The Geography of Transport Systems
Jean-Paul Rodrigue (2013), New York: Routledge, 416 pages.
ISBN 978-0-415-82254-1
International Tourism and Transport
Author: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue
1. Tourism and Transport
Since the 1970s where tourism became increasingly affordable for developed economies, the number of international tourists has more than doubled. The expansion of international tourism has a large impact on the discipline of transport geography. As of 2010, 877 million international tourist receipts were accounted for, representing more than 10% of the global population. Tourism dominantly takes place in Europe and North America. Traveling has always been an important feature of society. First the explorers traveled the world to learn more about geographical regions, potential markets and to exploit resources. As time moved on an as transportation became more reliable, traveling became a mundane activity taking place in an organized environment; tourism. In the modern world, traveling is more centered around the annual holidays and can be fairly well predicted.
Tourism, as an economic activity, is characterized by a high level of elasticity. As transport costs are significant for international transportation, demand is strongly influenced by cost fluctuations. Therefore, transport is the key element in the tourism industry. The demand in international and even national transport infrastructures implies a very large number of people who wants to move in an efficient, fast and inexpensive manner. It requires heavy investments and complex organization. Well organized terminals and intelligently planned schedules are essential in promoting effective transportation facilities for tourists, notably since the industry is growing at a fast rate.
Transport is the cause and the effect of the growth of tourism. To start with, the improved facilities have stimulated tourism, and the expansion of tourism has stimulated transport. Accessibility is the main function behind the basics of tourism transport. In order to access the areas that are mainly aimed, tourists will use any transportation mode. However, air transport is the main mode for international tourism, which normally entails travel over long distances. Growth rates of international air traffic are pegged with growth rates of international tourism.
Transport policies and decisions of governments can make a big difference in the destinations available to tourists. One dimension concerns the openness to tourism through travel visa restrictions, which vary substantially depending on the countries of origin of tourists. Unsurprisingly, travellers from developed countries, particularly Europe, are facing the least restrictions while travelers from developing countries are facing a much more stringent array of restrictions. Another dimension concerns the provision of infrastructures. If the public sector does not cope with the demand in terms of transport infrastructures, the tourist industry might be impaired in its development. However, land transport networks in various countries are designed to meet the needs of commercial movements that tourism requires.
"Holiday spenders" usually make enough contribution to the local economy that governments are more than willing to invest in efficient road networks or airport facilities, especially in locations that have limited economic opportunities other than tourism. There are however significant differences in the amount of spending per type of mode, namely between cruise and air transport tourism. Cruise shipping tourism provides much less revenue, with $15 per passengers spent per port of call on average. A significant reason is that cruise lines are capturing as much tourism expenses within their ships as possible (food, beverages, entertainment, shopping).
2. Means and Modes
The main transport modes used are:
  • Car traveling is usually an independent mean of transport. The driver decides where, when and how he is going to get to a destination. It is usually cheaper since roads fees are not directly paid but rather from taxes. It is the only transportation mode that does not require transfers, in the sense that the whole journey, from door to door can be achieve without even stopping. Car transport is the dominant mode in world tourism (77% of all journeys), notably because of advantages such as flexibility, price, and independence. Tourists will often rent cars to journey within their destinations, which has triggered an active clustering of car rental companies have emerged adjacent to main transport terminals (airports, train stations) and touristic venues.
  • Coach traveling uses the same road network as cars. Coaches are well suited for local mass tourism but can be perceived as a nuisance if in too large numbers since they require a large amount of parking space. They can be used for short duration local tours (hours) but also can be set for multi-days journeys where the coach is the conveyance
  • Rail travel was the dominant form of mass public transport before the age of the automobile. Even if trains are very fast, the network is not too flexible, pre-established routes have to be followed. The railway network usually reflects more the commercial needs of the national economy then the holiday tourist flow which can make it a second choice as a traveling mode. The railway systems of several countries, notably in Europe, have seen massive investments for long-distance routes and high speed services. Due to the scenery or the amenities provided, rail transportation can also be a touristic destination in itself. Several short rail lines that no longer had commercial potential have been converted for tourism.
  • Air transport is by far the most effective transport mode. Notably because of prices, only 12.5% of the tourist travel by plane. but for international travel this share is around 40%. Air transport has revolutionized the geographical aspect of distances; the most remote areas can now be attained, any journey around the world can be measured in terms of hours of traveling. Businesspeople are among the biggest users of airline facilities, but a low cost air carriers have attracted a significant market segment.
  • Cruises are mainly concentrated towards short sea journeys of about a week. Cruising has become a significant tourist industry; big cruisers are like floating resorts where guests can enjoy luxury and entertainment while moving towards their multiple destinations. The international market for cruising was about 18.3 million tourists in 2010, which involves an annual growth rate above 7% since 1990. The main cruise markets are the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, which Alaska and Northern Europe fjords also popular during the summer season. This industry is characterized by a high level of market concentration with a few companies, such as Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises who account for about 70% of the market. The impacts of cruising on the local economy are mitigated as the strategy of cruising companies is to retain as much income as possible. This implies that tourists spend most of their money in the cruise ship itself (gift shops, entertainment, casinos, bars, etc.) or on island facilities owned by cruise shipping companies.
3. Mass Tourism and Mass Transportation
Tourism transport can be divided in two categories:
  • Independent means of travel; controlled by individual tourists.
  • Mass travel; where tourists travel in groups.
When tourism was meanly for the elite, independent means of travel prevailed. However, the emergence of mass tourism, and the significant revenue it provides for local economies, required the setting of mass transportation systems.