these gorgeous cars are made, and visit the Future Forum to get a glimpse into the future of car manufacturing. The automobile industry is huge and the BMW Group has a massive hand in it. If cars are your thing, then this is industrial tourism at its best.

Industrial tourism- further reading

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