The appeal of tourist destinations | What attracts tourists
15th February, 2023
If you’re wondering what attracts tourists, then you need to look at what a tourist destination has to offer. The appeal of tourist destinations often depends on the features that can be found there. These features vary considerably and different destinations have different reasons why they are popular (or not).
The appeal of tourist destinations can be made up of one or more dominant factors. Perhaps what attracts tourists in that particular area is the weather, or a theme park or the natural beauty. In this article I will tell you about the most common features that affect the appeal of tourist destinations.
- What attracts tourists?
- Tourist facilities and amenities
- Stage of development as a tourist destination
- The appeal of tourist destinations: To conclude
- Further reading
What attracts tourists?
Whether you are studying travel and tourism, working in the tourism industry or setting up your own travel-related business, it is important to understand what attracts tourists- after all, no tourists, no business, right?
Below I have outlined the main aspects that tourists will think about when they are considering when and where to go for their holiday.
One of the first things that I do when I am considering travelling to a tourist destination is check the weather at that time of year.
Whilst we did travel to Costa Rica in the rainy season and we did visit Jeju island during a typhoon, I really would prefer to avoid the cold and wet weather- coming from the UK, I have had my fair share of soggy socks and frizzy hair!
Having said that, travelling during the off-peak season can be a great time to grab some cheap deals and avoid the crowds. So you have to weigh up your options I guess…
Anyway, if you’re wondering what attracts tourists, one of the biggest factors is often the weather. After all, a beach holiday isn’t much fun in the rain and a skiing trip isn’t so great if there is no snow!
When looking at the appeal of a tourist destination, there are several factors regarding weather that a tourist is likely to consider. I will outline these briefly below.
Precipitation is basically anything wet- rain, sleet, snow, hail etc.
Precipitation levels will often negatively impact the appeal of tourist destinations. Whilst there are some areas that need the water to be desirable e.g. a rainforest, most of us would prefer not to walk around in the rain all day everyday.
Many destinations have a clear wet and dry season. This usually coincides with the low season, because tourists prefer not to visit when it is likely to rain.
You can usually find details about annual precipitation for a tourist destination online. You will often find a graph, such as the one below, which is pretty handy.
Did you know that us Brits actually have some pretty funny ways of stating that it is raining?
Here are some of my favourites-
- It’s raining cats and dogs
- It’s tipping it down
- It’s drizzling
- It’s spitting
- It’s bucketing it down
- It’s great weather…for ducks
- The heavens have opened
- There is an April shower
- It is ‘trying to rain’
Many tourists will use temperature charts to decide when is the best time to visit a destination. This is particularly common with beach holidays, when tourists want warm, sunny weather!
As you can see in the chart below, the warmest weather in Malaga, Spain is in July and August. This also coincides with the peak tourist season.
Hours of sunshine
Another thing that often attracts tourists is hours of sunshine.
Some parts of the world, near the equator, do not have big variations in sunlight hours throughout the year. However, other countries do.
Did you know that Norway has days in the summer when the sun never sets and days in the winter when the sun never rises? Pretty cool huh?
For some people, the hours of sunshine that a destination has to offer each day make affect the appeal of the tourist destination.
The appeal of tourist destinations can also be impacted by seasonal variations. The type of tourist destination will determine whether the seasonal variations (if any) are important factors that will affect the appeal.
Some people want to travel in the winter. Tourists may want to visit winter sports destinations, to visit Christmas markets (in the Northern hemisphere) or to go to Lapland or similar destinations that rely on cold, wintery weather.
Other destinations may attract tourists when the weather is warm, for example coastal resorts and seaside destinations. Places such as Spain, California and Melbourne all have distinct warm seasons when the beaches are filled with tourists.
Pollution is an issue that is coming more and mote to the forefront of people’s minds when travelling.
The air quality index (AQI) is a measurement of the amount of pollution in the air. Before I moved to China I had never heard of this, however I am now aware that this issue reaches far beyond China…
The map below provides a representation of pollution levels around the world. Red, brown and purple is bad- like you should not go outside at all-bad. Orange is pretty bad too- as in, you should avoid exercise outside. Green is good.
What comes as a surprise to many, is that pollution levels are high in many countries and cities around the world. Whilst China and India probably have the worst reputation, they are not the only countries who suffer.
To many people’s surprise, the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) and some cities in the USA have some of the filthiest air around.
It really bring the whole climate change debate home when you have to put on a mask to leave the house…
Anyway, as I said, this may not be at the forefront of most people’s minds right now, but it will become more so as awareness continues to grow around the world.
What can negatively affect the appeal of tourist destinations? Pollution.
Tourist facilities and amenities
When considering what attracts tourists, the facilities and amenities in the tourist areas certainly come into play.
There are different facilities that the average tourist is likely to require, as discussed below.
The appeal of tourist destinations can be reduced if tourists don’t have the necessary home comforts- one of these is toilets.
