How special is special interest tourism?

Robert Douglas McKercher, Andrew Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Much of the research documenting the size and importance of special interest (SI) tourism is based on secondary analysis of visitor survey data. Segments are defined by analyzing responses to activity questions, with the assumption being that activities are a valid proxy for motives to travel or trip purpose. The soundness of this approach is based on two suppositions that do not appear to have been questioned. The first is that visitor surveys are constructed in such a way that valid SI trip-purpose segments can be defined. The second is the existence of a direct correlation between actions and motivations. This article illustrates that both suppositions are unfounded, resulting in the production of figures that overstate the true importance of SI tourism as a trip generator by as much as 20 times. The authors call for the discontinuation of the method.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-31
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Travel Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • Methodology
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Special interest tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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