Who decided that the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China would become the world’s most visited tourist spots?
Fig 1: Photos from the left- Base of the Eiffel Tower (Paris, France), Taj Mahal (Agra, India), Pyramid of Giza (Cairo, Egypt)
Photo credit: https://th.thgim.com/news/national/article19512435.ece/alternates/FREE_660/18THNSMTAJMAHAL (Taj Mahal); https://www.wantedineurope.com/i/preview/storage/uploads/2016/01/paris-eiffel-tower-visitors.jpg (Eiffel Tower); https://egyptpyramidtours.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Day-Trip-to-Giza-Pyramids-and-the-Egyptian-Museum-from-Port-Said-Port.jpg (Pyramid of Giza)
Why is France the most visited country in the world?
Fig 2: Number of Tourist arrivals (International)
Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.ARVL?end=2017&locations=IN-FR-ES-CN&start=1995&view=chart World Tourism Organization, Yearbook of Tourism Statistics, Compendium of Tourism Statistics and data files.
How do some places on Earth become visit-worthy and others fall into oblivion? In case these questions intrigue and interest you, then you are at the right place!
What is tourism? Well, in a nutshell when people travel from their place of stay for work/ pleasure/ pilgrimage or for other reasons, they use a host of services and undertake a host of activities in their place of visit. All of this is tourism. TODAY, IT IS A 1.6 TRILLION US DOLLAR INDUSTRY1.
Contrary to popular wisdom, the concept the tourism is not new to mankind. However, the current form and scale of tourism is relatively new, starting with the advent of commercial airlines and trains. Let’s talk about the history of tourism, some other time.
Today, most National Governments have dedicated ministries of tourism and take the income (actual or potential) from tourism very seriously. Most countries also spend a lot on tourism. For example, the Government of India is slated to spend more than two thousand crore rupees on tourism related infrastructure in 2018-192. Many cities and countries depend heavily on tourism for their economic growth. Maldives, The Bahamas, Seychelles, New Zealand and Malta are some of the more known examples3 (Tourism makes up more than 40% of the economy in Maldives!). Estimates suggest France earned around 200 billion euros from tourism in 2016!4
So, tourism is a BIG DEAL in many places across the world. In many other places, governments are trying hard to make tourism a BIG DEAL and draw sizable revenue from it. Of course, there are exceptions. Syria, Somalia, Eritrea and many countries, both with stable and unstable governments actively discourage tourism.5
In fact, a recent BBC article6 emphasized on the growing vices of “overtourism” commenting on “how Hordes of tourists are suffocating cities around the world” and how to be a better tourist engaging in sustainable tourism!
A picturesque landscape (e.g. the Scottish Highlands), a man-made engineering marvel (e.g. Burj Khalifa in Dubai), a natural phenomenon (e.g. northern lights in Iceland) or an ancient heritage (e.g. Stonehenge in England) - whatever indigenous and unique a country has to offer, is developed and marketed as a tourist destination.
Tourism can be of many many types. Historically, pilgrimages and trade related travels were the most common types. Presently, it is much more than that. Eco-tourism, geo-tourism, heritage tourism, religious pilgrimage, MICE7 tourism, business travel, Niche tourism, vacations, cruises, adventure trips, honeymoons, camping, day trips, safaris and even the soon-to-be-true space tourism! The list is endless.
Fig 3: Types of Tourism (From left – MICE Tourism, Muslim Pilgrimage to Makkah, Eco-tourism in Costa Rica, Cruise in Bulgaria)
Photo credits - http://www.tourismnewslive.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/mice_tourism_back_in_kerala.jpg (MICE Tourism); https://i0.wp.com/metro.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/138612983.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&zoom=1&resize=644%2C408&ssl=1 (Pilgrimage); https://greenglobaltravel.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Costa-Rica-Travel-Guide-Hiking-in-Corcovado-National-Park2-e1486933470461.jpg (Eco-tourism); https://files2.abingcdn.com/balkaneu.com/uploads/2015/04/09030824/Crouise-Tourism-BG-IBNA.jpg (Cruise)
Part of the tourism in a country is typically curated, developed and managed by the governments/ administrations while the rest happen organically without much intervention from the authorities. The latter kind is slowly eroding as more and more authorities realize the potential gains of planned tourism and the vices of unmanaged tourism.
Today, tourism management is an established field of study offered to prospective students across the world along with allied subjects like hospitality management, hotel management etc. Did you know that the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India runs numerous universities offering a host of tourism related programmes8 ?
1 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/ST.INT.RCPT.CD?end=2017&start=1995&view=chart Total receipts in 2017 was 1.526 trillion USD as per world bank data
3 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/Mapped-The-countries-that-rely-most-on-your-money/; https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-10-countries-most-reliant-on-tourism.html
7 meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions
25 Jul, 2019
12 Aug, 2015