For some people, the state of the toilets in the destination that they will be visiting may never have crossed their mind! But for others, it may be a significant factor…
In many developing countries there is a lack of Western toilets. Many tourists, for example, are surprised when they visit the lavatory in a reasonable-standard Thai restaurant, only to be greeted with a hole in the floor in a wooden hut out back. After avoiding the huge spiders in the corner, managing to get pee all over their feet and then realising there is no toilet paper or hand soap, they then return to the restaurant to finish their meal….
Sound familiar? Yep- been there, done that toooooo many times!
If a destination wants to attract more tourists, they may need to modernise and enhance their cleaning standards run this regard…. but, this does, of course, depend on who is visiting. Backpackers probably don’t care so much about squat toilets, but people in search of a 5* luxury experience may be a bit more picky…
Food and drink
The appeal of tourist destinations is often impacted by the provision of food and drink.
For many tourists, going out for meals and evening drinks is an important part of there holiday experience.
For the mass tourism industry, it is important that destinations offer a wide variety of food options that cater for different tastes and budgets. These tourists often enjoy food that is similar to the foods that they eat at home.
For those embarking on a cultural tourism adventure, local cuisine and authentic tastes is probably more important.
Did you know?
Did you know that prawn crackers are NOT Chinese!!
Yes, you read that right. That Chinese take-away that you eat on a Saturday night is not authentic. Most of it isn’t even Chinese. Prawn crackers, egg fried rice, crispy shredded beef- I have seen NONE of these items on any menu since I’ve been living in China!
Interested to learn more? Take a look at my article about authenticity in food (you will be surprised how much you eat is fake!!).
There is a reason people visit Italy and Thailand- because the food is DELICIOUS!
For foodies, the availability of nice food may be a dominant motive for visiting a tourist destinations. For others it could be a side reason or even just a bonus. Nonetheless, it all adds to the appeal of tourist destinations.
Transport options is a pretty big deal.
If a destinations is accessible, then more people will find it appealing. This means regular flights, trains, ferries etc and a good road infrastructure.
Cost is also an important factor. If a destination can be reached for a re3asonable cost, then more people will find this destination appealing. What attracts tourists? Low airfares and regular flights!
The advent of the low cost airline had a big impact in this regard. The likes of easyJet and Ryan Air enabled people to travel more often for a cheaper price. The destinations served by these airlines, therefore, instantly became more appealing to tourists.
Communication and wifi
Today’s world is interconnected and globalised. We want to be able to receive our work email, see updates from our friends on Facebook and check in on Grandma via FaceTime.
Having adequate wifi and phone signal is impressive in the world that we live in today. If a tourist destination wants to appeal to more tourists, they must ensure that they can offer this.
Types of accommodation
There are many different types of accommodation in the tourism industry.
In fact, accommodation is a core component of tourism. In other words, without adequate accommodation provision, tourists will not find a destination appealing.
The type of accommodation on offer will vary according to the type of tourist destination and the types of tourists that the area attracts. Jungle areas may have eco-lodges. Cities may have Airbnb apartments. Beaches may have 5* hotels.
It is important that the tourist destination does appropriate research and planning to understand who their target market is and what type of accommodation they would prefer.
For destinations which serve business tourists, there should be adequate business facilities.
Business tourism is one of the biggest and most important sectors of the travel and tourism industry. In order for destinations to capitalise on the prospects available too them, they must ensure that they provide the facilities that business travellers need, such as wifi, conference rooms, telephones, quiet rooms, black out curtains etc.
Many tourists will find a destination appealing as a result of the entertainment available to them.
This could be visiting a West End show in London, birdwatching or an evening cabaret show. The types of entertainment available in the travel and tourism industry is wide-ranging.
The appeal of tourist destinations can be significantly impacted by the attractions that they have on offer. Most people wouldn’t have heard of Agra were it not home of the Taj Mahal, for example!
Different types of tourist attractions have a lot to offer the tourism industry. From entertainment to leisure to being amongst nature, there are many different reasons why tourists want to visit areas that are home to major (or minor) tourist attractions.
Natural attractions are often what attracts tourists to particular areas. There are many famous natural attractions around the world that attract many tourists each year.
As I mentioned before, climate is often affects the appeal of tourist destinations. This is particularly relevant with coastal areas, where then main attraction is the beach.
Landscape and topography
The natural landscape can be what attracts tourists to visit a particular area. From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to hiking the Mendips, there are plenty of varied landscape areas that attract tourists.
Many tourists will find a tourist destination appealing because of the waterfalls in the area.
From major waterfalls such as Niagara and Victoria Falls, to the lesser-known waterfalls in Goa or Costa Rica, many tourists enjoy visiting these natural attractions.
Flora and fauna
Many tourists find a tourist destination appealing because of the natural flora and fauna that it has to offer.
This could include jungle areas, such as the Amazon Rainforest or areas that have unusual plants and landscapes, such as the Galapagos Islands.
Natural phenomena is another aspect that affects the appeal of tourist destinations.
