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 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.

Under the heading "Tourism" a new article has been added on Climate Change (July, 2020)

and also under the heading "Tourism" I have added a new article about Phenomenology and Tourism (Feb. 2020).

Tourism (1)

Topic: Holidays

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The Holiday

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

The Holiday

We have put the tourist right at the centre of tourism; as we look at what a holiday is all about, we shall do the same thing. When we use the word ‘holiday’, we think specifically of the tourist and the way he experiences things. From this point of view we may wonder to what extent ‘tourism’ and ‘holiday’ are different concepts. This is a complicated question but we can say that, in a certain way, a holiday is tourism seen through the eyes of a tourist.

The climax of the holiday has been described as the intake of impact calories through the senses, which then are processed by the tourist into experiences. The source where the ImpCal are taken from is called Impsource; the tourist attraction forms part of this. It is important to note at this point that tourists experience many things and many of them do not necessarily have to come from the tourist attractions. Impsources can include any environment other than the home scene (an assumption of tourism); anywhere visitors can see, hear or smell something new. Tourist experiences therefore also concern the environment, the local population, colours of houses or aromas of local cuisine. We can divide the experiences into those that are the result of a purposely-built tourist attraction (museum, canopy tour, or an artificial ski slope) and those that are accidental, such as a flock of sheep crossing the road or a local religious gathering. There can also be unpleasant experiences such as an accident or flooding. There are Impsources that are for tourists exclusively and others that form part of the daily life of the local population and would have been there anyway. The tourist has experiences that are different in nature and disposition during his holiday as well as after it, and all the ImpCal taken in are formed into experiences.

When arriving home at the end of the holiday, the traveller still feels some of the atmosphere of all the places visited, but at the same time the process starts to be absorbed again by the daily work routine. Then there is the stage of showing pictures and videos to friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This includes giving travel advice to friends, recommending some things and ignoring others; finally, the whole “audience” gets to know the final verdict: a more-or-less successful holiday. Rarely will the tourist say at the end, “Never again!” They may think it, but they will rarely say this out loud, since the choice of holiday destination was made by the tourist himself and he will not likely confess that he was wrong. All impressions will start to fade, images and experiences become interposed, some things will be forgotten (usually the least pleasant ones), and finally the person will be left with some general impressions. It must be clear that the latter process may take months or even years. The holiday has finished and now he has to wait until the next one can begin.


ImpCal intake may be the focal point of the holiday; however, it does not limit itself to tourist attractions and their surroundings. Before arriving at the place where ImpCal intake can take place, the so-called Impsource, the tourist has already had a series of encounters. In the area of the Impsource one has to stay overnight using the local infrastructure, including roads, shops and restaurants. This infrastructure, which is used prior to the visit of the Impsource, is also part of the total experience. Usually there is a Main Impsource being the reason why the tourist wanted to go to that particular destination. However, there are many other things a tourist can enjoy apart from the main Impsource. This can take place using the so-called Side Impsources. The tourist may reach a destination to see some famous waterfall, but other tourist attractions could have been created nearby. A hotel may have set up a botanical garden, an old watermill could have been restored, or a music festival could have been organized; options like these are some of the many ways ImpCal can be offered, for financial compensation obviously. Souvenir and other kinds of shops may offer additional Impsources. People enjoy buying little things from the areas they visit, assuming of course that these products are in fact produced in that area and reflect some original or cultural elements of the local population.

One of the reasons for offering Side Impsources is that the local people want to keep tourists in their region for as long as possible. The more there is to see, the better the chance the tourist will stay another night. We are not talking about the ImpCal potential of just one source, but about the ImpCal value of an entire region. An area where there are many different things to do – in other words, one with high ImpCal potential – attracts more tourists than an area where tourists arrive to see a single Impsource and then immediately continue on their journey. That tourist attraction has an ImpCal value, but a region has one too: the sum of the individual Impsources.

