In certain economies, it is the foundation of the environ (economic, socio-cultural and even human) pyramid, while in most others it is contributing to a significant extent in the general development process as well as in the finding of answers to their basic problems. Thus, presently, tourism has come to be one of the world’s largest growth industries with immense latent potential.

The travel patterns, especially during the twentieth century, have witnessed changes from unorganized, conventional pilgrimage and/or cultural travel in the earlier times to highly technological, advanced, recreational and special-interest travel, from mass, unplanned tourism in the recent past to alternative independent travel and sustainable tourism in the present times.

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In fact, the whole concept of tourism has been transformed from the Mass, Rigid and Packaged tourism (MSRP) to the present neo-tourism, which is Flexible, Segmented and Diagonally Integrated (FSDI).

The ongoing speedy innovations and advances in the tourism infrastructure have led to the provisioning of quality tourism services making travel easier and more comfortable steadily and day by day. The evolution of international tourism from the age of ‘Grand Tour’ to the current “Mass International Tourism’ has given rise to changes in all the spheres of life.

Although, global tourism has been just like a game of seesaw i.e., a story of ups and downs but it has also been observed that the nature of international tourism industry is such that it adjusts itself promptly and immediately to crisis situations.

For example, the worldwide economic recession, the conditions arising from Gulf war and the problems in Arabian countries etc. can in no way be undervalued or belittled, but have been well overcome by the tourism industry.

An important observation by Williams and Zelinsky in the context of travel flows reveals that these are not random rather has well-defined patterns that can be described by certain identifiable factors. Accordingly, as maintained by them, international tourism is dependent on:

(i) Spatial distance, time and cost between the country of origin and the destination.

(ii) Existence and nonexistence of past and present international connectivity (economic, military, cultural linkages).

(iii) Reciprocity of travel flows

(iv) Attractiveness of one country for the other

(v) Known or considered cost of visit within in the destination country

(vi) Influence of intervening opportunities

(vii) Impact of characteristic non-recurring events

(viii) The national character of the residents of tourist originating countries

(ix) The mental image of the country of destination in the minds of citizens of originating countries

This is a simple truism that time (measurable in terms of distance i.e., location of a specific destination) and the cost of travel crop up as prime concerns for international tourists.

Factors like history, facilitation procedures and image of the destination country etc. except the one related to international connectivity in terms of past relations are all-important for tourism i.e., these may either motivate the tourists to visit or otherwise draw them back from any destination.

On the other hand, Urray points out that there is a noticeable shift in tourism with post modernist concern. That is, the focus is now on play, pleasure and pastiche rather than on standardized and regulated type of tourism. He regards contemporary developments as “multiplying with an amazing inventiveness” where all nations are trying international tourism.

Nevertheless, the economic and social benefits of tourism and its importance as an instrument of economic growth have to be fully recognised by all sections of the society.

Moreover, in the wake of enfolding economic liberalization and globalisation, the development policies of no sector can be independent and/or operative in isolation remain static and unrelated to the broad national perspectives.

This proposition is equally relevant to tourism involving the activities of humans travelling to and staying in places outside their usual habitat and environment for different motives and purposes – be it education, experiences, enrichment, or enjoyment.

Two universally accepted yardsticks have traditionally been used to measure the tourism index in any country or region: International Tourist Arrivals and International Tourism Receipts.

The story of world tourist traffic seems to be quite dramatic i.e., 13.2 million in 1951 getting to 698.3 million in the year 2000. However, an examination of the figures reveal a very characteristic feature in the sense that it started on a happy note in the fifties after Second World War experiencing an average growth rate of 16.78%.

And after that there has been a continual declining trend in terms of average growth rate going as 8.77% in sixties, 5.96% in seventies, 4.93% in eighties and 4.33% in nineties. It the time path of world tourist traffic during the period 1951 to 2000.

This declining trend surely necessitates adequate measures especially in the light of huge investments involved in the creation of critical mass in terms of infrastructural and super structural facilities.

