Tourism Geography Research Papers

The sources in this section provide overviews of tourism geography and are references to the extensive literature reviewed. Butler 2004 interweaves personal experiences from Butler’s academic career in geography in Canada and tourism management in the UK in discussing geographical research on tourism before 1950, from 1950–1980 and post-1980 to the early 21st century. His earlier contributions primarily concerned environmental aspects of tourism such as sustainable development, carrying capacity, and limits to use, while his later work diversified into areas including mobilities and movement, regional development, and cultural topics. Hall 2013 reviews contemporary tourism geography and argues that the subdiscipline has been a significant contributor to the melding and hybridity of geographic binaries, especially in the development of more critical applied geographies of environmental change. Hall and Page 2009 identifies themes emerging from the research of geographers, including explaining spatialities, tourism planning and places, development and its critiques, tourism as an “applied” area of research, and future prospects in the development of spatiality in tourism research. Focusing on the state of North American tourism geography, Meyer-Arendt and Lew 2003 highlights the research themes and approaches of members of the Recreation, Tourism and Sport specialty group of the Association of American Geographers. In contrast to the former pieces, which largely focus on tourism geography research published in English, Kreisel 2004 provides an insight into the German geographical research on tourism and leisure which—with the exception of Christaller’s application of his central places theory to tourism and his hypothesis that zones more distant from urban and industrial agglomerations were more favorable for tourism development—is largely unfamiliar to non-German readers. Likewise, Lazzarotti 2002 reviews French tourism geography research outside the Anglo-American dominated academic literature. The general overviews in Butler 2004, Hall 2013, and Hall and Page 2009 note that while geography has been foundational to tourism studies, with over one-third of the most cited tourism scholars from 1970–2007 having graduate qualifications in geography (Hall and Page 2009), tourism has been marginalized in academic geography, with few positions in geography departments and barely a mention in key publications on the history of geographical thought. Likewise Butler 2004 (see also Sustainability and Tourism) found hardly any articles on tourism and recreation were published in the leading geographical journals from 1950–1990. While the 1970s embargo on tourism research at the Annals of the Association of American Geographers ended with a change in editors and policy (Butler 2004), tourism research has remained relatively peripheral in geography as contrasted to geography’s core status within tourism.

  • Butler, Richard. “Geographical Research on Tourism, Recreation, and Leisure: Origins, Eras, and Directions.” Tourism Geographies 6.2 (2004): 143–162.

    DOI: 10.1080/1461668042000208453E-mail Citation »

    Draws on the author’s four-decade involvement in the field of leisure, recreation, and tourism. Uniquely interweaves personal narratives in discussing the diverse research emphases and contributions by geographers; the explosion in tourism programs (mainly in business and management schools); and future contributions possible if a strong spatial focus and a synthesizing approach are maintained.

  • Hall, C. Michael. “Framing Tourism Geography: Notes from the Underground.” Annals of Tourism Research 43 (2013): 601–623.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.annals.2013.06.007E-mail Citation »

    While noting the context in which tourism geography operates as a foundational discipline to the study of tourism (although perceived as marginal to institutional geography) the article argues that tourism geography has been a significant contributor to bridging geographic binaries, including the applied versus theoretical and physical versus human.

  • Hall, C. M., and S. J. Page. “Progress in Tourism Management: From the Geography of Tourism to Geographies of Tourism—A Review.” Tourism Management 30.1 (2009): 3–16.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.tourman.2008.05.014E-mail Citation »

    Provides a review of the state of tourism geography thirty years from when the journal first began publishing articles by geographers; especially timely given the subdiscipline is at a crossroads with the retirement of those who contributed significantly to tourism studies and the emergence of a new generation of tourism geographers.

  • Kreisel, Werner. “Geography of Leisure and Tourism Research in the German-speaking World: Three Pillars to Progress.” Tourism Geographies 6.2 (2004): 163–185.

    DOI: 10.1080/1461668042000208435E-mail Citation »

    This article provides an insight into German-language research in this subdiscipline, from Hans Poser’s 1939 on landscape and tourism regions to current applied foci on sustainable tourism, including strategic resource and quality management planning and the transformation of former industrial landscapes for recreation, leisure, and tourism.

  • Lazzarotti, Olivier. “French Tourism Geographies: A Review.” Tourism Geographies 4.2 (2002): 135–147.

    DOI: 10.1080/14616680210124909E-mail Citation »

    This article provides an historical overview of the French geographical literature on tourism since the end of the 19th century, which has been hampered by academic institutional assumptions of what is/is not geography.