A hotel can be an Impsource in itself and serve as a “base camp” in between visits to the various Main Impsources of the area. Even more than that, in an effort to keep the tourists for more nights, there is a pronounced tendency for hotels to offer all kinds of Side Impsources: beautiful gardens, swimming pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts, golf courses or casinos. So, there are Main Impsources, and then there are Side Impsources offered as an extra value for the area, but there are also Impsources along the main road that may provide a potential experience for free. We call these Shared Impsources, because the local population can get ImpCal intake too, although the resulting experience has nothing to do with tourism in their case. These Shared Impsources are so named regardless of whether the tourists get ImpCal from them or not. Some tourists simply may not notice them. There is also a fourth type of Impsource that has no infrastructure at all and was never intended for tourists. Examples may include a nice patch of forest, a place that acquired sudden fame for some natural phenomenon, or a flock of sheep may cross the road. We call these the Incidental Impsources. Accidents – unfortunate as they may be – may also form part of a fortuitous Incidental Impsource.

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An incidental Impsource like the cows crossing the road may enhance the holiday expierence. It gives a feeling of authenticity.

Another vitally important element in tourism is information supply. Since the tourist finds himself in surroundings that are quite distinct from his home environment, he has to become informed about where to go, where the most beautiful spots are and what type of hotel he likes. Information supply is inherent to tourism, therefore. There is no better infosource than the destination itself and once at the holiday destination the tourist can find all sorts of information he is looking for and he can make reservations for any arrangement he wishes. We refer to this as the detailed info supply and distinguish it from another type of infosupply that is the one on which the tourist bases his choice of destination. Local infosupply may be based on commercial aspects and the many local tour operators are the best examples. We are dealing with information that is directed at the tourist trying to convince him to reserve some excursion or multi-day arrangement.

In the destination country we can clearly see all the cornerstones on which the concept of the holiday is based: the experience – the Impsources – infrastructure – local transport – local info supply.

Before a tourist can begin his ImpCal intake, he has to travel to the country or region (in the same country); ImpCal intake can take place anywhere, even if it is not necessarily classified as tourism. This means that transport is also an inherent part of tourism. This transport – airplane, train or car – may be an Impsource in itself and it can be quite an experience, although we have noticed that this experience tends to fade away rather quickly. This sort of incidental short-lived Impcal intake often means superfluous experiences, which are forgotten just as quickly. By the way, we are talking about the transport from the home country to the destination (which can be in one’s own country) and this also implies the journey back home – an obligatory part of tourism, since long-term stays do not fall under the category of tourism. In the tourist’s home country or region of origin, many organisations and companies get involved with the tourists. Their function is twofold: first of all there is the commercial interest and secondly there is the role of information provider directed at the tourist in an effort to try to convince them to go to a certain destination.

Now we come to the points regarding the reasons why a tourist decides on a certain destination. In the tourist’s country of origin, the tourist must make a large number of decisions in order to decide where he wants to go. Some of all these decisions (see the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’) involve what he wants to arrange in advance to see and what he wants to arrange locally after he arrives. First of all, arrangement concerns the type of Impsources he is looking for, the general atmosphere of a place and the type of infrastructure it has.

The tourism supply of all possibilities that can be arranged beforehand can be divided depending on who offers what. The supply can stem from the tourist’s home country, from the destination or simply from what the tourist arranges for himself.

Table 1

Who can arrange what in tourism.







1A. Purposely constructed with infrastructure




1B. Already existing with infrastructure




1C. Already existing, no infrastructure



1D. Everything shared with a local population



2A. Everything developed for tourists




2B. Everything the tourist shares with a local population



3A. From the home country



3B. Within the destination country and reserved beforehand




3C. Public transport that cannot be reserved beforehand



4A. Through travel companies and organisations




4B. Through family, friends acquaintances or colleagues


Other Services

5. Insurances, credit cards, passports etc.


The column labelled D refers to services offered from the destination country (hotels, local operators, Impsources, etc.). The column labelled H refers to ImpCal services offered in the Home country (travel agencies among others) and column T refers to the Tourist arranging things himself.