The earnings from tourism make it one of the biggest industries in the world. By 1999, international tourism receipts exceeded US$, 1 Trillion in 59 countries with the United States topping the earnings with US$ 74.9 billion.

While Spain, France and Italy made around US$ 30 billion each, the United Kingdom earned US$ 20 billion and Germany, China, Austria and Canada registered US$ 10 billion each. Honkong (China), Thailand and Singapore were close behind.

World travel receipts have also been an undulating phenomenon during the period 1951-2000. For example, the receipts had an average growth rate scaling 20.38% in fifties, coming down to 10.07% in sixties, and again going up to 19.2% in seventies.

The eighties and nineties of the twentieth century, however, witnessed a downward trend especially due to world economic recession since 1986, Gulf War late 1990- early 91, and the on-going disturbances in different parts of the world.

The growth rate in eighties was 10.54% as compared to 19.2% of seventies which further came down to 6% in nineties. That is, since eighties there has been a declining trend in the average growth rates of foreign exchange earnings from tourism at the global level.

It provides a sketch of the time path of world travel receipts during the period 1951 to 2000. Like world tourist traffic, the travel receipts have been increasing but again at a decreasing rate causing concern to the policy and plan formulators, asking for a corrective measure in the right direction.

Patterns of International Tourism at the Global Level:

Patterns of international tourism at the global level testify to the fact that it supplements the structural inequalities between the developed and developing countries.

Whilst developed countries remain the major tourist generating and receiving countries of the world viewing tourism as an industry for the future, the developing countries view tourism as a panacea for the future, the developing countries view tourism as a panacea for solving their problems related to mounting foreign debt, poverty and unemployment.

With a view to analyse International and Regional Travel flow patterns, the WTO has categorized the globe into six tourism regions – Africa, Americas, East Asia/Pacific, Europe, Middle East, and South Asia. Some of the observations on the pattern of global international tourism distribution are as follows:

The developed, industrialized countries of only two regions, Western Europe and North America gives reckoning of 80% of all tourist arrivals apart from generating similar level of movements.

These regions hold on their dominant position because of their wealth, size and access to neighbouring countries. Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania rationalize the remaining portion i.e., less than 20% of tourist arrivals.


This region records 18.6% of world tourist traffic.

North America:

This market segment mostly banks on intra-regional tourism generated from the United States and Canada. That is, in North America there is a constant stream of tourists between the frontiers of Mexico, USA and Canada.

Nevertheless, the US has only 20% inter-regional travel turning up from UK, Germany, Japan, France, Netherlands and Australia. Central America, Caribbean’s and South America, too, are by and large dependent upon intra-regional tourism within Americas. South America especially has been found wanting in promotion of tourism and so remains to be exploited by tourists.

USA generates original and excellent visitors to 32 destinations together with Japan, Egypt, UK, Greece, Iran and Israel. On the other hand, Canada attracts some international traffic from the Great Britain and France.

France continues to be a main market for Canada owing to a strong French influence in Eastern Canadian province of Quebec. In addition, West Germany and Japan are weighty markets for Canada.


Europe takes away a major chunk of the tourism pie i.e., more than 55% of the global tourism. However, like Americas in Europe, too, the major portion of tourism i.e., 80% in intra-regional within the countries of Europe itself. The main tourist receiving countries being Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and UK.

In terms of inter market developed economies that have unreservedly ushered in the tourists. UK alone is such a convergence that receives 80% intra-regional tourist traffic as for the Europeans UK continues to be a prime attraction.

As a tourist generating market, the UK residents hold priority for USA, France and West Germany. West Germans being the prodigals in international travel, Germany, too, can be identified as an outstanding receiver and generator of tourists in Europe.

Whilst as a receiver, it gets in the form of intra-regional traffic, as a generator it contributes substantially to international tourists from Europe in the form of charter tourists to countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and India.

