There are so many different types of tourists around the world and it is important that we understand the different types of tourists in order to be able to ensure that the tourism industry meets their needs. Heck, it wouldn’t make sense to try to sell kids clubs tickets to tourists are are mostly elderly and without young children, just as it wouldn’t make much sense to sell volunteer tourism trips to tourists who just want to relax by the poolside for their annual vacation!
From a tourism management perspective, we need to understand the different types of tourists so that we can provide each tourist type with the products and the services that best suit their needs and demands. So in this article I will introduce you to the the major types of tourists, are you ready to learn more? Read on….
Cohen’s types of tourists
Cohen’s tourist typology was one of the first major typologies developed in the travel and tourism industry. Cohen said that types of tourists can be put into four categories- I have explained these briefly below (if you want a more comprehensive explanation, read my article on Cohen’s tourist typology).
Drifters typically have an authentic and deep immersive tourism experience, opting for staying with members of the local community rather than in hotels and spending their time in the local community. They seek adventure and plan their own itineraries. This type of tourist always opts for novelty over familiarity- you won’t see a Drifter eating in McDonalds or shopping in Zara! The Drifter is the type of tourist that is least connected with the mass tourism industry.
Explorers also seek novelty over the familiar, however these types of tourists do often have a little more interaction with the commodities associated with the tourism industry. For example, an Explorer may travel independently and enjoy an immersive cultural experience, but they may rest their head on a hotel pillow at the end of the day. This type of tourist will generally eat and shop local, but don’t be surprised if they enjoy a Big Mac from time to time too.
The Individual Mass Tourist
The Individual Mass Tourist seeks the familiar rather than the new. These types of tourists want familiar food, they want to be able to communicate in a familiar language and they want to stay in types of accommodation that they are familiar with. However, the Individual Mass Tourist is not constrained by the likes of group tours and activities- yes, they may book their holiday through a travel or use a local tour guide, but they will typically opt for solo travel over group tours.
The Organised Mass Tourist
The Organised Mass Tourist seeks the familiar, typically as part of an organised group. These types of tourists seek the familiar over novelty every time and they are often found with tour guides and undertaking group tours. The Organised Mass Tourist will generally have an itinerary or a plan and they will stick to it.
Plog’s types of tourists
Stanley Plog is another tourism academic who categorised types of tourists in his model of Allocentricity and Psychocentricity. Essentially, he grouped tourists into three types and then mapped this to the way that a destination may rise and fall in popularity. I won’t go into the details of Plog’s theory here, but if you do want to learn more you can head on over to my article ‘Plog’s model of allocentricity and psychocentricity: Made easy‘
According to Plog, the allocentric tourist is most likely associated with destinations that are un(der)developed. These types of tourists might be the first tourists to visit an area. They may be the first intrepid explorers, the ones brave enough to travel to the ‘unknown’. Allocentric tourists like adventure. They are not afraid of the unknown. They like to explore.
Allocentric tourists are often found travelling alone. They are not phased that the destination they are visiting doesn’t have a chapter in their guidebook. In fact, they are excited by the prospect of travelling to a place that most people have never heard of!
Psychocentric tourists are the opposite to allocentric tourists. Psychocentric tourists are most commonly associated with areas that are well-developed or over-developed for tourism. Many people will have visited the area before them- it has been tried and tested. These tourists feel secure knowing that their holiday choice will provide them with the comforts and familiarities that they know and love.
Psychocentric tourists travel in organised groups. Their holidays are typically organised for them by their travel agent. These travellers seek the familiar. They are happy in the knowledge that their holiday resort will provide them with their home comforts. The standard activity level of psychocentric tourists is low. These types of tourists enjoy holiday resorts and all inclusive packages. They are components of enclave tourism, meaning that they are likely to stay put in their hotel for the majority of the duration of their holiday. These are often repeat tourists, who choose to visit the same destination year-on-year.
Mid-centric tourists fall somewhere in the middle- these types of tourists like some adventure, but also some of their home comforts. Perhaps they book their holiday themselves through dynamic packaging, but then spend the majority of their time in their holiday resort. Or maybe they book an organised package, but then choose to break away from the crowd and explore the local area.
Types of tourists by destination type
It is common for types of tourists to be grouped by the destination type. This typically encompasses four major categories, as I have explained below.
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.
International tourism is the act of travelling overseas for business or leisure. International tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world. Which tourists visit which destinations is determined by a number of different factors, such as distance to travel, cost of living in the traveller generating region and the tourism destination region, the tourist ‘s culture, disposable income and a range of other factors.
Inbound tourism is the act of someone travelling to a country other than that of where they live for the purpose of tourism.
Many countries around the world rely on inbound tourism. Inbound tourism is often seasonal, meaning that many destinations will have evident peak, shoulder and low seasons. This is often dependant on weather conditions (for example sun or snow) and school and public holidays.
Outbound tourism is the act of travelling ‘out’ of your home country for the purposes of tourism. Outbound tourism does not include the purchasing of good or services before or after the trip within the tourism generating country.
