Tourism commonly is approached through a variety of methods. However, there is
little or no agreement on how the study of tourism should be undertaken. The following
are several methods that have been used.
The institutional approach to the study of tourism considers the various intermediaries
and institutions that perform tourism activities. It emphasizes institutions
such as the travel agency. This approach requires an investigation of the organization,
operating methods, problems, costs, and economic place of travel agents who
act on behalf of the customer, purchasing services from airlines, rental car companies,
hotels, and so on. An advantage of this approach is that the U.S. Census
Bureau conducts a survey every five years on selected services that includes travel
agents and lodging places, thus providing a database for further study.
The product approach involves the study of various tourism products and how they
are produced, marketed, and consumed. For example, one might study an airline
seat—how it is created, the people who are engaged in buying and selling it, how
it is financed, how it is advertised, and so on. Repeating this procedure for rental
cars, hotel rooms, meals, and other tourist services gives a full picture of the field.
Unfortunately, the product approach tends to be too time-consuming; it does not
allow the student to grasp the fundamentals of tourism quickly.
The historical approach is not widely used. It involves an analysis of tourism activities
and institutions from an evolutionary angle. It searches for the cause of innovations,
their growth or decline, and shifts in interest. Because mass tourism is
a fairly recent phenomenon, this approach has limited usefulness.
The managerial approach is firm-oriented (microeconomic), focusing on the management
activities necessary to operate a tourist enterprise, such as planning, research,
pricing, advertising, control, and the like. It is a popular approach, using
insights gleaned from other approaches and disciplines. Although a major focus
of this book is managerial, readers will recognize that other perspectives are also
being used. Regardless of which approach is used to study tourism, it is important
to know the managerial approach. Products change, institutions change, and society
changes; this means that managerial objectives and procedures must be geared
to change to meet shifts in the tourism environment. The Journal of Travel Research
and Tourism Management, leading journals in the field, both feature this approach.
Because of its importance to both domestic and world economies, tourism has been
examined closely by economists, who focus on supply, demand, balance of payments,
foreign exchange, employment, expenditures, development, multipliers,
and other economic factors. This approach is useful in providing a framework for
analyzing tourism and its contributions to a country’s economy and economic
development. The disadvantage of the economic approach is that whereas tourism
is an important economic phenomenon, it has noneconomic impacts as well. The
economic approach does not usually pay adequate attention to the environmental,
cultural, psychological, sociological, and anthropological approaches. Tourism Economics
is a journal utilizing the economic approach.
Tourism tends to be a social activity. Consequently, it has attracted the attention of
sociologists, who have studied the tourism behavior of individuals and groups of
people and the impact of tourism on society. This approach examines social classes,
habits, and customs of both hosts and guests. The sociology of leisure is a relatively
undeveloped field, but it shows promise of progressing rapidly and becoming more
widely used. As tourism continues to make a massive impact on society, it will be
studied more and more from a social point of view.
A prime reference in this area is The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class,
by Dean MacCannell (Schocken Books, New York, 1976). Erik Cohen, of the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, has made many contributions in this area. Graham
M. S. Dann, University of Luton, United Kingdom, has been a major contributor
to the tourism sociology literature as well.
Geography is a wide-ranging discipline, so it is natural that geographers should be
interested in tourism and its spatial aspects. The geographer specializes in the study
of location, environment, climate, landscape, and economic aspects. The geographer’s
approach to tourism sheds light on the location of tourist areas, the movements
of people created by tourism locales, the changes that tourism brings to the
landscape in the form of tourism facilities, dispersion of tourism development, physical
planning, and economic, social, and cultural problems. Because tourism
touches geography at so many points, geographers have investigated the area more
thoroughly than have scholars in many other disciplines. Because the geographers’
approach is so encompassing—dealing with land use, economic aspects, demographic
impacts, and cultural problems—a study of their contributions is highly
recommended. Recreational geography is a common course title used by geographers
studying this specialty. Because tourism, leisure, and recreation are so closely
related, it is necessary to search for literature under all these titles to discover the
contributions of various fields. Geographers were instrumental in starting both
the Journal of Leisure Research and Leisure Sciences. Another journal, Tourism Geographies,
was launched in February 1999 with the aim of providing a forum for the
presentation and discussion of geographic perspectives on tourism and tourismrelated
areas of recreation and leisure studies.
Tourism embraces virtually all aspects of our society. We have cultural and heritage
tourism, which calls for an anthropological approach. Because people behave in different
ways and travel for different reasons, it is necessary to use a psychological approach
to determine the best way to promote and market tourism products. Because
tourists cross borders and require passports and visas from government offices, and
because most countries have government-operated tourism development departments,
we find that political institutions are involved and are calling for a political
science approach. Any industry that becomes an economic giant affecting the lives
of many people attracts the attention of legislative bodies (along with that of the sociologists,
geographers, economists, and anthropologists), which create the laws, regulations,
and legal environment in which the tourist industry must operate; so we
also have a legal approach. The great importance of transportation suggests passenger
transportation as another approach. The fact simply is that tourism is so vast, so
complex, and so multifaceted that it is necessary to have a number of approaches to
studying the field, each geared to a somewhat different task or objective. Figure 1.3
illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of tourism studies and their reciprocity and
mutuality. The Annals of Tourism Research, an interdisciplinary social sciences journal,
is another publication that should be on the serious tourism student’s reading list.