Again, it has also been observed that the British and the Germans exhibit meaningful interest in the Mediterranean. However, outbound long haul tourism from UK, France, Italy and the Dutch is mainly confined to their respective former colonies.

Statistically, Europe as a geographic area remains the international favourite among tourists. Among U.S. travellers, however, Canada is the most frequent destination, followed in popularity by Europe and the Mediterranean; Western Europe specifically; Mexico; and the Caribbean and Central America.

Americans spend more money in Western Europe than in any other single area. Among European countries, the United Kingdom is still the uncontested front-runner with American tourists; France, Germany, and Italy, the next most frequently travelled countries; nevertheless receive no more than half of Britain’s share of U.S. tourists.

The East European countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Balerus, Estonia, Czech and Slovak Republic, Lavia, Lithuania, Maldava, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia being principally communist dominated and to refrain from “Western Capitalist Ideology’, kept their frontiers closed until the recent past i.e., have had a strict restriction an visitors’ entry and movement.

With the break up of former USSR in 1991 resulting in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with democratic set up, these newly born countries are still at their infancy stage. However, these are sure to go further in tourism in order to find a solution for their poor economic conditions.


Africa region as compared to Europe and America has relatively very small share in global tourism i.e., only 3.8%. This region receives tourists mainly in the form of Charter Tourism from Western Europe and former colonies.

It is only due to former colonial ties that Africa receives international visitors like the Dutch to Surinam, the Italians to Libya and the Belgians to Zaire. In Africa, it is mainly North Africa which by virtue of its close proximity to Europe and being next to Mediterranean, accounts for 60% of international arrivals to the region.

The major attractions in North Africa are the early Roman and Greek ruins and the Egyptian civilization. Next to North Africa, it is East Africa which receives 15-20% of the African share mainly owing to German influence in German East Africa and major attraction of Kenya for wildlife.

Likewise, West Africa also enjoys a strong inflow of tourists especially into its French colonies of the former times largely because of significant British and French influence in French West Africa.

Besides, the Seychelles Islands, east of Kenya, too, have French and British ties and attracts adequate number of visitors for Africa because of its magnificent beaches and the ecosystem established there.

Middle East:

The mid east identified with the “Arab World” is presently the fastest growing region in the field of tourism accounting for 2.9% of the international tourism at the global level.

The region comprises Behrain, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebonan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen containing distinct identities and capable of accounting large statistics of tourism – relics of ancient civilizations such as Babylon, Sumer, Egypt and Persia; Troy in Turkey, Jerusalem in Israel and Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The enormous oil wealth in this region, developing on the up and up the economies of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE, has been most influential in displaying a critical and indicative growth in tourism.

While the presence of a strong Jewish community in New York and New Jersey leads to traffic inflow into Israel, the Muslims all over the world have a fascination to visit Mecca for ‘Huj’ at least once in life time.

Nevertheless, the Gulf war in the early nineties of the last century and the on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine has led to the labelling of a certain part of the region as ‘unsafe’ for tourists in the present.


The newly formed countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – of Central Asia as a result of the break up the USSR are not equipped for tourism so far as they are still beginning to live routine life and trying to deal effectively and manage successfully the new independence. Therefore, these do not enter into tourism arena i.e., neither generate nor attract any tourist flows to Asia.

South Asia comprising mainly SAARC countries i.e., India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka largely relies on intra-regional flows from the markets of Europe, East Asia and the Pacific but has been able to procure the minimum share in global tourism statistics i.e., only 0.9%. Americas provide a very low volume of tourist traffic to South Asia.

Given the share of the region in International tourism, these are the Republics of Maldives with exquisite coral islands, the Kingdom of Nepal, Sri Lanka and India that interest and invite the little traffic, whatever it is.

East Asia/Pacific:

In this region of the globe, recording 16% of world tourism, intra-regional tourist flow is observed between countries of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, China and Japan.

