Tourism is possibly the greatest people-moving pursuit on the planet today, as well as one of the highest-grossing industries. The World Tourism Organization reported that in 2009 alone, 880 million international tourist arrivals were registered, and the United States reported over $90 billion in international tourist receipts. Based on the size, global presence, and continuous growth of the tourism industry, the importance of tourism research cannot be overstated. Such research is required to understand how to harness the benefits while avoiding the disadvantages associated with tourism.
A great deal of effort is put into researching historical aspects of tourism. Scholars attempt to create models of development and decline that demonstrate how and where tourism begins and why it evolves in certain ways, both globally and on a local scale. Such models allow insight into what aspects of tourism should be most intensely promoted, as well as the types of regulations needed to curb unwanted developments.
Academically, tourism research falls under many categories. Anthropologists and sociologists research cultural implications. Economists examine the monetary aspects. And ecologists investigate the effects of tourism on local biospheres. In recent years, there has been growing emphasis on combining multiple disciplines for a more holistic understanding.
Tourists are the lifeblood of tourism. Data is constantly gathered on the behavior patterns, and likes and dislikes of tourists. This research is used to create more and more appealing tourism venues which will attract more tourists and tourist dollars.
Tourism research seeks means to exploit the money-making potential of the industry. It is irrefutable that tourism is a lucrative endeavor. The State of Florida reported in 2004 that tourism had an economic impact of over $57 billion, around 10 percent of the state's total gross product. Likewise, the economic benefits of tourism have been recognized as a tool to fight poverty. Some economists believe that tourism constitutes the greatest opportunity for underdeveloped nations to compete in the modern world system. Without detailed research the positive potentials of tourism might go untapped.
Not everything about tourism is positive. Tourism fosters acculturation, or dilution of unique cultural forms. Tourism also introduces neoliberal and capitalist values into traditional systems that are not structurally prepared to accept them. In such traditional societies, wealthy individuals or external international corporations receive the benefits while further marginalizing the poor. Tourism venues also commonly suffer ecologically as tourists arrivals stress natural thresholds. Many scholars are engaged in bringing to light the negative aspects of tourism and producing knowledge on what changes must be made to reduce unwanted repercussions.