One way of looking at tourism supply is to focus on tourist attractions. Tourist attractions are fundamental to the very existence of tourism. Without attractions there would be no tourism. Without tourism there would be no tourist attractions. But what is a tourist attraction? Several definitions have been proposed, including:

■ An exploitable resource

■ A marketable product and image

■ A place attribute or feature

All of these definitions are simple and beg for additional definitions of what is a resource, a product, an image, an attribute and a feature.Another definition of tourist attractions is all those sites in a non-home place that are of interest to tourists. There are three essential elements in this definition:

1. a tourist

2. a sight or site in a non-home place

3. an interest or reason for the tourist to want to view the sight or experience the site

It is the attraction site that most people think of when they hear the word tourist attraction. Lew (1987) examined the different ways that researchers defined attractions when they conduct attraction inventories and found three distinct approaches. Although they were often mixed together in a single list of attractions, each is actually a characteristic that all attractions share. These characteristics are:

1. a form, identity or name

2. an organizational and developmental structure

3. a perceived experience


In fact, many researchers freely mix formal, structural and perceptual approaches in their attraction inventories, without thinking about the differences. In general, the selection of one or more approach depends on the goals of the research. A comprehensive study would want to use all three major approaches, whereas a more narrowly focused study might only use one approach.

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