Interdisciplinary Approaches to Study Tourism: To learn the elements of tourism, it becomes necessary to study all the different areas which are related to tourism. The different approaches to study tourism include:

Interdisciplinary Approaches in Tourism

1. Institutional Approach

The institutional approach to study tourism is one of the major approaches which take into account the institutions as the name depicts and the intermediaries which work towards providing tourism services to the customers. These include the tour operators who are basically the wholesalers of travel packages and the travel agents who act as intermediaries between the tour operators and the potential travellers. Apart from them, there are transportation services provided by the airlines companies, car rental companies, railways and cruises who sell their tickets in bulk to the tour operators and travel agencies and also directly to the consumers which are an important institutional link between the service providers and the customers.

As tourism industry is completed by joining different industries together, the accommodation industry also contributes heavily in explaining the institutional approach which includes the different types of accommodation facilities provided to the visitors like hotels, motels, hostels, home-stays etc. The US Census bureau conducts a survey every five years on carefully chosen services like travel agencies and accommodation services which offer a data base for further research and inference for the researchers, academicians and enthusiastic travelers.

2. Product Approach

The product approach to study tourism involves all the activities related to tourism products ranging from manufacturing of the products, marketing to consumption of them by the consumers. It would involve understanding the creation or production of different tourism products like the airline seats and hotels rooms. Once they are available to the customers the next step is to market or promote them through different promotional modes like the print media which includes newspapers, magazines, brochures, electronic media like advertisements in the television, promotional messages in mobile phones with attractive offers like discounts can really help promote these services and products to the potential customers.

Once the marketing is a success, the consumption pattern of the customers is studied which would depend on the approach of marketing by the particular companies, the target market, the type of consumer, consumer behavior, time of promotion and purchase and many such conditions. The similar procedure as above would be applicable to all other products and services of the tourism industry such as car rentals, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, tickets to any destination specific events and many others. This approach is considered to be a lengthy and time consuming approach and makes the process of understanding of the major concepts of tourism is slowed down.

3. Managerial Approach

This approach is enterprise or firm oriented approach that emphasizes mainly on management activities which are required to manage perform tourism practices. It is a micro economic in nature that may include management activities like organizing, planning, controlling, research and development, costing, marketing and promotions. Management functions are a must in every field which needs to be working in a planned and organized manner.

Tourism is one such business which if preceded in an unplanned way or not manage properly can damage not only the environment of the destination but also the community serving the customers would affect adversely. Hence, management approaches are a vital force to perform the tourism related activities and keep a check on the positive and negative analysis of the activities taking place in the destination. 

4. Economic Approach

This approach relates tourism towards economic development of the place and people where tourism is practiced. The economic approach focuses upon the economic benefits caused by practicing tourism like empowerment of the community, revenue generated out of the tourism activities, employment opportunities provided to the locals and foreign exchange gained by the tourism products and foreign travelers.

The economic approach also helps in understanding the demand and supply mechanisms of the products and services so as to focus on the right amount of supply from the suppliers’ side and aim towards getting the right products in the market. But where tourism provides a long list of positive economic impacts it also poses a lot of negative economic impact on the destination and its communities like economic leakage when most of the investors in tourism business in the destination are outsiders and not the local people or when the cost of building up and creating tourism related infrastructure and services is more than the price with which it is sold.

There are certain cases in tourism industry where the tourism activities have provided less economic benefit to the destination. Thus, the economic approach in tourism helps the students to understand the economic implications of the tourism on the economy. 

This is related to the effects which implies by tourism on countries economy and tourism development on the basis of economic aspects  The important economic effects are:

5. The Cost-Benefit approach

This approach suggests that when planning for the development of tourism the Costs (disadvantages) and the Benefits (advantages) occurring out of the various tasks undertaken for the tourism development should be taken into consideration. 

The different bodies like public authorities at local, regional and national levels, and also the private sector involved in the decision making, to rationalize decisions and tourist policy measures such as investments, legislative enactments, and publicity campaigns and so on.

