The tourism sector is one of the key services sectors which have shown increasing growth worldwide. It significantly contributes towards socio-economic progress through employment generation, foreign exchange earnings and infrastructure development. The sector has a direct impact on several other services of the economy and the direct contribution together with its indirect and induced contribution which makes it one of the most critical pillars of the global economy. The sector accounted for 10.0% of employment, supporting nearly 319 million jobs, globally. Over the last 5 years, one in five of all new jobs created across the world has been in tourism. India is the 8th largest country in terms of contribution to travel & tourism GDP.
The term ‘Niche Tourism’ is largely borrowed from the term ‘Niche Marketing’ which refers to how a specific product can be tailored to meet the needs of a particular audience or market segment. This is then extended into the idea of ‘niche tourism products’ and ‘niche tourism markets. Niche tourism offers growth of tourism in all areas evenly and not concentrated in areas that have been developed to mass tourism. It gives equal opportunities for tourism development.
For destination managers and planners seeking to utilize tourism as a mechanism for economic development, niche tourism approach appears to offer greater opportunities and tourism that is more sustainable, less damaging and capable of delivering high- spending tourists. For, tourists, niche tourism appear to offer a more meaningful set of experiences in the knowledge that their needs and wants are being met.
Characteristics of Niche Tourists are:
- Motivated by a desire to engage in new or existing interests in a novel or familiar location
- The opposite of mass tourism;
- Tourism has undertaken for a specific or distinct reason; and
- Having emerged because of the desire to deliver a more sustainable tourism product.
The Travel and Tourism (T&T) industry directly contributes about 3.6% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and, indirectly contributes about 10.3% to it. As one of the biggest contributors to the global GDP, this industry directly employs nearly 77 million people worldwide, which comprises about 3% of the world’s total employment. It also contributes to indirect employment generation to the tune of 234 million or 8.7 % of the total employment implying that one in every twelve jobs in the world is in the tourism industry. The industry also represents about 12% of the total world exports.
Global market trends indicate that long-haul travel, neighbouring country tourism, rural and ethnic tourism, wellness and health holidays, cultural tourism, spiritualism, ecotourism, sports and adventure holidays, and coastal tourism and cruises are a few emerging areas of tourist interest. From a geographic viewpoint, there has been a remarkable rise in Asian tourists, particularly from China and East Asian countries. Further, the average age of the international tourist has also been reducing representing a growing segment of young tourists who would typically travel to take a break from increasingly stressful professional lives. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) forecasts over one billion arrivals in 2010 versus approximately 693 million in 2018.
Source: World Tourism Organization
Worldwide long-distance travel is likely to grow faster (5.4% each year) than travel within regions (3.8%). Continuing world prosperity, growing recognition of tourism’s contribution to employment and economic growth, availability of better infrastructure, focused marketing and promotion efforts, liberalization of air transport, growing intraregional cooperation, and a growing number of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs) are seen as the key drivers for tourism in the next decade.
Source: World Tourism Organization
The trend for tourism is shifting more towards the specific, niche, exotic and the activity-filled itineraries, rather than mass tourism. Countries like Thailand, New Zealand, South America and less-travelled parts of Europe are on the rise. Ctrip’s joint report with COTR found that this type of travel is popular, attracts a younger market (48% of them are between the ages of 30 to 49)and is growing rapidly. “In-depth travel” was the top keyword used by travellers planning a trip to Europe, followed by “slow pace”, “leisure travel”, “private” and “niche”. and among the top ten themes travellers were searching for, included watching a football game in Spain and the UK, enjoying local food in Spain, France and Italy, embarking on a “study tour” around the UK, and admiring the architecture in Switzerland and France. At present, there is an increasingly competitive tourism market targeting destinations and commercialization.