This is a general overview of what can be arranged beforehand and those items the tourist has to reserve himself. For those entities that offer tourist services from the tourist’s home country to the destination, it is important that these services can be reserved.

A tour operator or other sort of travel agent gets in touch with the hotel or transport company or Impsource concerned, makes the necessary reservations and pays for them. All services that cannot be reserved beforehand cannot be offered by the travel organizations in the tourist’s home country. This is an important observation, because it is this type of supply that comprises all the incidental Impsources or those belonging to the daily life of a local population. In other words, what tour operators and travel agents offer are usually the main Impsources. The same holds true for the destination: the owners of hotels or tourist attractions offer those to the public and receive the resulting reservations. This is separate from the fact that there are many services which cannot be reserved beforehand and the tourist has to arrange them himself. In that case the tourist uses already existing infrastructure, which is also utilized by the local people; an important characteristic in this case is that even if the tourist does not go there, these services are performed just the same.

Item 1A in Table 1 deals with those Impsources that are purposely built for the tourists; Disney World is a case in point. Travel organizations from all over the world offer this Main Impsource, as does Disney World itself. Item 1B embraces those Impsources that already exist but which are further developed for tourism and supplied with more infrastructure. As an example we can mention a national park that has been enhanced with trails, an information centre, parking lots, restrooms, and so on. For item 1C we think of a distant, hard to reach little beach where no hotels have been built yet, or an old village where there is little or nothing in terms of tourist infrastructure. There is no clear ownership in these cases and Incidental Impsources are part of these experiences. Item 1D comprises an important part of tourism: all those things that belong to the daily environment of a local population not directly related to tourism. The colours and smells of a place belong to this category, as do the cultural manifestations of a population. These kinds of things have no specific owner and would have existed without tourism just the same. In other words, we are talking about the sort of supply that is not affected by travel organizations or investors and we call them Shared Impsources. As far as the infrastructure near an Impsource is concerned, we also distinguish between that which has clear ownership and can be reserved beforehand (2A), and infrastructure that must be shared with the locals (2B). Item 2a consists of souvenir stores or hotels while 2B concerns shops in general, churches or hospitals.

Transport can be divided into two categories. First (item 3A), there is transport from the home country to the destination (this transport is inherent to the concept of tourism) and this transport is usually arranged for beforehand (airplane, train or bus). Obviously, there are cases where the tourist can simply reach his holiday destination with his own car, in which case he does not have to arrange anything. Once at the destination country or region, he usually has to get some other means of transport to reach his hotel. This transport may be reserveable (option 3B), or it may occur with public transport (e.g. bus or ferry) via arrangements the tourist must usually make for himself (3C). The option of a rental car means that reservations can be made, thus this is considered a case of 3B.

Another aspect inherent to tourism is information flow. General information may be provided by the ‘official’ sector, such as government institutions, tourism boards or Internet companies (e.g. Wikipedia) – see category 4A. Another case is when the tourist relies on his own information sources, including families and friends (4B). See the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’ for a further explanation of information flows in tourism.

Finally there are general services, such as travel insurance, credit cards, passports or vaccinations, that are offered by the various governmental institutions, banks and the like (item 5).

In summary, we can see that a tourist can arrange various things via travel agents (for example) in his home country: the main and side Impsources, hotels or other services under the heading of ‘infrastructure’ (options 1A and 2A), transport towards the destination, and perhaps local transport at the destination (3B). Information and travel insurance (4A and 5) can also be easily arranged in the tourist’s home country. In the cases of 1C, 2A and 3B the tourist can also make reservations locally or by email or fax from his home. Other things really have to be arranged by the tourist himself: 1D, 2B, 3C and 4B.