The terms outbound tourism and inbound tourism are often used interchangeably. This is because a tourist who is travelling internationally is both an outbound tourist (because they travel OUT of their home country) and an inbound tourist (because they travel IN to another country).
Types of tourists by tourism type
Many people will differentiate types of tourists according to the type of tourism that they are undertaking. Whilst this can be useful, it can also become rather complication when you consider how many different types of tourism there are! Below I have outlined some of the most common types of tourists according to tourism type, but I do suggest that you also take a look at this article, which outlines 150 different types of tourism!
Sustainable tourism is one of the most important types of tourism, if not THE most important type of tourism that there is and more and more tourists are embracing sustainable tourism nowadays than ever before.
Sustainable tourism, also often referred to as responsible tourism, relies on the premise of taking care of the environment, society and economy. Sustainable tourism principles intend to minimise the negative impacts of tourism, whilst maximising the positive impacts.
Ethical tourism refers to tourism that benefits the people and the environment involved. It is closely aligned with the concepts of sustainable tourism and responsible tourism. Many tourists now seek advice on how they can be ethical tourists and implement this into their travel decisions and behaviours.
Experiential tourism is derived from the concept of experiential learning, whereby a person learns and creates meaning through their experiences. Therefore, these types of tourists focus on immersion with a particular destination, its culture, people, customs and histories. Experiential tourism is popular amongst backpackers, students and tourists looking for an authentic and deep travel experience.
Adventure tourism is one of the most exciting types of tourism. Adventure tourism is tourism which involves a degree of risk. It typically requires specialist skills or physical exertion. Adventure tourists might go rock climbing, skydiving, white water rafting, mountain climbing, zip-lining and paragliding, to name just a few examples.
Dark tourism, also known as black tourism, thanatourism or grief tourism, is tourism that is associated with death or tragedy.
The act of dark tourism is somewhat controversial, with some viewing it as an act of respect and others as unethical practice. Popular dark tourism attractions include Auschwitz, Chernobyl and Ground Zero. Lesser known dark tourism attractions might include cemeteries, zombie-themed events or historical museums.
Cultural tourism is the act of travellers visiting particular destinations in order to experience and learn about a particular culture. This can include many activities such as; attending events and festivals, visiting museums and tasting the local food and drinks. Cultural tourism can also be an unintentional part of the tourism experience, whereby cultural immersion (with the local people, their language, customs, cuisine etc) is an inevitable part of a person’s holiday.
Ecotourism is a form of tourism directed at preserving fragile environments and eco-systems. Ecotourism commonly occurs in threatened natural environments, where the intention is to provide conservation. Ecotourism efforts include building tourist facilities that have minimal impact on the natural environment, adopting the use of products such as compost toilets or solar-powered electricity.
Ecotourism has become somewhat of a ‘buzz word’ in recent years and is closely related to the concept of sustainable tourism.
Another type of tourist that is increasing rapidly are Medical tourists. Medical tourism, also known as health tourism, refers to the act of travelling to another destination for the purpose of medical treatment. Motivations of medical tourists may include reduced costs for treatments or higher quality of provision. Medical tourists may seek life-saving treatments unavailable to them at home, cosmetic surgery or dental procedures amongst a range of other medical needs. Popular destinations include India, Turkey and Panama.
Religious tourism, also known as faith tourism, refers to the act of travelling for the purposes of religious pilgrimage, missionary, or interest. A branch of cultural tourism, religious tourism constituted some of the earliest tourism forms. Not all religious tourists conform to beliefs of or religious practices of the attractions/destinations that they are visiting which can cause conflict between visitors and worshippers. Popular religious tourism destinations include Israel, Mecca and Varanassi.
Business tourism, or business travel, is one of the most important types of tourism there is, because it is so big! Business tourism is essentially a form of travel which involves undertaking business activities that are based away from home.
Business tourism activities includes attending meetings, congresses, exhibitions, incentive travel and corporate hospitality.
The traveller versus tourist debate
I would like to finish off this article by paying reference to a debate that I see referenced a lot by my fellow travel bloggers- the tourism versus traveller debate- and I would like to debunk it.
There are many people who claim that they are not a tourist, but instead they are a ‘traveller’. They claim that this is because they enjoy immersing themselves into the local culture and avoiding mass tourism places. However, I would like to point out (as I explain in more detail in my article on the definition of tourism), that these people are indeed tourists, just as much as anyone else is a tourist.
As I have demonstrated throughout this article, there are many different types of tourists- yes, some enjoy local experiences and avoiding packaged, commodified and mass tourism products, and other types of tourists are at their happiest while sipping a cocktail by the pool in their all inclusive holiday resort. It doesn’t matter exactly what we do on our travels- if we are travelling away from home to see and experience new and different places, we are tourists.
Types of tourists- further reading
If you enjoyed this article outlining the different types of tourists, I am sure that you will enjoy these articles too!