Special Interest Tourism

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Assessment 1: Explore the significance of special interest tourism as part of the tourism product of a destination of your choice. According to Read (1980), in Hall and Weiler (1992), the conceptualization of the term ‘Special Interest Tourism’ (SIT) emerged during the 1980s and can be seen as the predecessor of ‘Niche Tourism’. Early discussion of SIT set the context for the development of niche tourism markets, and was seen to be a prime force associated with the expansion of tourism and the motivation around which tourist activity was planned and advanced. It marked the move from tourism as a commodified, mainstream offering to one that was more specialized and unique. Initially SIT products were seen to focus on relatively homogeneous groups of consumers such as eco or cultural tourists and were compared to Stebbins’ (1982) specialized, serious leisure consumers. However, what began to emerge in academic debate was that there existed another softer end of the spectrum often linked to individual operators’ expertise within that special interest field and desire to tap the latent consumer demand for that niche market. This ‘casual’ end of the spectrum Stebbins (1982) points out as still being in the majority and is seen as pursuing a ‘relatively short-lived pleasurable activity requiring little or no special training to enjoy it’ (Stebbins, 1982, in Bartram, 2001, p.5).Trauer (2006) observes how the growth of the SIT sector is said to reflect the diversity of interests of contemporary society –increasing concerns for the conservation of the environment; the desire for self-improvement; personal fulfillment and new experiences and the thirst for knowledge. The significance of the market is illustrated by the fact that ‘a remarkable 81% of US adults who travelled in the past year or 118 million are considered historic/cultural travelers’ (Keefe, 2002, in McKercher and Chan, 2005, p.1). Furthermore SIT tourists are seen to be higher yield than other tourists...
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