The principal expansion of tourism took place in the second part of the twentieth century, and especially from the 1970s onward, with the emergence of mass tourism to popular destinations.Most citizens of affluent Western countries at the end of the century took at least one annual vacation abroad, and many took two or even more.In reaction to the problematic consequences of the hegemonic tourist industry, various kinds of “alternative tourisms” have emerged, such as “green” tourism, eco-tourism, low-impact tourism, and “countercultural” tourism, the latter espoused in the ideology—but not necessarily in the practice—of contemporary backpackers.
This growth manifests a marked heliotropic tendency, a flow of tourists from the cold North to vacationing destinations in the warm South, particularly those around the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, and Southeast Asian coasts.
Mass tourism is an important source of significant economic benefits, particularly to less-developed countries, but these are mostly unequally distributed.
Finally, it can be conceptualized socially, as the complex of attitudes, motivations, norms, and role models that regulate and shape that flow into a distinct institutional domain.
Traveling for leisure was common in many historical and premodern societies.
Sociologists have been slow in realizing the growing significance of tourism.
Early commentators tended to disparage rather than analyze the phenomenon.The prosperous middle classes increasingly disposed of discretionary income, which enabled them to bear the costs of traveling, while the introduction of social benefits, such as paid vacations, enabled ever broader social strata to travel.The introduction by Cook, in 1841, of the package tour, was followed by other innovations in the organization of travel, such as the formation of travel companies and touring agencies, airlines, and hotel chains, which made traveling fast and easy, even for people with limited cultural capital.The development of modern tourism was made possible by major technological innovations in transportation, such as the steamship and the train, and later the car and the airplane, which facilitated the establishment of regular transportation services for large numbers of people.The demand for tourist services, however, was provoked by the economic and social changes that followed the Industrial Revolution: Industrial pollution and urbanization separated people from as yet unspoiled nature; the strains of modern life created demands for rest and recreation; secularization and imperial conquests led to a broadened outlook on the world and a growing interest in remote lands and people.Once its study was initiated, the principal issue of concern became the relationship between tourism and modernity (and, later on, post-modernity).Dean Mac Cannell (1973) proposed a distinctly sociological perspective on tourism, by conceiving of the tourist as a modern individual who, alienated from his own society, travels in quest of authentic experiences in other places and other times—in pristine nature, unspoiled, simple communities, or the traces of great civilizations of the past.More recently, rather than seeking alternatives to the industry, environmentalists and other concerned individuals have sought to collaborate with the industry to ascertain the sustainability of tourism development projects.They thus hope to prevent the environmental and social ravages that unconcerned and often speculative developments wrought in sensitive sites in the past.Tourism from the non-Western countries, especially Japan, and, more recently, India and China, expanded at an accelerating rate; experts predict that by 2010, one hundred million Chinese will be traveling abroad. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), there were 808 million international tourists in 2005, up from about 25 million in 1950.The scope of domestic tourism cannot be ascertained, but it is estimated to be three or four times larger than that of international tourism, totaling about 2.5 to 3.0 billion people per year.