For long holiday tourism has been in the grip of economic thinking and sociological research. On this webpage a more balanced view is maintained on the focal centre of tourists' activities: tourists themselves and their encounter with their holiday destination. Tourists are the only ones who can sense emotions; neither ‘society’ nor the tourism "industry" can. Tourists take what is given to them and then turn it into their own ends; it is these ends what is of our primary interest and more than 25 articles on this site are about just that: the tourists' tourism.

Tourists’ profile and lifestyles

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    With the reflexive approach of tourism as we understand it, the pivot on which tourism hinges is the tourist’s experience. However, before a tourist can be called as such, there is a long way to go. Getting the motivation to go on holiday is the starting point on a complicated road before someone becomes a full fledged tourist. This motivation may be based simply on the fact that this person has only two weeks of vacation per year, or it could also be fueled by a concrete desire to travel to an area that is completely different from the home environment. This motivation may stem from personal reasons, such as difficult home situations, an urge for self-realization or even health concerns, but it may also be inspired by external sources, such as a TV programme, a novel, a nature film or the inspiring stories of friends.

Motivations create needs that only stop being needs once they have been satisfied. At the moment a need to travel appears, the first expectation will arise automatically. One starts to imagine what things will look like, dreaming about the great experiences one will have, and more or less concrete images of what one wants to experience will start to form. This is what we call the pre-tourist stage. In most cases this stage lasts longer than the holiday itself and consists of a series of well defined steps. Out of motivation and need, the pre-tourist starts forming his first expectations based only on reference material stored in his memory. In this sense these first expectations are authentic, because they are based on personal memory. Once a tourist knows more or less where he wants to go, he starts accumulating more information from external sources and adjusts his expectations accordingly. Although this information may be correct, false or misleading, its only purpose is to feed expectations.

From the moment he starts consulting external sources, the tourist’s personality still plays a major part during the pre-tourist stage. Some pre-tourists will listen to advice from friends, others go for the glossy travel magazines, while there are those who study all possibilities on the Internet – the choice of sources for information depends on the personality of the pre-tourist.

Within the limited scope of a holiday – or of being a tourist – we can distinguish different types of tourists, based on character traits and lifestyle with regard to the decision making process. We can set up a scale with two extremes, and as often is the case with any social activity, most people can be placed somewhere in the middle. One extreme of this scale refers to those people that are individualists and travel alone or with a partner or friend. They will make their own itineraries and travel at their own rhythm and pace. They want to be active, tend to avoid typical tourist sites and have a keen interest in local populations and their culture. Volunteer work is a serious option and encounters with one’s self and with people from other cultures are of great importance. These kinds of people challenge themselves in extreme situations – either physically or socially – with an emphasis on their own performance. This is the idealistic end of the scale and since these people try to depart from the usual standards, we can also call it the allocentric part of the lifestyle scale.

The other end of the scale gives us a profile of people who do not want any problems, they like to have everything arranged for them and they want complete relaxation. They are concerned about their own bodies, and therefore their interests are in the fields of sunbathing, massages, spas or plastic surgery, just to mention a few. They have no particular interest in local people or their culture. We call this end of the scale the psycho-centric one.

The decision on where to go and the change from pre-tourist to real tourist means that a fair number of complicated decisions must be made. How much time the tourist has available, the budget, travelling individually or in a group, going by airplane or cruise ship and many more elements must be factored in. Tourists at different ends of this Tourist Lifestyle Scale (TLS) will handle their decisions differently. Those on the allocentric side tend to pay providers directly at the destination as much as possible, while more psycho-centric tourists favour paying home country travel organizations up front, for example.

A point worth mentioning here is that the lifestyle scale has nothing to do with the budget a tourist manages. How much people spend on their holiday determines many aspects of the holiday arrangements, but the same logic holds true for the entire scale. All-inclusive resort holidays do not need to be very expensive, while the wandering idealist may dispose of a lot of money. The allocentric side of the TLS is usually associated with the more intellectual groups of the Western population, but that does not mean they have big budgets (students!). Going on vacation is a free choice and people will do so when they have the money to go where they want.

Finally the moment comes when a person can lock his front door and travel to the holiday destination of his dreams. By now he is a real tourist, defined as one who is traveling to an area that is distinct from the home environment. On arrival, the tourist begins living experiences and the process of Impcal intake begins.

The use of the attention mechanism, or sensory intake of Impact Calories (Impcal), means that a tourist starts experiencing things in the presence of Impact Sources (Impsources). These sources can be divided into two groups: the first one refers to real tourist attractions that were developed for tourists and provide essential tourist infrastructure (hotels, roads, etc.) and these are called main and secondary Impsources. Another type of Impsource concerns all things and phenomena that were not intended for tourists and form part of the local people’s everyday life: these are shared and incidental Impsources. These sources may range from picturesque villages or landscapes to public transport or a sudden incident. The local population shares these Impsources with the tourists and the latter may use them for their experiences or they may ignore them.

It should be clear that tourists from the allocentric side of the TLS scale prefer the shared Impsources, while those on the psychocentric side concentrate more on main and secondary Impsources. This is not only a matter of lifestyle, it also has to do with the way people experience things. People on the allocentric side of the scale take in much more of the unexpected Impcal, meaning that they do not know beforehand exactly what to expect and they are open to anything occurring around them. Tourists on the psychocentric side however, know quite well what to expect and they take in the expected Impcal. This may lead to the disadvantage of seeing only what they expected and not seeing anything else. However, people on the far right side of the scale want just that: to see what they expected and they are not usually in for surprises.

