Skip to Main Content

Human Geography

This guide highlights the resources for Human Geography, the study of human settlements in their places.

A short definition of Travel & Tourism

A term to cover travel to places away from one’s home environment undertaken principally for leisure but also for business. Tourist activities generally involve spending money in a new location and do not involve remuneration from within the place or country visited. Definitions of tourism by international organizations such as the World Tourist Organization recognize anyone who spends at least one night but no longer than one year somewhere other than their country of residence as a tourist. Tourism is often distinguished from recreation because it takes place further from the home and is more commercialized. It overlaps with leisure, but includes business travel. In The Tourist Gaze (1991) John Urry argued persuasively that the core feature of tourism was the desire to gaze upon what was different or unusual. Much of tourism can be understood in terms of the arrangements of places and landscapes to be viewed, and the cultivation of techniques of viewing and circulating images, e.g. photography, video, postcards, etc. But tourist activities do more than please the sense of sight, and often involve multiple embodied experiences, e.g. kayaking, dining, and sunbathing. Tourism is a form of and has its origins in travel, but a distinction is often made between the two; travel is described as a more specialized, niche, or selective activity, while tourism is associated with organized popular or mass activities. In part, the difference is one of marketing or discourse.

Although tourism now includes an increasingly diverse range of activities, perhaps too many for convenient classification, it is often described as the world’s largest industry. The World Travel and Tourist Council estimates that tourism accounts for 11 per cent of world GDP and 8 per cent of all waged work (200 million employees). But tourism as it is now understood is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most historical accounts trace its origins to the Grand Tour, undertaken by elite young European men between the 17th and 19th centuries. They would travel within Europe to see and learn about cultural matters, notably the fruits of the Renaissance and Greek and Roman classical civilizations. Health spas, seaside towns, and mountain resorts also became fixtures for the wealthy traveller. The 19th century saw the development of journeys to wild places inspired by romantic ideas or picturesque or sublime landscapes: England’s Lake District was a leading attraction (see wilderness). The spread of road and rail travel in the 19th century allowed the urban working classes to enjoy annual trips to seaside resorts such as Long Island, New York, ushering in the first organized tourist industry. But it was not until the combination of greater affluence, more leisure time, and air travel after the Second World War that modern mass tourism took off. Until the late 20th century, however, it remained open largely to Westerners, and Europe itself accounted for the majority of international tourist journeys. The globalization of tourism in the past two or so decades has involved almost every country becoming both an origin and destination of tourist travel to some degree. Close to a billion international tourist visits are now made annually, with China established in the top five for destinations and origins, alongside the USA and European countries. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Dubai also count among the top tourist urban destinations.

The geographical interest in tourism has developed strongly since the 1980s, although there are studies dating back to the 1930s. It draws upon the same range of methods and perspectives as the rest of human geography, although there are important overlaps with environmental geography (for example, in coastal and marine environment management) and a strong element of applied geography. Given that tourism hinges precisely on the differences between one place and another, it is intrinsically geographical. The main areas of research are on factors of supply and demand, but also on social, economic, and environmental impact (see resort life-cycle model). There are separate studies of urban and rural tourism, as well as a concern for regional differences (Hudman and Jackson 2003). The different forms of tourism and their related bodily and sensuous experiences—heritage visits, ecotourism, package holidays, adventure travel, and backpacking among them—are also well studied. In unpacking the experiences of tours, however, it becomes apparent how many of its core characteristics—difference, exoticism, cosmopolitanism, leisureliness—are increasingly found more widely and even close to home. The interests of tourist studies in mobility, pleasure, and difference are, in this regard, central to much of current human geography.

Rogers, A., Castree, N., & Kitchin, R. (2013). "Tourism." In A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 Feb. 2022

In the Library's Collections

Tourism as a subject search brings up many results. Below are a few of the narrower, more specific subject headings.

    General books on Travel and Tourism are located in the call number range G 149 through G 180 on Baker Level A. Books on specific tourism spots or tourist trade in specific countries are located with books about that country. The online catalog is your best guide for finding these items.

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Other library resource(s)