What is tourism?

I’ve just gotten back home from a Women in Tourism breakfast at one of my favourite venues in PE (The Plantation) and we all had a great time chatting with each other and learning a few things from our speakers. It is quite exciting to know that tourism is taken so seriously on a national level in this country. It is such an important commodity in any thriving society, I think.

Of course, hanging out with the tourism folk in our little part of the woods wasn’t only mushy-inspiring, but it got me  properly thinking about tourism in general.

You see, while I do see myself as part of the tourism industry as a global whole, I see myself in this way only very casually. Sure. I provide a service. I sometimes provide that service for a fee, sometimes I trade it for experiences, and on occasion I do it for love and coffee, sometimes I do it purely for myself. In the foreground I write and tweet and Facebook and Instagram about my love of travel, and in the background I play travel advisor to friends and sometimes even strangers.

So I do work in this industry.

But… I also play in this industry.

That’s right: First and foremost, before I am a writer and a photographer and a marketer of experiences, I am a consumer. Yes. A consumer.

I am the person who consumes the tourism industry. 

And so as I sat between all the service providers in the tourism industry today, I could not help but wonder if they really know what industry they are in. I sat there today thinking about what it is that we in the tourism industry really do. And I looked at it from the perspective of a service provider, and I looked at it from the perspective of a consumer.

The consumer in me is so much bigger than the service provider. The service provider in me is polite and courteous and she works hard when she needs to and she cares about adding value to this industry.

But the consumer? The consumer in me is passionate.She is energetic. She is adventurous. She is reckless. She is so hungry!

And so I have realised that the consumer in me has a message for the service provider in me:

Never make the mistake of thinking that you are in the tourism industry. You are not. The tourism industry doesn’t nearly cover all the things that you are.

You are in the joy industry.

You are in the daydream industry.

You are in the rest and restoration industry.

You are in the mental health industry.

You are in the education industry.

You are in the self-growth industry.

You are in the family and friendship industry.

You are in the community upliftment industry.

When I, the consumer, come to you and your establishment, these are the things that I hope for. And that is no small thing. You don’t even need to consciously provide these things, you mostly do so by default. But I would like you to think about these things and how important they are and how important you are to be a part of this industry. How beautiful to be part of a vocation that seeks to build communities by sharing spaces! How beautiful to be part of the reason that people get to live their best lives! You are part of what makes some of the best memories that people will have. It is a truly extraordinary position to be in.

As I think on these things I admit I do feel a small spark of inspiration within myself as well. I know that exclusivity is probably a buzz word around these parts. Travel and all the goodness that goes with it is kind of exclusive. But maybe we as providers and lovers of this industry can explore the ways that do genuinely make our industry even more inclusive. I for one would like to keep reminding myself that you can be a traveler by doing something as simple as exploring the park near your house. You can be a traveler by getting to know your own city better. You can be a traveler by sharing the here and now with the world.

Yes, expensive holidays in expensive places are wonderful. But tourism isn’t only expense. It isn’t only exclusivity. Tourism is experience. And experience can be enjoyed by everyone. There is space in this industry for absolutely all of us.


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