Difference Between Travel And Tourism? Get My Quick Guide!

Written by Simon in Traveling
Image Credits: Private Photos from Vacations

I’ve visited a few other states and countries for means of leisure or curiosity to see a popular landmark or site. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into visiting any place that is a great distance from where you are currently located. You must determine where to sleep, eat, shop, and commute.

Many often use the terms, “travel,” and, “tourism,” quite interchangeably when it comes to visiting other locations. There are, however, some distinct differences between the two. I’ve put together a chart to help you clearly understand the difference between travel and tourism.

You're A Tourist IfYou're A Traveler If
You are only visiting a location(s) for a leisurely short period of time.You intend to stay at a location(s) for a long period of time for exploration.
You are staying in a hotel or establishment that provides convenient or luxury accommodations.You stay in a hostel, tent, vehicle, or other affordable establishments that don't provide the utmost convenience and luxury.
You visit only the popular areas and attractions that other tourists visit.You are looking to explore places that are not commonly visited or seen.
Your itinerary is well thought out and scheduled.You arrived at your destination with no plans and prefer to make plans as you go.
You've packed cameras, electronics, or other devices meant for entertainment.You've only packed the essentials, clothes, food, toiletries, and etc.
You communicate with large groups of tourists but hardly with locals.You only desire to communicate with locals and spend time with them to learn about their culture.


This chart outlines the very direct differences between a tourist and a traveler. Often times the term, “tourist,” provides a negative connotation that is meant to offend the person behind it. In this article, we will go over why there is a negative connotation, the different kinds of tourism, as well as provide some helpful examples of what not to do if you are a traveler or a tourist.

Defining Travel And Tourism

I’ll admit it. I’m the kind of person who has a very detailed itinerary, a well thought out schedule, and booked a 5-star hotel with a fully stocked minibar. Every time I visit another location, I’m a tourist. This is not a bad thing. I just have a different interest in how I spend my vacation than someone who travels.

So what exactly is tourism, where did it come from, and what are the different types?

Where Did The Concept of Tourism Originate?

The concept of tourism can be seen as far back as 1500 B.C. with the Egyptians. However, modern tourism as we now understand it didn’t originate until the 17th century. In these times, Europe participated in what was known as the Grand Tour. This is when upper-class and wealthy young European men would come of age and take a traditional trip around Europe.

Women could partake in the Grand Tour if they had equally sufficient means, and those of a less wealthy stature could also join in so long as they found a sponsor. The purpose of the Grand Tour was to help provide a specific look at European culture, art, and the like.

Read more on the Grand Tour here from WikiVoyage to learn about what the tour actually looked like and the places that were visited.

Leisure Tourism

Do you get to enjoy a much-needed vacation break courtesy of your work every year? You can thank the United Kingdom for this concept. After their industrial revolution, they provided machinery production owners, factory owners, traders, and economic oligarchy the freedom to take leisure time off of work. Thus lead to the first formation of a travel company, “Cox & Kings.”

Cox & Kings Ltd. first formed in 1758 is still around and operating today to help folks set up leisurely travel around the world. Leisure tourism is, of course, the most popular kind of tourism, and it actually encompasses a few types of tourism:

  • Mass Tourism - This type of tourism is defined by large groups of tourists partaking in scheduled events and tours together under organized tourism professionals (tour guides and tour buses) at very popular attractions.
  • Water Tourism - Embarking on a cruise via ocean vessel where you are provided with entertainment, food, drinks, amenities, gambling, swimming, shopping and more. Often times you are able to visit a specific foreign destination(s) before returning home.
  • Winter Tourism - Traveling to locations specifically known for their available winter resorts that focus on skiing and snowboarding.
  • Event Tourism - Guests visit another location for the purpose of attending a large scale and organized event together. One example of this would be a music festival.

Academics Tourism

As you probably guessed from the title, academics tourism takes place when students for the purpose of higher education visit other places abroad to continue their learning and studying or to take part in specific tours and events. The average cost for students to study abroad in another country? $36,000 annually.

If you’re interested in studying abroad, here’s some helpful guidance on how to find a program and what to expect financially from GoAbroad.com.

Niche Tourism

Aside from the above most popular forms of tourism, there are other special forms of tourism that focus on very specific itineraries. Here is a list for example of a few niche tourism markets:

  • Religious Tourism
  • Film Tourism
  • Sports Tourism
  • Heritage Tourism
  • Culinary Tourism
  • War Tourism
  • Wildlife Tourism
  • Extreme Tourism

Medical Tourism

Medical tourism occurs when someone travels to another country for a specific treatment, operation, or medical service due to the following:

  • Affordable Cost
  • Availability & Legality
  • Better Quality

India is the most popular medical tourism location. They offer a very high standard of care, a more affordable cost, and sometimes more complex operations or procedures than other countries.

How Can Tourism Be Bad?

It’s important to discuss why there is a negative connotation associated with tourism and that’s because tourism in some circumstances can promote:

  • Poor attitudes of locals and business owners
  • Bad consequences on the environment
  • Theft and sex trade activities

Some tourist destinations can be overloaded with visitors from around the world. Depending on how those visitors treat the destination or how they provide courtesy or lack thereof, tourists could be seen in a negative light by the locals who have to interact with tourists at those locations daily.

Before you decide to visit a popular tourist location, put yourself in the local's shoes. They live near this popular landmark, and unlike you, they do not get on a plane and leave at the end of the day, week, or month. The place you are visiting is their home, and you should treat it respectfully. This is especially true for littering and stealing.

What Are The Benefits Of Tourism?

While the negative connotation with tourism exists, there are many ways tourism can help everyone out that will outweigh a lot of the bad. Consider the following:

  • Tourism brings a rise in employment to the area.
  • Boost in economic growth from tourists who make purchases
  • Provides a better social understanding of cultural differences
  • Benefits the quality of infrastructure and facilities, since more people will utilize them
  • Volunteer tourism and sustainable tourism can help the environment instead of hurt it

Is Travel Better Than Tourism?

The answer to whether travel is better than tourism is entirely subjective. Some folks are not geared to handle the lack of planning and self-sustaining methods that travel entails. There are those who might argue that one is better than the other, but the truth of the matter is that it is entirely dependent on the person who is choosing.

Travel can seem chaotic, unorganized, and sometimes overwhelming. Many are not suited for this kind of independence, while tourism can seem too organized, overcrowded, and boring for those who are searching for adventure.

Dangers of Being A Traveler vs Tourist

Since travelers don’t plan out their escapades and tend to stick to adventure that is not so mainstream or accommodating, they can be at risk for some dangers, let’s go over a few things travelers should take precautions for:

  • When staying at a hostel, always check reviews first and take the necessary steps to protect your belongings from unwanted theft or damage.
  • See if the places you are visiting have gender-specific hostels if you feel unsafe staying in a mixed-gender hostel.
  • Drink responsibly. You are in an unfamiliar environment with small numbers.
  • Know where the nearest embassy is in the event that you require safety from a potential attack or crime.
  • If you are exploring an area of wilderness that is off the map, always let someone know where you are and where you are going, take the right precautions so you do not end up lost.
  • Pack a first aid kit in case of a medical emergency.
  • Learn the language of the locals first so you can communicate and get help when needed.
  • Make sure proper identification and passport are on you at all times and safe.

Hello, my name is Simon. I love traveling, and so does my girlfriend. I am an internet entrepreneur and I run my own company, but I have also been working as a tourist guide for a short time - years ago.

We have two kids now, and we want to take them out, to see the world.

As there are a few more obstacles traveling with kids. Follow our travels, reviews, and path to knowledge

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