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What Is Alternative Tourism?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 23, 2024
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Alternative tourism is when people tour things and places other than the usual tourist attractions. In this type of tourism, visitors often interact more with the locals rather than simply looking at big buildings or historical sites. The local cultures, families and communities are emphasized over mainstream tourism. There are three main categories of this type of tourism: nature-based tourism, cultural tourism and adventure tourism. All three categories could interconnect, depending on the specific desires and abilities of the tourist.

This type of tourism is among the rarer forms of tourism. Many people desire the resort type of tourism, which is mainstreamed and often packaged in well-advertised bundles. Travelers typically will not ask for alternative tourism options when they are planning trips to other areas. The natural settings and everyday lives of the people who live in an area are what truly make up alternative touring, and the packages are easier to obtain because of their lower popularity.

Recognizing an alternative tourism package over a mainstream tourist opportunity simply involves reading the details of the trip. A company that offers golf tours in its alternative packages might have the wrong definition of this type of tourism. A true alternative touring package includes as few non-native elements as possible. After an alternative vacation, the vacationer should feel that he or she has experienced the true essence of the area, rather than seeing only the flashy, advertised eye-catchers.

Nature-based tourism is also referred to as ecotourism. This branch of alternative tourism takes individuals into the natural environment of the region. Packages include biking, hiking, rafting and other outdoor activities specific to the natural area. A tourist who is interested in ecotourism will choose the activity level of the tour package; the activities will range from studying the natural flora and fauna to experiencing the various local outdoor activities practiced by the natives.

Cultural tourism is the ethnic and religious sector of alternative tourism. Individuals who are interested in cultural tourism will discover the rural, ethnic and religious practices of local residents. Wine and local cuisine tours are often included in these packages, as well as tours of the local music scene. Tourists receive an in-depth look at how people live, work, play and interact with their natural environments.

Adventure tourism is popular in areas such as South Africa and ocean or mountainous regions. Physically active tourists might choose this form of alternative tourism when they are interested in longer hikes, safaris or more challenging physical activities. Deep-sea diving, mountain climbing and cave exploring are among the activities found in an adventure tourism package.

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