This article reviews the various ways tourism is defined. Many of the
scholarly disciplines attempt to define tourism as a self-contained
subject, and from one disciplinary view. This article examines these
disciplinary definitions with the intention of integrating them into
a program of analysis, discussed later in the article. The concept of
community tourism will be explored, and the commodification of
culture through tourism will also provide a theme of discussion. The
article concludes with an examination of the theme of coexistence
between human and non-human species, as outlined by David
Western in his recent work on the Amboseli National Park and World
A rigorous definition of tourism is, at best, an elusive goal. As Weaver
suggests, ‘[u]nfortunately, there is no one single definition of tourism
that can be cited here as the definition that everyone adheres to’.
(Weaver, 2000: 1) Weaver therefore provides a general definition
based on some fundamental principles which represent the most
concensus in the field. He states:
Tourism is the sum of the phenomena and relationships arising
from the interaction among tourists, business suppliers, host
governments, host communities, origin governments, universities,
community colleges and non-governmental organizations, in
the process of attracting, transporting, hosting and managing these
tourists and other visitors.
(Weaver, 2000: 2)
This definition is not adequate either for the research requirements
of academics, or for the many tourism agencies that require a
definition on which to construct their mandates. Specific definitions
are often invoked to suit individual circumstances and for estimating
levels of consumption. When forced to make these types of
calculation, many government agencies utilize distance traveled and
time spent in tourism activity as the variables to estimate
consumption patterns. The Ontario Government in Canada, for
example, suggests that a tourist is someone who travels at least 25
miles from their home, or alternatively stays at a destination
overnight, regardless of the distance traveled. This type of definition
suits the government’s need for record-keeping and statistical calculations,
but it is not so suitable for academic purposes. In fact, as
mentioned previously, there is no single definition which includes
all perspectives, and through which all interests could be satisfied.
What we are left with is a number of approaches to defining tourism.
Each provides a piece of the puzzle, contributing to an overall understanding.
The remainder of this article provides a typology of
tourism definitions and each of their roles in collectively defining
the concept of tourism.