Special interest tourism (SIT) is the provision of customised tourism activities that caters to the specific interests of groups and individuals.  In this case, tourism is undertaken to satisfy a particular interest or need.  It has been proposed that SIT consists of four main experiences:

1.    Rewarding
2.    Enriching
3.    Adventuresome Experiences
4.    Learning Experiences.
Clients of SIT seek to learn more, enrich their awareness, and express themselves. They expect high standards of service and individualized focus. Many wish to travel in an environmentally sound manner and to have authentic experiences be they: cultural, social or environmental, in which they have a positive engagement with the host community.  

Traveler or Tourist

How is a traveler different to a tourist? Attempts have been made to distinguish between the two, and mostly these attempts suggest that one is inferior to the other. More specifically, traveling as a tourist is often described as a less desirable form of travel. Travelers, the argument goes, travel for personal fulfillment, to learn, to experience the diversity of human cultures and of nature, and are somehow superior to tourists, who travel to be entertained and thrilled and to take what is offered. Nevertheless, the argument does not hold up.

Famous travelers like Marco Polo might deserve a separate category but travelers are tourists whether they seek adventure, challenge, nature, or places of historical and cultural interest: they require accommodation (or bring their own, perhaps tents or just sleeping bags), food, transportation, and services.

With more attention from travelers and tourism providers alike towards making tourism sustainable and more sensitive to the communities and environments visited, there would be no basis at all for considering tourism a lesser form of travel. So, if a person who travels can be defined as a tourist, what about locals? How far must a person who lives locally travel to a destination to be considered a tourist? Some consider that a local person visiting a local site or participating in a local event is also a tourist. Even if you don’t agree, consider that the local visitor also relies on the same infrastructure that supports tourism: food services, travel services, retail services, etc. If the local visitor buys a ticket to enter a local attraction and buys a milkshake from a vendor, that person is contributing to, and benefiting from, tourism.

Different types of tourism have been developed to cater for different types of people. Some people like to escape from the rest of the world when they holiday: they prefer to be inactive and just unwind. This type of person may prefer to go to a faraway place, perhaps the beach or an isolated island, or maybe a lake or rainforest escape. They may not require a lot of planned activities or luxury services. On the other hand, this tourist might prefer to withdraw from the busy world in an urban setting, such as a resort hotel with a pool or artificial beach and shops (in the complex or nearby) where they can idle the days away.

Other people want to relax, but seek pampering. They like to unwind with massages, spas, movies, theatre, and other such facilities. Such tourists may be attracted to resorts for the services they offer, such as massages, personal training at fully equipped gyms, luxurious dining, spacious lounges serviced by solicitous staff, and beauty salons. In some countries, large resorts include shopping complexes, entertainment (even gondola rides on the man-made lake at the Venetian resort in Las Vegas), cinemas, and such a range of services that the visitor never need leave the complex to find something to do. Other tourists seek pampering at health or beauty retreats where they enjoy specially-designed menus and a range of activities and services that help them relax and feel better, and to be pampered both physically and mentally.

Yet others seek a very active holiday. For some, the mind needs activity rather than the body. For others, they seek activity for the body but not the mind. For many tourists, the ideal holiday is one where they are learning new things about the world, about other cultures, about a particular country or region, or about the environment. They seek out sites or attractions, such as Petra in Jordan, that they might only have read about and delight in listening to tour guides’ or resident experts’ informative talks about the site or region. For others, the ultimate holiday is one that poses physical challenges either for their own sake or as part of an aesthetic experience. For instance, a group might take a holiday in New Zealand primarily to experience wild river canoeing, or they might engage in wild river canoeing and other demanding activities as they tour the country to enjoy its natural beauty.

Everyone is different!
Recognising differences and creating travel products to cater for these different niche markets is a key to success in the travel industry.