Two Fundamental Rules of Cost-Benefit approach

  • The need for clearly defined, feasible goals: It is important to clearly lay out the goals that are desired to be achieved through tourism development to be able to calculate costs and benefits. The goals provide the criteria for evaluating the costs and benefits of a particular action .The goals have to contain clear instructions on the actions required to achieve them. 
  • The need to consider alternative courses of action: This implies that the decisionmaker just does not adopt the first measure that appeals to him without considering other possibilities that may offer greater chances of success. To take a rational decision requires a choice between alternative courses of action. The costs and benefits of various alternatives have to be compared and the best should be selected. 
Interdisciplinary Approaches in Tourism

6. Sociological Approach

Apart from having a strong impact on the economy, tourism also have a significant impact on the society. The destination practicing tourism activities would impact the society as the local communities itself are the people who run the activities and interact with different types of tourist on daily basis.

The locals’ involvement and engagement in the tourism activities provide them which financial as well as societal changes like upliftment of their lifestyle, change in culture and improvement in socioeconomic status. People travel to experience the unique culture of different places which includes their traditional food and attire, their lifestyle, their cultural practices, folklores and dances. This is how tourism is attached to societal norms and contributes in changing culture and tradition of a society.

7. Geographical Approach

Geography is an integral part of tourism. A lot many geographical aspects relate to tourism like the landscape, climate, weather, environment, bio diversity, flora and fauna. Geography has so many things which relate to tourism and the components of the destination. Different geographical locations give rise to different types of communities, adventure activities, tourism products, services and lifestyle.

Which change in landform, the community changes their languages, traditional practices change, which makes tourism unique and diverse at every little distance. This approach is very wide as it indulges, land use, demographical aspects of the destination, cultural issues, sociological impacts and economic impacts. The geography links to several characteristics of a destination and its people and is responsible for the changes of all the elements of the destination landscape and community’s practices.

8. The Environmental Approach 

This approach proposes that for the development of tourism it is important to study the role environment plays and its aspects. These are to be taken into consideration while developing tourism of any country or destination. One of the major draws for a tourist to a place is its scenic attraction, the landscape, the beauty, the structure. These are also the most important factors for tourist motivation. For example: When a tourist goes for a holiday he is looking for a change of environment or a “contrast experience”. But the landscape loses its tourist value through its overuse by the tourists and local people. The natural beauty can be preserved better if there is no unplanned tourism, which can have serious negative impacts on the environment.

But in tourism, once the basic attraction of tourism –the land is lost it can never be reclaimed. So while planning for the development it becomes very significant to understand the impact of tourism growth on the environment and to ensure that it doesn’t get adversely affected.

9. Historical Approach

Tourism is a very ancient practice and there have been many vital reforms in the world due to tourism, thus, it becomes important to keep a record of the changes that occurred due to tourism in the physical and natural environment. The different happenings and occurrences in the history that has changed the surroundings form a major link up between the ancient habits of the tourists and community with the present form of tourism being practiced in different regions.

Pearce (1980) had identified certain factors that link historical context with tourism development of a particular place:

Therefore, historical aspect of tourism helps an individual understand the past of tourism and also to predict the future happening and trends in tourism industry.

10. Other approaches

Apart from all the areas mentioned above which are linked to tourism, there are several other aspects of tourism which attracts people and form an integral part of tourism. Different other approaches of tourism are:

  • Psychological Approach: this approach is useful to understand the customer behavior and provide them the required product and services according to their needs and wants.
  • Anthropological Approach: this approach helps to understand the different lifestyle, cultural norms, traditional activities and food habits of people staying in different parts of the world.
  • Political Science Approach: for traveling to different region, the government of different countries has set certain norms which needs to followed for the safety and keeping an account of all the tourists such as passport and visa facilities. This approach encompasses all these details.
  • Legal Approach: this approach is necessary to ensure proper governance of tourism related companies and smooth functioning of the services provided by them.

Several other approaches like passenger transportation approach and other ancillary approach also contribute to understanding the functions and different elements of tourism.

Also read Development of Tourism at Global Level