Tourism is travelling for pleasure or to enjoy yourself away from the place you live.  People do this for many different reasons – to have fun, visit other countries and learn about other cultures or just relax from stressful working life. Tourists go to various destinations - countries with great landmarks, places with lovely beaches or simply areas of wilderness and untouched nature.

In the last few decades tourism has grown very much, mostly because people’s lifestyles have changed. They don’t want to stay at home any more. They spend more money on travelling than previous generations did. Travelling has also become cheaper and more affordable. The rise of budget airlines has made it possible to afford trips to faraway countries.


Types of Tourism

  • Beach tourism
    Many tourists spend their holidays on beaches. They relax, go bathing or just enjoy the salty sea breeze and the ocean. Spending holidays on beaches has had a long tradition for over one and a half centuries.
  • Winter tourism
    Winter tourism started out in the middle of the 19th century when wealthy Europeans went to St. Moritz and other alpine resorts. In Europe and in the American Rockies skiing resorts attract millions of people every year. Various lifts bring skiers to altitudes of over 3,000 meters.
  • Medical tourism
    People go to other countries for medical treatment and operations. Irish women, for example, go to the UK because abortions are forbidden in their country.  West Europeans go to Eastern Europe for dental treatment. Americans go to Mexico for plastic surgery and other operations.
  • Educational tourism
    Young people live as exchange students in other countries, where they go to school and study the language and culture of the host country.
  • Sports tourism
    An increasing number of sports fans travel to places where special events are being held. The Olympic Games and world championships attract visitors from around the world.
  • Package Holidays
    Organized tours were started in the middle of the 19th century by a British businessman, Thomas Cook. Package tours are made up of travel to and accommodation at the destination. A tourist agency often provides everything from a plane flight to a rental car. Sometimes such package tours offer a combination of beach holidays and sightseeing trip.
  • Spa Tourism
    Spas have been popular since Roman times. In 16th century Britain Bath became the center of spa tourism for the rich population. During the 19th century spas emerged all over Europe. Today people go to spas for the healing effect of mineral waters as well as for offer wellness treatment, massages, steam baths and other services.
  • Adventure tourism
    In the past few decades trips to faraway exotic places have become popular. Tourists looking for thrilling activities go mountaineering, rafting, trekking , or even to remote places in the rainforest.
  • Religious tourism
    Religious tourists go on pilgrimages to holy sites. Roman Catholics, for example, travel to Lourdes, Fatima or the Vatican in Europe. Muslims are required to go to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Varanasi , on the banks of the Ganges River, is the spiritual capital of the Hindus.
  • Ecotourism
    Recently many people have chosen a type of tourism that does not damage the environment. They avoid travelling by plane or do not buy souvenirs that are made out of endangered plants and animals. Some holiday offers give tourists the chance to take part in environmental projects.


Airboating in the Everglades

Airboating in the Everglades - Stan Shebs


History of tourism

People have been travelling for pleasure since ancient times.  In ancient Egypt, religious festivals attracted people from the whole Nile Valley. Ancient Greeks travelled regularly to the site of their gods. Romans travelled to Greece, Sicily and other places in the empire. Wealthy Romans had second homes near the sea where they spent the summer.

During the Renaissance educated Europeans embarked on what was called the Grand Tour , a trip to several European countries to enjoy art and architecture and get educated.

In the 19th century the invention of the steam engine made it possible for people to travel by boat and train. Regular passenger services from Europe to America started in the 20th century. The invention of the automobile made it possible to travel larger distances by car.

In the 1960s going on holidays by plane became affordable for many. Jumbo jets of the early 1970s were capable of carrying over 400 passengers and reducing costs of travelling to other continents even further.


Importance of tourism for countries

Tourism is a worldwide industry. In many countries it is the most important largest source of income. Global tourism is growing at a rate of 4% a year.

The tourist industry provides jobs and brings a country foreign currencies. Many groups profit from tourism: travel agencies, store owners ,airports and airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc..

However, mass tourism, can also lead to environmental problems. It can pollute beaches or create noise in otherwise quiet regions. Popular tourist attractions must be controlled by authorities.


tourist destination in millions


Recent developments in tourism

In the past years there has been a trend towards shorter holiday breaks during the year. People like to take a few days off to travel. The internet has changed the way people organize their holidays. Booking plane tickets online is easy and prices are often lower than with travel agents.

International tourism has suffered many drawbacks, like the 9/11 attacks, which made security at airports stricter and travelling more difficult. The tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004 killed over 250,000 people including thousands of tourists. 


Related Topics



  • abortion = the killing of an unborn baby
  • accommodation = place to stay when on holidays
  • afford = to have enough money to buy something
  • agency = organization
  • alpine resort = holiday town in the mountains
  • altitude = height
  • ancient = old
  • attract = make people go to a place
  • authorities = organizations in the government
  • avoid = keep away from
  • bank = land on the side of a river
  • break = pause
  • breeze = gentle, soft wind
  • capable = able to
  • century = a hundred years
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • dental treatment = to have your teeth fixed
  • destination = place that you are going to
  • drawback = bad times
  • educate = learn things
  • embark = go on
  • emerge = come up
  • empire = kingdom; many countries with one ruler
  • endangered = in danger of dying out
  • environment = the world around us
  • exchange student = young person who goes to another country to study
  • foreign currency = money that other countries use
  • global = worldwide
  • heal = cure
  • host = here: the country that you go to
  • however = but
  • including = also
  • invention = something new, that is produced for the first time
  • jumbo jet = very large plane for carrying passengers
  • landmark = something that is famous in a city or other area
  • lifestyle = the way you lead your life
  • otherwise = normally
  • package tour = package holiday
  • pilgrimage = journey to a holy place for religious reasons
  • plastic surgery = operation that changes a person’s face or body and makes them look better
  • pleasure = happiness, delight
  • pollute = make dirty
  • previous = earlier
  • relax = rest
  • remote = distant, isolated
  • rental car = a car that you can use for a certain time
  • require = have to
  • rise = coming
  • security = safety
  • service = here: trip
  • site = location
  • source of income = from where you get money
  • spa = place where the water has special minerals in it and where people go to in order to improve their health
  • spiritual = religious
  • steam bath = a very hot room filled with steam
  • steam engine = motor that runs by boiling hot water
  • stressful = tense, hectic, something that makes you worry a lot
  • suffer = here: deal with
  • take part in = to be involved in
  • thrilling = exciting
  • travel agency = someone who organizes flights, hotels etc..
  • treatment = something that is done to cure an ill person
  • trekking = go on a long journey on foot
  • untouched = not changed in any way
  • various = different kinds of
  • wealthy = rich