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Mass Tourism

Although in the beginning it seems to be an easy-to-understand concept, in fact, a precise definition of mass tourism is problematic (Robinson and Noveli 2005). Mass tourism generally refers to the large-scale packaging and selling of rigidly standardized tourism products, at relatively low prices, to a broad range of customers (Poon 1993; Vanhove 1997). Mass tourism is controlled by very large and oligopolistic tour operators that are able to obtain such low, mass-friendly prices by bundling together transportation tickets, as well as accommodation, restaurant, and entertainment services. Scale economies are also created by using large aircraft and by clustering together a range of hotels, restaurants, and different forms of entertainment and tourist attractions. Finally, low prices are also backed up by strong branding, as well as mass marketing and advertising (Robinson and Noveli 2005).

The first form of mass tourism may have been the religious medieval pilgrimages (Digance 2006). Modern-time mass tourism started after World War II, when a growing number of tourists from northwestern Europe started to spend their holidays at the Mediterranean Sea, first in Spain, Italy, and France, and later in Malta, Greece, and Cyprus, before arriving to Turkey in the 1980s. The Mediterranean coast offered the advantage of a more pleasant climate compared to the resorts in northwestern Europe. Today, the Mediterranean Basin is the most important tourist destination in the world. More than a quarter of all international tourists in the world visit this region (Obrador Pons et al. 2009). Following this assault of tourists, the Mediterranean coast, which was fairly undeveloped until then, has since seen a tremendous transformation (Bramwell 2004).

This mass movement of tourists to the Mediterranean was made possible by the rising incomes of the population in the postwar period, guaranteed and paid holidays, and innovations in transportation technologies, particularly mass accessibility to commercial jet airliners (Williams 2009). Moreover, certain jobs require longer working hours, leading to an increased need to rest and relax during holidays (Marson 2011). Increasing life expectancy and paid retirement are two other important factors. Life expectancy in developed countries is close to 80 and the retirement age around 65 (with the additional option of early retirement). This means that an individual from a Western country has about 15 years that he or she could dedicate to travel, provided that he or she is enjoying good health. All these factors have jointly contributed to the expansion of mass tourism.

Mass tourism is also characterized by (Obrador Pons et al. 2009):

  • • Democratization of leisure, with the participation of broader segments of the population.
  • • “Industrialization of leisure,” with the application of Fordist principles resulting in standardized tourism products, low cost, mass consumption, and spatial and temporal concentration.
  • • Mass tourism is also associated with warm climate, water, parties, and hedonism. For this reason, it is also known as the 3S tourism (sun, sea, and sand). Some commentators will also add sex and spirits (alcohol).
 
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