Singapore, the most urban and industrialized country of South East Asia, is the second busiest port after Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Being a cosmopolitan attraction, high tech hub of this region, and a shopper’s paradise attracts large number of visitors for East Asian region.

Moreover, due to its geographical and strategic location, Singapore is a midway stopover for traffic to and from Australasia and Europe. Again, being a former British colony, the destination attracts quite a large number of British tourists.

Hong Kong, the “Pearl of the Orient”, once under the British rule, being the centre of trade and mass-production (manufacturing), a shopper’s paradise, is of utmost significance for North American, Asian and European travellers and particularly to the Chinese tourists.

Hong Kong as a well connected regional hub and typically a small destination (from physical perspective) with a limited range of attractions depends for the most part on circuit tourists.

Now being a part of China and with the change in the attitude of the Chinese government towards tourism, it still maintains its position on the travel chart. China, the world’s oldest civilization, the seat of communism, and a vast and varied country that has recently (1979-80) opened its frontiers for tourists have picked up fast in tourism arena.

Thailand, the only South East Asian country that has never been colonized by any country, and being highly westernized, rests as a magnetic pull on the itinerary of the visitors from Western world.

Apart from this, being a shopper’s paradise, it is well adapted to the American wallet. Japan, due to its relative segregation and extensive attractions within the country, generates only a small number of visitors, and whatever flows are there, these are mainly recorded between America, Australia and Japan.

Further, Korea, a dynamic industrial country of the east, with Buddhist and Christian population, is also exhibiting an increase in the number of tourists. Of the Indonesian islands, Bali stands a major attraction.

Fiji islands also are a magnetic force in the Pacific region. The Pacific region ranks third in inter-regional tourism. Australia and New Zealand both being English speaking countries, pull tourists from Western Europe and America.

In the region, several other islands of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea, where largely the medium of communication are French and English, hold attraction for distinctive animal and plant life. Samoa, Hawaii and Tahiti also register observable tourism flows. However, outbound tourism by East Asia/Pacific residents is on the rebound.

The discussion provides a general survey of the significant travel patterns within the WTO regions. It also explains that the travel patterns are highly influenced by the cultural and past political associations between the tourist generating countries/regions and the tourist receiving countries/ destinations.

It is also obvious, as Matley observes, that “there is an uneven spatial distribution of international tourist activities”. While the West European and the North American regions remain outstanding in taking up the tourism scenario, the countries in the developing regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia have yet to pick up momentum so as to get closer to the lower end of the key players.

The World Tourism Organization (WTO), for example forecasts that, while Europe and the Americas are today the worlds foremost tourism destinations, commanding over 77% of the global market, their respective share in the total travel trade shows a declining trend.

A gradual transformation of tourism preference is increasingly East Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and South Asia into destination focus. Historical data shows that, in 2000, East Asia/Pacific experienced the highest growth of 16% of the world market followed by the Middle East and South Asia with tourist arrivals growing by 10.2% and 9% respectively.

In terms of international receipts, the World Tourism Organization estimates a figure of US$ 476 million in 2000, an increase of 4.5% over the previous year. Significantly, growth rates in the East Asia/Pacific and Middle East were the highest (being 14.5% and 10.2%) even though the U.S.A. and Europe remained the top tourism earners as befitting their position at the head of the world’s leading tourist destinations.

Significantly, however, growth rates in earnings during the period 1990-1999 were the highest in the East Asia/Pacific and Middle East suggesting the immense potential of these regions in the coming decades.

The most significant finding of virtually every organization connected with tourism and aviation (The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), World Tourism Organization (WTO) to name a few) is that the focus of Travel & Tourism is gradually but deliberately shifting from Europe and North America to East/South Asia and the Pacific.

This shift is clearly discernable in the historic rates of growth in the different regions with East Asia/Pacific, Middle East and South Asia recording almost twice the growth in the Americas and Europe. The WTTC Tourism Satellite Account 2001 confirms this phenomenon.