This completes the explanation of the supply part in general and which kinds of services are offered from either the tourist’s home country or from the destination, and which services can be arranged beforehand or not. Another point in this respect is whether there is a well-defined owner that the tourist deals with (usually for main and side Impsources as well as infrastructure). The whole machinery of interlinking networks of tourist infrastructure, transport and travel agents is very complicated with many parties involved, all of which have something to do with one another and together comprise what we call ‘tourism.’

We have been emphasizing the supply side of tourism and this sector is sometimes referred to as the ‘tourism industry’, a somewhat ill-chosen name since this is an ‘industry’ that does not produce anything, but instead provides potential for experiences. We should never forget that it is the tourist himself who must make sure he has some Impcal intake and he has to process this himself into experiences.

The holiday cycle

So far, we have been presenting tourism based on its principal cornerstone: the experience. In Figure 1, we now give a chronological representation of a holiday:

The Holiday Cycle

The tourist begins in the upper left part, where he tries to fetch initial information for his choice of holiday destination and what he wants to do there. He proceeds to the area depicted below where he can purchase holiday packages – after some investigative work – as well as the transport to the chosen destination (if he is not using his own vehicle). Once the tourist reaches his destination (lower right section of the figure), he can inform himself even more and buy some excursions or make holiday arrangements locally; those who purchased holiday packages in the previous stage (lower left) will get additional information from the local agent or representative of the travel organisation concerned. Next comes the big moment he was longing for from the beginning: the experience (upper right). He will also make use of local infrastructure.

At the end of the holiday the tourist must travel home where he will arrive full of stories and with many pictures or videos. This material will in turn serve as an information source and feedback for friends, colleagues and perhaps travel organisations. This way he will help new tourists who are starting the same holiday cycle.

In the figure, each line drawn from the central tourist circle represents some tie with a network of people and things. The tourist’s social circles are intertwined networks and the same holds true for Tourist Boards, general information on the Internet, TV programmes or films. They all form networks the tourist makes use of and from which he extracts what he needs. All these networks are interlinked with one another. The Tour Operator is in close touch with airlines, local agents or directly with Impsources. Travel stores work together with Tour Operators. Impsources provide material for TV programmes, etc. In other words, tourism consists of a very complicated blend of contacts and each square in the figure above is connected in one way or another with the other squares.

One should also realize that each square is not merely a ‘heading’, it actually represents complicated groups of networks. The most obvious is the case of the square called ‘infrastructure’, which not only refers to hotels, but also to restaurants, souvenir stores, local roads or casinos, and obviously, the people working there. Each service belongs to a group of networks. The same holds true for the Impsources, which maintain contacts on all kinds of levels. The tourist makes contact with an enormous number of networks, but generally he is the last to realize this. Why should he? In most cases he is not made aware of all the networks and he is probably exposed to hundreds of networks in his daily life anyway.

There are cases when involvement in complex network systems suddenly becomes clear and that is when something goes wrong. For example a tourist loses his passport and then notices that all kinds of networks exist. There is the local agent who explains what to do, a consulate has to issue a temporary document, photographs must be taken, and so on. The tourist buying a complete holiday package consisting of transport, hotels and tourist attractions knows very well what he’s getting himself into, and when he pays for his holiday (also involving many networks, this time financial in nature) lots of faxes and emails will be sent elsewhere in the world to reserve and confirm his plans. Many means of communication are used to ensure that everything is ready for the tourist on the day the ‘show’ begins.

It is this complicated ‘ensemble’ of networks that gives life to the concept of tourism. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to go into all the details about what a network really is. However, it should be clear by now that each person, institution, good and reality is in contact with the other elements in some way or another. The relationships among all these identities, as we may call them, can take place on different levels and are subject to their purpose and direction. Contacts may be physical (e.g. written, transmitted over the Internet, or spoken) or they may be more abstract in nature, such as images or based on socio-cultural output. Some networks maintain clearly defined contacts with others and may form complete strings of contacts, as in the case of a hotel that sells via a local agent, who in turn offers this infrastructure to a Tour Operator, who then sells from a travel store. The creation of these strings of networks form the basis of what we call tourism. Some string contacts are close while others may be more superficial.

