Geography and Tourism

Geography can be viewed as the study of the earth as the home of human beings. While the habitat can be regarded as an object, geography is not usually considered to be an object centered discipline. Rather, it is distinguished by the approaches taken by its practitioners. Four such approaches are widely recognized, and all can potentially be applied to the examination of tourism. Human-environment interaction Geographers adopting this approach are concerned with both the implications of the environment for human activity and the impact of human beings on their environment.

These two emphases together account for the bulk of geographic tourism research. Much tourism is directed to very special places, such as historical monuments and national parks, and geographers have been interested in the characteristics of these places and how they have been modified by this industry. They have explored the images which people hold of such places and how these are created. Further, they have also been in the forefront of research on the impacts of tourism, whether these be of an environmental, economic or social nature. Spatial analysis

This is interested in the real distribution of phenomena, in this case aspects of tourism, and in the flows of people, products, information and money which unite areas. Such analyses attempt to describe, explain and predict patterns of tourism phenomena including the origins, routes and destinations of the tourists themselves as well as other associated features such as restaurants or different types of accommodation. The movement of people from place to place and the development of associated transportation networks have been major geographical concerns. Regional synthesis

Geographers interested in this approach attempt to understand the character of places and the landscapes which have resulted from the interaction of natural processes and human activities, whether they be at the scale of world regions such as the Mediterranean coasts or the Alps, or as applied to smaller areas such as specific resorts. They attempt to delimit areas with common human or physical characteristics, such as a similar landscape or a similar dependence on tourism, and to understand the relationships which exist in particular places between tourism and other activities, such as agriculture, forestry or urbanization.

There is a close link between geography, tourism and anthropology, for many studies are geographically framed and culturally informed. The delimitation of regions for planning or marketing purposes is also a geographical activity. Physical processes Physical geographers study the forces which act to modify the surface of the earth, such as water, wind and ice. Tourism, being a human phenomenon, does not generally attract the attention of these geographers. However, climate and weather significantly influence both the nature of resources and the quality of experiences available at particular times in specific places.

Processes of erosion and deposition in coastal and mountain areas may have considerable implications for people both as tourists and as tourism suppliers. The applied aspects of physical geography thus merge with the human-environment perspective. There has always been a close relationship among tourism, exploration and the description of foreign lands and their peoples. However, the first academic geographical publications specifically on tourism date from the 1930s.

Early work consisted of the description of the landscapes of destination areas and, as geographers became increasingly aware that tourism resulted in the creation of towns with particular characteristics, blossomed into investigation of resort morphology and recreational business districts. This is still a prominent research area among geographers. However, interest in tourism in urban areas has expanded to include investigations of tourism in large cities, economic restructuring, urban heritage and special events.

Geographers have also examined summer cottages, parks and protected areas, and wild erness travel and experiences in rural and remote areas (see rural tourism ). Geographical work on tourism was spearheaded in Europe, although American geographers, often working in government agencies, played a prominent role in the examination of the perception, use and management of wilderness areas. Much of this work was concerned with user conflicts, the impacts of visitors on fragile environments such as national parks, and the notion of carrying capacity as viewed from both environmental and social perspectives.

Although of great relevance to tourism, much of this work was seen primarily as a contribution to the understanding of outdoor recreation and there has often been an unfortunate and unnecessary schism, particularly in the United States, between those working on recreation and those involved in tourism. Geographers have displayed a strong interest in the role of tourism in economic development and have played a prominent role in investigations of tourism in developing countries and in the debates concerning tourism and sustainable development.

They have also been among those adopting an evolutionary approach to the study of tourism. Thus, they have been prominent in research on the history of tourism, conducting work on phenomena such as spas and the Grand Tour. They have also been major contributors to the introduction, debate and testing of tourism cycles and, on a different time scale, seasonality. As already noted, the spatial approach to geography has been associated particularly with the description, explanation and prediction of patterns of tourist movements at a wide variety of scales from global to local.