  • Meyer-Arendt, Klaus J., and Alan A. Lew. “Recreation, Tourism and Sport.” In Geography in America at the Dawn of the 21st Century. Edited by Gary L. Gaile and Cort J. Willmott, 526–542. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    A useful overview that identifies the broad tourism geography themes and approaches in which recreation, tourism and sport academics have published, including travel; historical tourism; perception; environmental aspects; destination studies; specialized tourism including cultural, farm, and rural tourism and resorts and marketing; and economic aspects of tourism.

  • There are many theories and definitions to what can be understood through the term of tourism geography and researchers are still debating on what is and isn’t included in this rather large field of study. The content of tourism geography is complex, making a connection between the two concepts of geography and tourism, being rather new compared especially with the term of geography. The beginning of the science can be traced at the beginning of the 20th century, although tourism was being used inside the study of geography long before. By the 1950s, tourism geography began to be accepted as its own domain, especially in scientific works from USA and Germany. The first definitions were pretty vague and incomplete, G. Chabot (1964) stating that geography and tourism are two terms predestined to be joined because every geographer has to necessarily be doubled by the qualities of a tourist and also reciprocally, we can say that in every tourist there is a hidden geographer, because the intelligent tourist is actually a geographer that has not discovered himself. As more and more researchers began to study this new field, the accuracy and depth of the definitions began to improve.

    The Role of Tourism Geography

    As the importance and popularity of tourism increased, especially in the last two or three decades, becoming one of the biggest industries in the world, so did the role of tourism in geography and its study. While before there were few mentions of tourism related facts in any book or research of geography, today we cannot imagine any geographical descriptions without a separate chapter on tourism. Still rather raw and simple, L. Merlo (1969) considers this science as being a branch of geography that studies the position and appearance of tourist centers, their individual natural and cultural-historical characteristics, the attractions and traditions in the context of the area where they are found, the transportation network assuring the accessibility and the links with other tourist centers. Tourism is essentially a geographical phenomenon, regarding the transfer of people and services through space and time, so a special domain dedicated to the research of the interconnections between tourism and geography was inevitable. Although the scientific field is new, the connections of geography and travel can be traced to ancient times, when geographers had no other way of describing the world than traveling and seeing it for themselves.

    The Connect Between Tourism and Geography

    The connections between tourism and geography are linked to specific terms such as place, location, space, accessibility, scale and others. This science also has an integrative character, containing key elements from all fields of geography, physical, human and economic. Besides this, tourism geography also has many common points with other sciences, including history, geology, biology, art, economy and so on. In more modern times, the tourism geography has become to achieve a broader definition, regarding the study of the spatial and temporal genesis, repartition and unfolding of the tourism phenomenon, being considered as a complex and specific interaction at the level of the geographic environment. As such, tourism geography studies things like the tourist resources (natural or man-made), the tourism infrastructure (transportation, accommodation, etc.), the types and forms of tourism, the tourist circulation (statistical research), tourist markets, as well as other domains. The areas of geographical interest in tourism are stated by S. Williams (1998), including the effect of scale, spatial distributions of tourist phenomena, tourism impacts, planning for tourism and spatial modeling of tourism development.

    Flow map showing the increase in number of tourists around Mount Everest between 1980 (red line) and 2000 (pink). © Sémhur / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

    There is also another link between the two domains, as the primary factor which attracts tourists to a certain area is geography, with all its specific elements. The interconnections go a lot deeper, as tourists usually choose a certain destination primarily through the perceived experience of that place, as they envision its geographical characteristics, they use means of transportation to travel over the land or water surface, creating what we call tourism fluxes or the tourist circulation. While visiting a certain place, tourists actively discover and appreciate the geography of that place, from the landscapes with their typical forms, to the traditions of the local population, all while benefiting the local economy and using its resources. In conclusion, tourism geography studies the relations between places, landscapes and people, describing travel and tourism as an economic, social and cultural activity. More concisely, it is all about the spatial and temporal dynamics, as well as the interactions between the tourism resources.

    Increase in world tourism. Source: World Tourism Organisation

    Tourism Geography References 

    George Chabot (1964) – La Geographie du Tourisme en France, Paris

    Luciano Merlo (1969) – Geografia Turistica, Rome

    Stephen Williams (1998) – Tourism Geography, Routledge, London

    Velvet Nelson (2013) – An Introduction to the Geography of Tourism


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