There is now a huge variety of special interest holidays offered all over the world may it be game hunting in Africa, skiing in the alps or helicopter rides over the alps, due to the increasing diversity of leisure, cultural and other special interest and niche products Tourists now no longer want to be part of the mass tourism, now they want to find their own niche and optical experiences.
Tourism consumption patterns and the growth of “special interest” are thought to reflect the growing diversity of leisure interests of the late modern society (Douglas, Douglas, & Derret 2001)
“The crisis of the tourism industry is a crisis of mass Tourism” (Poon 1993) in the past mass marketed package holidays where sold to the old Tourists who where as Poon describes Homogenous however Tourism has developed and broadened into ever changing markets over the years, recently the emerging markets of special interest and niche Tourism have slowly crept in and are changing consumer habits from the mass market which Poon 1993 defines as “Tourism as a large scale Phenomenon, packaging and selling standardised leisure services at fixed prices to a mass clientele” To New tourists who want to distinguish and differentiate themselves from the crowd the assignment will be looking into the changing consumer habits and how the developing markets of mass tourism and special interest can meet and keep up with changing tourism tastes and needs, whilst addressing issues such as sustainability.
The tourism industry is further more assuming the identity of not the holiday experience but the experience industry.
The concept of special interest and Niche Tourism
Special interest tourism has been one of the driving forces behind the development of tourism, as it has allowed a huge product range which has expanded from a small market to now mainstream in the public domain as the phrase special interest can be found on most operators websites, these include subjects such as Gastronomy, adventure, wine, art, heritage, culture etc who cater these subjects and more all around the globe to the special interest market which is ever more expanding, However the term niche market is often considered exactly the same as special interest, however operators use the term to target a much smaller and focused part of the overall larger special interest market, for example Nature tourism, adventure tourism, sport tourism and cultural tourism where marketed at a homogenous group of the market however it is still considered special interest.
however sub categories within the larger special interest market e.g. Bird watching can be considered Niche as it is a targeted sub sector within the whole broad range of Nature Tourism (Douglas et al., 2001; Morgan and Pritchard 1999) state ” It is now apparent that operators have diversified their offerings to attract the large market segment of the soft or novice end of the spectrum, either based on their own expertise within the field of special interest or their awareness of the growing latent and salient consumer demand”
It is often acknowledged that it is very difficult to specifically define special interest and niche Tourism as is the case of defining tourism itself; many researchers have many variations of what defines the category however (Butler etal; Weiler (1992) state ” Travellers motivation and decision making are primarily determined by a particular special interest with a focus either on activities, destinations and settings” This quote above suggests that tourists who are interested in special interest and niche tourism are motivated to develop or indulge an interest or hobby.
Another argument which has been brought up within special interest tourism is that it is the opposite of Mass as it does focus on new forms of tourists that have the potential of meeting the needs of both them and the hosts.
It has been recognised that the term special interest tourism is comprised of two major factors the first being of course special interest which suggests a certain need which needs to be considered which related to the leisure context and secondly tourism which basically commercialises special interest to the public therefore creating the “New Tourist” which Poon (1997) describes as “New Tourism is a large scale packaging of a non- standardised leisure service”
New tourists share a concern for development whilst taking interest and trying to avoid the environmental, economic and socio cultural impacts of tourism.
This suggests a link between new forms of tourism and sustainability.
Appeal and motivation of special interest/niche tourism
Special interest holidays are designed for holidaymakers who want to pursue their interest in a particular activity or subject may it be winetasting, cruising or trekking the Himalayas, the appeal and motivation for these types of holidays have soured over recent years due to the fact that people now want to distinguish themselves, However recently due to factors such as the economic downturn and global warming Green Tourism which is classed as special interest has taken precedent in people’s minds.
Old tourists where homogenous and predictable. They felt secure when travelling in numbers and took vacations where everything was pre paid and pre arranged, however the new tourist emerging are spontaneous and unpredictable, they want to be different from the crowd whilst asserting their individuality, New Tourists go out to see something different, which will further more validate their individuality which is what special interest and niche tourism do so well in as it allows Tourists to be able to differentiate themselves from the mass making them believe they are getting a better quality of life and escape from contemporary and Homogenous activities which in turn promotes self worth and acceptance, further more the special interest markets are appealing to tourists sense of discovery and need to feel individual whilst still being in defiance over mass Tourism products.
