Tourism is a global phenomenon that includes a multitude of different types of businesses and government entities. It is a source of substantial economic and social consequence and requires objective and scientific understanding. However, just as the definition of leisure presents a challenge, so too does the definition of the tourism industry.

Without tourists there would be no tourism industry. Tourists travel to attractions and find new attractions even when developers and locals have not yet found or promoted them. It is more common, though, that the tourist (or potential tourist) is the one who is bombarded with advertisements and hawkers trying to get them to spend their money.

We usually think of a tourist as someone who is vacationing somewhere that is far from home. But the technical definition of a tourist is a little more specific. Most of the definitions that are used for statistical purposes consider a tourist as anyone who travels to a place outside of their usual residential environment and stays away for at least one night, but no more than one year. The motivation for the trip is irrelevant – the trip could be for business reasons, to visit friends and family (known as VFR travel), for education, or simply for pleasure.

This definition is used to compare tourist arrivals among countries internationally, by organizations such as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Different definitions are sometimes used within a country and within local destinations. China, for example, counts day visitors (not staying overnight) in its total tourist numbers, although they also provide standardized numbers to the UNWTO. Many countries separate business travelers from leisure travelers.


For international travel overall, leisure travelers generally outnumber business travelers two to one. This, however, varies considerably among destinations. Business travelers tend to pay more for their airline tickets and hotels than do vacation travelers, but their stay at a destination is usually shorter.

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