At times this has required the compilation and mapping of large quantities of information on tourism networks and flows. It has also involved the examination of such patterns using the gravity model and its derivatives, which are used to describe and project patterns of movement between origins and destinations based upon population size and intervening distances. Such work has involved the development of methods to measure the attraction of destination areas and, more generally, the quality of landscape and scenery.

Concepts such as distance decay and core-periphery relationships, in which the core is viewed as an area of demand and the periphery as an area of supply, have been applied to tourism in a search for widely applicable generalizations. Use of computer technology for storing, analyzing and retrieving large data sets and associated techniques such as computer cartography, remote sensing and geographical information systems are finding increasing application in geographical tourism research and planning.

Many national and international organizations include sections or working groups which specialize in tourism. An example of the former is the International Geographical Union Study Group on the Geography of Sustainable Tourism: Development and Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage, and examples of the latter are the Recreation, Tourism and Sport Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers, and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Study Group of the Canadian Association of Geographers. All of these groups produce newsletters.

Many university geography departments offer courses on tourism and encourage students to specialize in it in their graduate degrees, so that many dissertations have been written by geographers on tourism. Today, geography is a highly pluralistic discipline with no dominant perspective or philosophical approach, and its practitioners adopt a wide variety of research methods. Geographers have tended to be eclectic in their research and teaching leading to charges that the discipline as a whole, and its tourism scholars especially lack cohesion and focus.

They have dealt with many aspects of tourism and, although often fragmented, the literature has an underlying sense of unity when viewed from a spatial perspective and provides a substantial base for the construction of a geography of tourism. Geographers have become skilled at synthesizing numerous causal factors as an aid to understanding the complexity of tourism phenomena, particularly its consequences for special environments in general and destination areas.

This has permitted many geographers to become involved in impact assessment and to participate as consultants and practitioners in the evaluation of many tourism issues. Therefore, their help is often sought in planning exercises involving tourism. The proclivity to synthesize large quantities of diverse information derived from many disciplinary perspectives has also permitted them to be among the more prolific producers of general tourism texts. Recreational geography is a major research specialty of geography.

Its roots can be found in geographic publications of the 1920s; however, its flowering occurred during the Great Depression with the publication of an article on the topic of land use. During its early years, tourism as well as recreation was investigated, and sports geography was incorporated into the subject in the 1960s Recreational geography is defined as the methodological study of the passive and dynamic configurations and procedures of leisure activities that are non-basic in nature and found in proximity to users. This definition distinguishes the study of recreation from tourism.

The latter differs from recreation with regard to economic base theory, distance, and/or travel time to destinations and the need for tourists to secure accommodation and food. Quantitatively, recreational geography has followed a normal S-shaped growth curve. Increases in published research and papers presented at professional meetings was incremental from 1930 to 1959. During the 1960s there was a quantum leap in formal research, and rapid acceleration persisted through the 1970s. Increases continued in the 1980s and 1990s, but at a slower pace.

This evolutionary process reflects the maturation of recreational geography as a research specialty. The application of research findings to practical problems such as statewide recreation plans is evidence that non-geographers value the contributions of recreational geographers. Acceptance of manuscripts by multidisciplinary journals and recognition of recreational geography by the International Geographical Union, the Association of American Geographers and the Canadian Association of Geographers is evidence of the quality of the subdiscipline.

Recreational geography is a pluralistic subdiscipline which examines a multitude of topics, systematic and regional as well as pragmatic and theoretical. Research efforts have concentrated on user oriented (that is, urban) recreation with emphases on perception, participation, planning, market areas (such as hinterlands), market access, market segments, resort morphology, individual activity space, recreation business districts and travel gradients. Additional areas of interest are site analysis, carrying capacity, open space, second homes and a sense of place.

The nature of recreation geography is characterized by five factors. First, research is not concentrated on a few topics but is diverse. Second, there is no research paradigm to influence the direction of investigations. Third, examination of research stresses the unique case rather than the general situation. Fourth, studies that replicate and/or verify original findings are not common. Fifth, the complexity of recreation experiences and the lack of data bases explain ideographic tendencies in the literature.