Mass tourism developed with improvements in technology that allowed the transport of large numbers of people in a short space of time to places of various interests. The expansion of superhighways in the U.S. in the 1960s and the availability of air travel opened the world to people who had never left home and were anxious to see what was down the road or across the water. As they traveled, they found they needed shelter at the destination, locals to guide their way, and food and beverages, all leading to the growth of the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. Specialty travel forms have emerged over the years, each with its own adjective: culinary tourism, medical tourism, heritage tourism, and wildlife tourism to name but a few.

Cultural Attractions

From the beginning of time, people have interacted with the physical geography of their land to create ways of living called cultures. Physical barriers have helped cultural differences survive. Natural barriers such as deserts, mountains, forests, and oceans restricted the movement of people and ideas. People also created artificial barriers, such as the Great Wall of China, to keep foreigners from entering their territory. Passports, visas, and security procedures are examples of modern artificial barriers.

Cultural change is usually the result of contact and the sharing of ideas and practices. Travel and tourism have played a part in producing cultural change. Ease of transportation and communication has reduced cultural isolation, but cultures still differ. Diversity offers both attractions and obstacles to tourism.

Art and Architecture

The arts are usually considered to be expressions of a country’s culture. These include not only the fine arts—such as literature, music, painting, sculpture, drama, and dance—but also photography, pottery, weaving, and architecture. Most museums began as private collections of the state, the church, or a wealthy individual, and the objects on view usually involved fine art. Today, many vacations involve a visit to a museum, and the art can be famous paintings or Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz (at the Smithsonian in D.C.). Much about a country’s culture can be learned from its museums, its famous buildings, and the layout of its cities.

A building’s style tends to reflect its function. The Egyptians placed emphasis on life after death, so they created a tomb culture. The ancient Greeks stressed harmony, so they used an orderly architectural style. In the Dark Ages people needed protection from their enemies, so they built castles and fortresses. The Middle Ages were periods of religious importance, so architects designed majestic cathedrals, temples, and mosques to inspire worshipers. The architecture of China, Japan, and India reflects each country’s time of wealth, warfare, and religious emphasis. Everywhere, domestic architecture displays the owner’s personal wealth and values.

Food and Beverage

Almost any visitor is likely to want to try at least one aspect of a culture: its food. What people eat in an area depends on both physical (what was grown or was available in the area) and cultural (immigration patterns and traditions of the residents) geography. Many regions have adopted official beverages, fruits, vegetables, meats, and so on. Knowledge of a destination’s food is a good indication of the destination itself. In addition to food, meal hours, service expectations, and tipping customs are part of cultural geography.

It is not so much the food itself but its preparation that is unique to a culture. Every culture puts a high premium on those talented people who can take a basic foodstuff and make it taste and look good. In many cases, the dishes of various countries include the same ingredients, but different seasonings and cooking methods give them a regional flavor.

Many travelers cannot remember why the building they visited was famous, but they can describe the food they ate for dinner in great detail. American palates woke up to ethnic cooking in the 1970s, and since then television programs, elaborate cookbooks, and culinary schools have created a group of food-loving travelers. Companies have capitalized on this by organizing tours to countries famous for their cuisine, such as France, Italy, and China, where well-known cooks give demonstrations, lead shopping expeditions to markets, and teach would-be chefs how to cook local dishes.


Followers of different religions travel great distances to visit the shrines, temples, mosques, churches, and sites of their beliefs. The diversity of religion sometimes enhances travel and sometimes creates tensions, as when people from one culture intrude on the religious practices of another.

It takes time and effort to meet the needs of the religious traveler. Planners must be aware of events that affect an area’s access. Some religions may involve dietary restrictions; others may have fasting days. Anywhere during a major religious holiday, flights may be overbooked, restaurants and stores crowded or closed, and hotel rooms and rental cars unavailable


What people choose to do during their spare time is a good indication of a regions culture. Many major cities have one or more sports franchises. Soccer is popular almost everywhere; also popular are horse and auto racing, snow and water sports, bull fighting in countries with a Spanish background, sumo wrestling in Japan, and baseball and football in the United States. Summer and winter Olympic games create travel and tourism needs for thousands.

Cultural Complications

Government and language are two additional aspects of an area’s culture that may attract the visitor, but these can also discourage and complicate travel. Governments discourage travel when they fail to keep the peace, enact unjust policies, or enforce regulations that make traveling across their borders difficult. Language differences can be just as troublesome. About 3,000 languages are spoken around the world today. Travelers are best advised to pack a sense of humour along with their foreign dictionaries, learn to say please and thank you, smile a lot, and just enjoy their linguistic mistakes.

In many lands, travelers should also be prepared for numerous differences in daily life—such as money, electrical voltage, mealtimes, and the side of the road for driving. One difference frequently encountered is the system used for weights and measures.

Geographers are interested in how things move across the earth—whether those things are water, birds, plants, or people. Our interest is the movement of travelers. A staggering number of people are traveling today, and the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry must constantly change to meet their needs and attract yet more travelers.

Conversion Factors for Weights and Measures
When to Know Multiply By To Find
Miles 1.609 Kilometers
Kilometers 0.621 Miles
Square Miles 2.590 Square Kilometers
Square Kilometers 0.386 Square Miles
Feet 30.48 Centimeters
Centimeters 0.394 Feet
Degrees Fahrenheit 5/9 after subtracting 32 Degrees Celsius
Degrees Celsius 9/5 after adding 32 Degrees Fahrenheit

The Growth of Tourism

Economic prosperity, paid vacations, transportation advances, and a hotel/ motel building boom have given people spare money and time to spend it. In the United States after World War II, domestic travel increased as new cars and the interstate highway system enticed people from their homes. International travel expanded as people wanted to see places they had heard about or been to during the war and the jet plane reduced travel time. Young people began to travel as colleges expanded study-abroad programs, and corporate travel soared. International tourist arrivals surpassed the milestone of 1 billion tourists globally for the first time in 2012, the same year in which China became the largest spender in tourism, surpassing Germany and the United States.

Despite their importance, travel, tourism, and hospitality are fragile industries, depending on economic prosperity and political stability. They have the advantages of being global products, and the disadvantages of being both nonessential, expensive, and subject to political strife. Yet they have weathered every storm to date.


Aspects of a country's culture that attract tourists include:

✓ Religion.  

✓ Recreation.

✓ Food and beverage.

✓ Sport.

Art and architecture.

Aspects of culture that complicate travel include:

✓ Government policies and regulations.

✓ Language differences.

✓ Everyday customs, such as weights and measures systems.