Another point one has to realize is that a major part of what we call tourism concerns things that also exist without any tourism. These things make use of existing infrastructure, contacts or other elements. Hotels, for example, are there not only for the tourists, but they are also used by many other people who do not fit into this category, such as business people, people visiting family, regional inspectors or students (for some research project). Airplanes and trains are another good example of having many users (the majority perhaps) who cannot be labelled tourists. Then there are the shared Impsources that a tourist can enjoy, but so can anyone else; this may be a landscape or a lively local market. We may even wonder which part of a holiday has been developed for tourists specifically and which part consists of shared or incidental Impsources. This depends very much on the type of holiday. Does a tourist just want to spend one week at the beach or does he prefer a complete itinerary through several countries (multi-destination holidays)? A week at the beach produces much less ImpCal intake and that may be the reason why the tourist chooses a low-calorie holiday. In contrast we find ones with high potential ImpCal, such as treks or any adventure holiday; actually, this applies to any holiday in which every day areas are visited with high ImpCal value – in other words, places where there is a lot to do involving main, side and shared Impsources, as well as places with a potentially greater chance for incidental Impsources. From the moment the tourist gets up in the morning until he goes to bed, there is something to experience; sometimes there may be so much to take in that he needs a holiday from the holiday in order to recover, one with low ImpCal intake in that case.

The tourist has to make important decisions when choosing his holiday destination and what level of ImpCal intake he is aiming for (see the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’). When one wants to visit nature areas, it must be clear that they cannot expect lively nightlife, because at night they will go to bed early (tired and contented) or just read a book for a little while. Some people enjoy reading during their holiday since they have little time or patience for it in their hectic daily life. Others do not want to read during their holiday (“I can read at home”) and prefer lots of activities. Some tourists like to be busy all the time and especially being kept busy (showing little of their own initiative), in which case an area with plenty of side Impsources is the best bet for them. There are also tourists who value their freedom most and prefer to decide what they will do each day. Obviously, this type of tourist will make few advance reservations and will depend heavily on local information sources. This type of tourist does not give a high priority to main Impsources, but usually allows himself to be led by shared and incidental Impsources.

Apart from what the tourist dreams up beforehand about what he would like to do during his holiday, there is the point of what really happened during that holiday and to what extent this coincides with his original dreams. Did he have all the expected experiences? Was ImpCal intake sufficient enough for him to say afterwards that the holiday was a success? An important role in this matter is played by the shared and incidental Impsources. Even though the journey to the destination may be a rich source of bigger or smaller, possibly superfluous experiences based on flashes of many faces, the tourist may take in few ImpCal because he is too busy making sure he is on the right train or that his seatbelt is fastened.

Besides the superfluous Impsources, there is the ImpCal intake based on the simple fact that the tourist finds himself in a region that is quite different from his own home environment (one of the principles of tourism). At an all-inclusive beach resort, ImpCal intake will be less than it is when touring a country in a rental car. In the latter case intake from shared Impsources will be high and may even surpass the intake from main and side Impsources. For most of the day, the tourist finds himself mingling with local people and seeing local landscapes, for example. A tourist looking for exactly these types of experiences will select a destination with a high shared and incidental Impsource value; obviously, a desert is not a good choice for this, while a city is.

Additionally there is the possibility of social experiences that often form a very important part of the final evaluation of a holiday. A vacation drowned out by continuous rains may be saved by the friendships one made along the way – relations with fellow travellers or with local people. Social experiences have a tendency to impress more, because of their communication element. This means that in addition to ImpCal intake, there can also be output to other people of previously consumed ImpCal (perhaps already processed into an experience), which leads to an exchange of ImpCal and experiences.

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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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