Many people will choose to visit Iceland to see the geysers, Costa Rica for the volcanoes or Norway for the Northern Lights. These natural phenomena are what attracts tourists to visit.
Having said that, natural phenomena can also have the opposite effect, and put tourists off visiting.
Natural disasters, such as a tsunami, an earthquake or a flood can adversely affect tourism and will put tourists off visiting for a period of time.
It’s not only natural attractions which affect the appeal of tourist destinations, but built attractions too.
Built attractions can be separated into different categories, as follows.
Cultural heritage attractions
There are a wide range of buildings, areas and places that have historical or culturally significance. These places are often restored or protected and then displayed to tourists.
Historical or heritage-based tourist attractions include castles, famous walls, ruins, towers, monuments, religious buildings, houses and palaces.
These types of tourist attractions are often beneficial because they help to preserve cultural and heritage, which is a positive impact of cultural tourism.
Many people choose to visit a tourist destination because of the historical relevance of an area pr attraction.
Whether you are planning to learn more about the Berlin Wall in Germany, visit the D-Day beaches in France or learn all about the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia, there are plenty of places which affect the appeal of tourist destinations as a result of their historical significance.
Likewise, there are many tourist destinations that are appealing because of the religious sites in the area.
From the Blue Mosque in Istanbul to The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, there are plenty of places around the world that have significant religious value.
Museums and art galleries are usually purpose-built for tourism.
Museums and art galleries are found all over the world. These fall into different categories of the types of travel and tourism organisations. Some museums and art galleries are publicly funded or subsidised and others are privately owned, and therefore incur a cost to the visitor.
Theme parks are very popular built tourist attractions. They are built with the sole purpose of providing entertainment for visitors.
Theme parks are usually quite large. Sometimes you will pay a one-time fee to enter with unlimited access to rides. Other times you may be required to pay for individual rides. Many of the large theme parks are renowned for being busy and having long queues for rides.
Stage of development as a tourist destination
The final aspect that is likely to affect the appeal of tourist destinations is the stage of development of the tourist destination.
As prescribed in Butler’s tourist area life cycle model, a destination will go through phases in popularity depending on how developed it is. And as Plog pointed out, these stages will attract different types of tourists.
Here is a brief overview of the stages in Butler’s tourist area life cycle model. For more detail, take a look at my full post on Butler’s theory.
The exploration stage marks the beginning. Tourism is limited. The social and economic benefits are small. Tourist attractions are likely to be focused on nature or culture.
This is the primary phase when Governments and local people are beginning to think about tourism and how they could capitalise and maximise their opportunities in this industry. This is the start of tourism planning.
The involvement stage marks the beginning of tourism development.
Guest houses may start to open. Foreign investors may start to show an interest in development. Governments may be under pressure to develop transport infrastructure and community resources, such as airports, road layouts and healthcare provision.
The involvement stage may mark the emergence of seasonality in tourism.
During the development stage there will be lots of building and planning. New roads, train stations and airports may be built. New tourist attractions may emerge.Hotels and hospitality provisions will be put in place.
During the development phase there will likely be an increase in marketing and promotion of the destination. There could be increased media and social media coverage.
During this time the tourist population may begin to out-number the local population. Local control becomes less common and top-down processes and international organisations begin to play a key role in the management of tourism.
During this stage tourism growth slows. There will generally be a close tie between the destination’s economy and the tourism industry. In some cases, destinations have come to rely on tourism as a dominant or their main source of income.
Many international chains and conglomerates will likely be represented in the tourism area.This represents globalisation and can have a negative impact on the economy of the destination as a result of economic leakage.
It is during this stage that discontent from the local people may become evident. This is one of the negative social impacts of tourism.
The stagnation stage represents the beginning of a decline in tourism. During this time visitor numbers may have reached their peak and varying capacities may be met. The destination may simply be no longer desirable or fashionable.
It is during this time that we start to see the negative impacts of overtourism. There will likely be economic, environmental and social consequences.
The final stage of Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle Model represents a range of possible outcomes for the destinations along the spectrum between rejuvenation and decline.
Complete rejuvenation can occur through major redevelopments. Perhaps new attractions are added, sustainable tourism approaches are adopted or there is a change in the target market.
Modest rejuvenation may occur with some smaller adjustments and improvements to the general tourism infrastructure and provision.
If changes do not occur, there may be a slow continuation of tourism decline.
In severe circumstances, there may be a rapid decline of the tourism provision. This is likely due to a life-changing event such as war, a natural disaster or a pandemic.
The appeal of tourist destinations: To conclude
When asking the question ‘what attracts tourists?’, there are many different possible answers.
The appeal of tourist destinations varies according to the type of destination, its phase of development and the types of tourists that it attracts.
However, one thing is sure- it is imperative that destinations sufficiently assess and analyse their tourism provision to ensure that they provide the aspects which appeal to tourists the most. This will enable them to be as successful as possible.
If you’re studying travel and tourism or learning how to build a business, then I highly recommend the following texts to support your learning:
- 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.