One of the things tourists like to experience is things or phenomena that are authentic for a tourism destination. We travel to an area that is different from our home environment (a basic postulation of tourism) with the idea that we want to see and experience things that are different to what we are used to at home. For those on the allocentric side of the TLS scale this means that much of the authenticity is derived from the shared Impsources, the local population, the environment and the surrounding nature. In this case we talk about object related authenticity, meaning that the things or phenomena we experience are real and are as they seem, independent of tourists’ interpretations. Tourists on the psychocentric side of the TLS scale also want to see authentic things, but they get most of their experiences from things or situations that have been arranged specifically for them. Authenticity is not found in the objects themselves, but in the stories and ideas about them.

When a tourist has an expectation of visiting an authentic indigenous tribe and once there he discovers that there is very little that is indigenous or authentic about them, then the tourist will be disappointed because of an unfulfilled expectation and corresponding need. With expectations tourists always assume that objects or phenomena are real – at least that is what they imagine. There is the possibility that even if the tourist realizes that the indigenous people are just dressed up for tourists, he still may find it interesting to see how those people used to live and some of his expectations may still be fulfilled. In other words the story about the indigenous people has to make up for the lack of real object related authenticity. This type of authenticity-with-a-story about Impsources we call symbolic related authenticity. In this case travel organizations or tourist boards can manipulate to a certain extent the tourists’ expectations and experiences they will have.

Accordingly, as the holiday proceeds and the tourist accumulates experiences, he adjusts his expectations further, gaining more travel knowledge and experiences. Hopefully he will get the feeling that his holiday needs are being satisfied.

Finally, every holiday comes to an end (another requirement in tourism) and the evaluation stage can begin. Arriving home the tourist becomes a post-tourist and he will start evaluating the expectations that came true and those that turned out to be worse than expected. At one place he might have liked to stay a little longer, while another was perhaps not worth visiting. At this stage he will select his favourite photographs and finally draw conclusions on how successful the holiday was and to what extent the experiences served as an indicator for the next holiday. Often a person can be post-tourist and pre-tourist at the same time.

Feelings of having experienced authentic things or phenomena will linger on the longest, while quick, transitory Impcal intake and short visits may fade away quickly. Social experiences often remain the longest, not so much because of the intake but because of the simultaneous output – in other words, the element of interaction.

We can summarize the different style characteristics on the TLS as follows:





Travelling alone or with partner

Travelling in groups


Self confident

Little self confidence


Socially open

Low social interests


Spacious social environment,

little contact with family or friends

Social contacts limited to friends or family


Many new things or phenomena

Only familiar things or phenomena


High risk factor

Low risk factor


Mental imaging

Mainly material imaging


Self realization (existentialistic)

Physical: sunbathing, massages etc.



High interest in ecology

Little interest in ecological matters


CO2-compensated transport

No interest in clean transport


Interest in a local population

No interest in anything local


Objective authenticity

Symbol related authenticity


Wide expectations

Narrow expectations



Mostly passive



Paying directly to the destination

Paying to travel organizations


Little use of travel organizations

Ample use of travel organizations


Little interest in comfort

Comfort is very important


Mostly factual and descriptive information

Target information dominant


Mostly shared and incidental Impsources

Mostly principal and secondary Impsources

It is interesting to note how insights from the tourist lifestyle spectrum have affected tourism development over the past 20 years or so. For the psychocentric side of the TLS scale markets are still growing, but on the other side of the scale this is also the case. International hotel chains keep building their mega-projects while small-scale environmentally-oriented tourism projects are flourishing more than ever and with them the need among tourists for objective authenticity. The number of tourists going to intercontinental and exotic destinations on an individual basis is increasing, but the same holds true for tourism in groups. Apart from the fact that growth figures on both sides of the TLS are due to overall growth in tourism, another trend has been the widening of the scale. In the early nineties most tourists could be found nearer the psychocentric side of the scale. This is no longer the case and it has to do with the socio-cultural movement called post-modernism, whereby there is increasing emphasis on the authenticity of the experience itself and less so on the object or phenomenon.

It is obvious that tourists going to all-inclusive resort hotels can be found on the psychocentric side of the TLS scale, while the volunteer in a remote area we put on the allocentric side. Tourists travelling by rental car through a country can be categorized somewhere in the middle, but this depends very much on what this tourist really wants. There are tourists who just drive to all a country’s tourism highlights while others look for trips off the beaten track and want more encounters with the locals. Tourists who love sports and adventure may climb mountains or go trekking. Some on the psychoccentric side of the scale might go cycling with a group of friends.

Another phenomenon we have noticed is that nowadays it is more difficult to pinpoint tourists on the TLS scale. Tourists tend to mix things, doing rural community tourism for a view days and then taking a group tour to some famous tourism highlight. The spectrum of tourists’ interests seems to have widened and a single tourist cannot be pigeon-holed as a single type. What we have to take into account in this case is that the tourist’s own lifestyle is one thing, but he is also constantly exposed to other external influences. First, there is the influence of his own nationality. The tourist behaviour of Italians, Dutch or Americans can differ considerably. Within these parameters there are social layers, each of them influencing a tourist and many people have themselves been led by external social pressure.

Travel organizations such as Tour Operators play their part too, by trying to persuade potential tourists to book a certain type of holiday arrangement that may not correspond completely with the tourist’s own lifestyle. The place a tourist occupies on the TLS scale widens: it is not only about his own lifestyle, but also about what has been pushed on him. The image of a tourist attraction involving something you MUST have seen, because otherwise “you have not really seen that country” can blur the picture of a clear-cut lifestyle.

In this case there arises another intriguing question: how authentic is the tourist? Interesting as the question may be, little research has been carried out in this field, although any outcome should be of high interest to travel organizations.

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All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source.


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