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Alternative forms of tourism

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For a number of years there has been growing awareness, and therefore concern, about the impact of tourism on the destination.

This awareness and concern initially focused on mass tourism which is defined by Theng, Qiong, and Tatar as:

The volume of tourists compared to the concerned territory and to the local population density.

(Theng, Qiong, & Tatar, 2015)

Mass tourism is common in most, if not all, tourist destinations which have a good reputation, and is characterised by high concentrations of tourists. As part of mass tourism, ‘mass tourists’ generally buy a holiday ‘package’ in which their travel arrangements, accommodation, excursions and activities etc. are all prearranged or at least booked through an agent on site. This negates the need to learn a foreign language or understand the culture of the destination, and saves both time and money for the tourist (Theng, Qiong, & Tatar, 2015; Triarchi & Karmanis, 2017).

As might be expected, the negative impacts discussed in the previous week multiply under such conditions and, in fact, can become off-putting for tourists themselves. We as tourists, tourism providers, and/or policy makers should at least be aware of how we can minimise our impacts and, perhaps to try to capitalise on this awareness, many alternatives to mass tourism have entered the market.

Triarchi and Karmanis (2017) suggest, however, that using the term ‘alternative tourism’ to describe these new forms of tourism could be problematic as they are, at least in theory, closely related to the principles of sustainable development. Therefore, the term ‘sustainable tourism’ is more commonly used.

Sustainable tourism tends to be developed in and associated most with regions that have appreciable natural resources – therefore targeting tourists wanting to explore, study and admire the flora and fauna of a particular landscape, or regions that have celebrated cultural buildings and/or landscapes.

It purports to involve destination communities in any tourism development, environmental protection, capitalisation on the cultural and social heritage of the destination, and making sure economic benefits stay within the destination while minimising leakages (Triarchi & Karmanis, 2017).

But do these alternative forms really deliver what they are intended to?

Your task

What do you think? Do alternative forms of tourism really work or are they simply designed to make the tourist feel better about their choices?


Fletcher, J., Fyall, A., Gilbert, D., & Wanhill, S. (2018). Tourism: Principles and practice. (6th ed.). Pearson. https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/gr8698/COV_ALMA51103766060002011

Theng, S., Qiong, X., & Tatar, C. (2015). Tourisme de masse vs tourisme alternatif? Enjeux et nouveaux positionnements [Mass Tourism vs Alternative Tourism? Challenges and New Positionings]. Études Caribéennes [Caribbean Studies], 31-32. https://doaj.org/article/3f66c6dd6a6d442aad6f6dd5d9ecbee1

Triarchi, E., & Karamanis, K. (2017). Alternative tourism development: A theoretical background. World Journal of Business and Management, 3(1), 35-54. http://www.macrothink.org/journal/index.php/wjbm/article/view/11198/8961

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This article is from the free online course:

The Impacts of Tourism

Coventry University