By Matt Burdett, 2nd December 2017
On this page, we look at niche national tourism strategies with a global sphere of influence, including adventure tourism, movie location tourism and heritage tourism.
- Guangzhou, China: While it’s common to see people taking photos on their holidays, going on vacation for the sole purpose of photographing interesting local scenes is far less common. Photography holidays are a ‘niche’ tourism activity.
What is niche tourism?
A ‘niche’ (pronounced ‘nee-sh’) tourism strategy is one that appeals to a small number of people who are especially interested in something. Another way to describe ‘niche’ tourism is ‘specialised’ tourism.
Examples of niche tourism are:
- Adventure tourism: Climbing major mountain peaks is difficult, and requires lots of training, planning and equipment. Most tourists could not do this type of tourism. Examples include the Nepalese Himalayan mountains with Mount Everest the top attraction.
- Movie location tourism: While many people would be happy to visit a place used as a location for a movie set, few people make it the main focus of their holiday. Examples of places that have a specialised focus are Salzberg (the location of the Sound of Music), and New Zealand (location for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) (Rough Guides, 2017). The principle also extends to TV-set tourism such as Game of Thrones sets in Spain, Northern Ireland and Croatia (CNTraveler, 2017).
- Heritage tourism: Mostly focused on history and culture, this type of tourism is increasingly popular but remains relatively small-scale compared to the mass tourism of beach holidays. Examples of locations that market themselves for heritage tourism include many Italian cities (such as Venice, an example of a tourism hotspot), the Beijing (the Forbidden Palace and the Great Wall), and Machu Picchu in Peru.
There are many other examples of niche tourism including (but not limited to):
- Nature tourism: Going on safari or to see a particular landscape such as Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river.
- Remote tourism: Visiting locations that few people can go to because of the difficulty of getting there (and the lack of facilities at the destination), such as the Amazon rainforest or Antarctica.
- Photography tourism: Small companies offer photography lessons as part of the holiday.
- Homestay tourism: Tourists reside with a family in their regular home for their visit, and join the family in their regular activities such as farming.
- Volunteer tourism: Tourists join in education, conservation and other charitable projects.
Niche tourism: benefits and risks
A national tourism strategy is a government policy that encourages tourism that brings benefits to the country. Niche tourism is often promoted by national tourism strategies because it is seen as a more sustainable way of developing tourism:
- There are relatively low numbers of tourists
- They are genuinely interested in seeing the destination as it is, rather than demanding changes to it such as more hotel facilities
- They are often willing to pay more to see a unique environment
Therefore, the tourist attraction (such as architecture, local culture, a rainforest and so on) is more likely to be preserved because it is now economically and socially valuable to the country. This means conservation efforts are more successful and the tourism is more sustainable.
However, niche tourism must be carefully chosen. This is because of several negative factors:
- There are relatively few tourists, so it is unlikely to be scaled up as a huge growth industry.
- Niche tourism is susceptible to ‘shock’ events. For example, if terrorism begins to affect people visiting religious buildings, those tourists might not travel – which means the whole tourist industry is at risk.
- Niche tourism often attracts people from a very specific demographic, whose tastes may change too quickly for the destination to adapt. For example, a TV set location may be popular only as long as the TV show is on the air, after which tourism may decline.
- Because of the relatively small number of tourists, a destination may suddenly lose its customers because of competition. For example, an island might have a tourists but then an island in the new location improves its tourist infrastructure and people choose to go elsewhere.
- Too many niche tourists means too many people doing the same thing, resulting in those same tourists having a negative experience. A good example is scuba diving off some Thai islands, where the number of visitors has put off some from going back.
- Family decisions about holidays usually involve compromise. If the destination caters to only one type of tourist, that person may not go to the destination because there is nothing for their partner or family to do.
- Promotion of a single niche can put other people off going to the location. Potential tourists may not realise that there are other things to do and decide to go somewhere else.
Global sphere of influence
Many niche tourist destinations have relatively low levels of participation in per capita terms – i.e. there aren’t enough people living within the country to make the tourist activity worthwhile for companies to offer it. Therefore they must appeal to a global audience to ensure there are enough visitors to be a viable tourist destination. This is known as a global sphere of influence.
CNTraveler, 2017. ‘Game of Thrones’ Filming Locations Around the World. https://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-04-10/virtual-tour-filming-locations-game-of-thrones-season-5/1 Accessed 2nd December 2017.
Rough Guides, 2017. 40 film locations around the world. https://www.roughguides.com/gallery/40-film-locations-around-the-world/ Accessed 2nd December 2017.
Niche tourism: Learning activities
- Define ‘niche tourism’. 
- Describe two types of niche tourism. [2+2]
- Suggest other examples of niche tourism in addition to those listed on this page. 
- Identify possible problems with niche tourism in a specific location. 
- Suggest why many niche tourist activities have a global sphere of influence. 
- Describe and explain the benefits of using niche tourism as the focus of a national tourism strategy. 
What are the niche tourist opportunities in your area? Create a proposal for your local government authority to encourage the development of niche tourism. Consider how niche tourism would benefit the area compared to other forms of tourism such as mass tourism.