An Overview of Various Forms of Tourism

In the broadest sense, tourism is travel for pleasure. However, tourism now comes in many varieties. Some types of tourism, such as ecotourism, center on the natural environment and environmental conservation. Other forms of tourism, such as mass tourism, are entirely different, revolving around oceanside resorts and other traditional vacation destinations. The following is a sampling of the many forms of tourism available today:

Adventure tourism. Adventure tourism has greatly increased in popularity in recent decades. As the name suggests, adventure tourism often involves participation in athletic activities--such as rock climbing, whitewater rafting and mountain climbing--that ordinary tourists might deem too risky or too exhausting. Given the central role that the wilderness plays in adventure tourism, people are usually required to travel to remote locations to partake in it.

Ecotourism. Since the mid-1990s, ecotourism--also known as nature-based tourism--has been the fastest-growing sector of the global tourism industry. Most ecotourism tour operators prize environmental conservation and encourage guests to "leave only footprints" in the regions they visit. Ecotourists usually take trips to remote parts of the world that feature unique plant and animal species, endangered ecosystems, or both.

Geotourism. The word "geotourism" did not enter the popular lexicon until 1997, when a National Geographic magazine editor invented the term. Geotourism generally describes travel that aims to preserve the historic character of a particular destination, both culturally and aesthetically. Tourism-industry insiders say geotourists tend to gravitate to places with a rich cultural heritage and strong sense of community.

Mass tourism. This form of tourism typically involves travel to traditional vacation destinations, such as beaches or mountain resorts. "Mass tourists" place a premium on relaxation. Mass tourism constitutes the largest sector of the global tourism industry.

Pro-poor tourism. The overall goal of pro-poor tourism is poverty reduction. In that sense, pro-poor tourism is different from most other types of travel because it does not involve a specific type of destination. Instead, pro-poor tourism represents a way of traveling and operating tourism-related business. Tour operators that consider themselves "pro-poor" often seek meaningful interaction with local residents. Pro-poor tourism outfits also invest a large amount of their profits into nearby communities and try to improve residents' quality of life by giving them service or construction jobs. This type of tourism has recently gained a foothold in South Africa and several other parts of the world.

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