“According to studies of leisure and tourism motivations people generally picked to participate in recreational activities to satisfy their multiple tastes, needs and desires” (Ryan, 2003). Furthermore in the case of special interest tourism, this can relate to people who influence and actively partake in their chosen special interest or hobby within travel and tourism
Economic, Cultural and Environmental Sustainability
Mass tourism over the years has been believed to be the main cause of many problems, which are becoming much more evident after every passing year for example factors such as environmental, social and cultural degradation, spme cases have taken nationwide precedence for example the state of the Mediterranean sea and the destruction of the coral reef which cannot be replaced, however forms of new tourism such as special interest and niche tourists are trying to solve the problems of mass tourism, however problems such as litter along the Nepalese mountain tracks and disturbance in wildlife in Kenyan safari tours lead many researchers to suggest that it is not just the mass tourism who cause the problems but that the niche and smaller groups of tourism also contribute to the problem factors such as the growing rise of the sophisticated tourist who are more aware and are willing to participate in travel. However it is also known that new tourism go in tangent with the rise in mass tourism, which at times has been believed to be used as an excuse. As “mainstream tourism industry has in fact merely tried to invent a new legislation for itself- the sustainable and rational use of the environment, including the preservation of nature as an amenity for the already advantaged” (Fernandez 1994; Munt 1995)
“Alternative tourism has emerged concerns for the delivery of sustainable Tourism” (Douglas 2001)
“The shared social or cultural worlds of the travellers can influence the positive and negative perception of an experience” (Arnould, Price & Tierney, 1998)
My personal definition of sustainable tourism is that it is tourism that commits to making as little impact on factors such as environmental, economical and culture whilst it tries to help in terms of creating employment in the local area whilst conserving local traditions and landmarks which in turn will ensure it brings economical health and a positive experience for the local people and tourists whilst in turn ensuring the protection of culture and natural resources.
“Sustainable tourism means tourism which is economically viable but does not destroy resources on which the future of tourism will depend, notably the physical environment and the social fabric of the host communities. (J. Swarbrooke 1998)
However there is considerable debate about what defines sustainable tourism and how it is achieved. For example researchers have questioned the concept of sustainable tourism for example (Coccossis, 1996;Stabler, 1997) noted as early as 1996 that the “discussion of sustainable tourism is often restricted to an analysis of how to ensure the continuity of tourism by minimising negative impacts. In other words, it could be suggested that the concept of sustainable tourism is much more about the continuity of tourism than it is about the contribution of tourism to sustainable outcomes”
The quotations above define sustainable tourism however this assignment will go further in depth to look at how special interest and niche tourism can help or hinder destinations sustainability.
Sustainability within special interest tourism has raised many issues and discussions both positive and negative (Doxey 1976) describes the changing attitudes of the host country as mass tourism increases, it starts at euphoria and ends in antagonism However tourism and special interest tourism will at first help a country economically whilst also allowing the sharing of culture and heritage however in the end niche and special interest tourism destinations will get more and more popular thus leading to antagonism as locals believe Tourists to be the cause of problems such as diminished local culture, heritage and resources being cheapened for mass marketing. The so called “Demonstration Effect which is the adoption by local residents, especially young people, to copy tourist behaviour and consumption patterns” (Rivers 1973) This View can be used to back up Martin Mowforth; etal Munt who state “It is often argued that existing forms of tourism development are unsuitable in terms of the negative impacts on the environment, the way it corrupts and barstadises the local cultures”
These Two points go in tangent very well as they both describe how they feel that Tourism can be negative sociologically and economically as Rivers suggestion of the “demonstration effect” can be used in overview of the economical effect on a community, For example it can lead to people living beyond their means thus creating an economic drain.
So basically what is being said is that now niche and special interest tourism are more and more popular, however due to these factors such as economic, culture and environment come into play, as seen above many local cultures have embraced the incoming tourism, sharing their cultures and traditions. New forms of tourism have been coined by professionals as Academic, adventure, alternative, green and even ego.
In conclusion the up rise in niche and special interest tourism among the New tourists have led to more understanding in sustaining local traditions, culture and environmental elements, Further more the assignment highlights the fact that many tourists are now moving to special interest and niche tourism to make them more individual due to the rise of intellectuals and professionals. However due to this study intellectuals are on the rise meaning that special interest and niche tourism may be a lot less than the mass now but who knows how far the development of tourism in these areas will develop in the future, the new many become the mass!
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