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Discovering new forms of tourism: slow tourism

on Jan 22, 13 in International Tourism Context, literature review, Publication by with No Comments

As part of their master in Tourism Destination Management study program, the students have written literature reviews in the domain of “International Tourism Context”. In this fifth of six literature reviews Julia Terhorst talks about discovering new forms of tourism: slow tourism.


The slow movement is present in many parts of everyday life and one can easily get the feeling that the adjective slow is added to all phenomenon, industries and sectors. One of these sectors is the tourism sector (Fullagar, Wilson & Markwell, 2012).

The slow movement is an antidote to the increasingly faster global activities. It is for all those who want to slow down and are fed with pace, but also for those who want to explore the opportunities of being unlike and in the context of tourism, moving differently (Fullagar, & Wilson & Markwell, 2012). Slowing down while being on holiday is described by the term ‘slow travel’ or ‘slow tourism’ (Rawlinson, 2011). Research has shown that slow tourism is an emerging market segment that is forecasted to grow annually 10% in Western Europe during the next five years. Furthermore, it has been concluded as ‘a significant alternative to ‘sun and sea’ and cultural tourism’ (Lumsdon & McGrath, 2011).

Moreover, different forms of alternative tourism, as ecotourism, sustainable tourism and slow tourism have emerged that have certain characteristics in common, regarding the quality of the time spent on holiday. This gives travellers from highly developed countries the opportunity to return to forgotten places and experience those areas (Nistireanu, Dorobantu & Tuclea, 2011).

Slow travel can take place everywhere and is not time bound; it does not involve travelling long distances or at a certain speed. In fact slow travellers can start their journey when stepping out of the doorway and their destination can only be a few kilometres away. Nevertheless, it does not exclude journeys to the other end of the world (Rawlinson, 2011).

This literature review examines the new market segment of slow travellers that can be characterized by travelling shorter distances, at a greater emphasis on the travel experience by having low-carbon consumption. As everyone can engage in slow travel it is hard to draw an exact definition for this market segment (Rawlinson, 2011). Furthermore, the travel motivations of slow travellers and their destination experiences are studied.

Characteristics of slow travel, motivations and the destination experience

Slow tourism has been directly associated with the slow food movement that developed in Italy during the late 1980s (Dickenson, 2002). It developed with respect to the slow food and Città Slow movement (Warren, 2011; Petrini, 2007). These were about binding local inhabitants to their localities and emerged as a community initiative for residents (Dickinson, 2010).

Although there is no definition for slow tourism that is widely agreed upon, Dickinson et al. define three different pillars of slow travel. The first pillar is ‘doing things in the right speed’, the second ‘changing the attitude towards speed’ and the last one is ‘seeking quality over quantity’. Some slow travel communities or associations suggest that slow travellers should avoid car and air travel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (2011). Another approach describes two components of slow travel. The first one is about spending at least one week of a holiday at one place by staying in vacation rentals instead of holes. The second component is similar to the definition above staying close to home and looking what ‘must-sees’ are in the surrounding (Nistireanu, Dorobantu, & Tuclea, 2011).

Furthermore, slow tourism is not only attractive to travellers who are concerned about the environment, although it is often associated as a form of low-carbon travel (Chiesa & Gautam, 2009). However, it is not only attractive to travellers who are concerned about the environment, but without doubt the low-carbon emission is a significant factor of slow travel (Rawlinson, 2011). The next section is trying to further describe the slow travellers motivations.

Describing the slow traveller

As the previous section showed it is hard to clearly define slow travel. The same accounts for finding a description for slow travellers, as they cannot be classified in demographic terms of segmentation. Instead, principally everyone, being an individual traveller or in a family or group, can engage in slow travel. However, the reasons may be different for various demographic groups, ranging from economic or budgetary reasons, environmental interests, the consumers want to experience the destination itself and the desire to use a certain mode of transportation (Rawlinson, 2011). Although, Rawlinson mentions budgetary reasons of tourists engaging in the slow movement, it would be interesting to research the link between the distance to be travelled and the price for certain modes of transportation in relation to time.

Dickinson states that the pioneers and both newspaper and web page authors of slow travel have different focuses and address one of the three issues. One of these issues is the attempt of avoiding flights and the usage of cars. Secondly, they address the high carbon emissions and negative environmental impacts that are especially due to travelling at an individual level. The final focus is about the richness of a travel experience at a destination or the importance of a journey (Dickinson, 2011). These focuses are similar to the interests that were identified by Gardner who stated that slow travel is a state of mind that should start at one’s home by exploring nearby places of interest and the suggestion that slow tourists should travel slow and avoid air travel. Instead, they should avoid slower modes of transport, such as ferries, busses and slow trains as ‘speed destroys the connection with the landscape’ (Gardner, 2009). Furthermore, he stated that the journey is part of the pleasure and that the destination should be stronger experienced by visiting local markets and slowing down in order to enjoy and to get a feel for the language and dialect. Besides, slow traveller should also get in touch with the local community and behave in the same way and searching for opportunities to give something back to them (Gardner, 2009). Also Dickinson et al. suggest that slow travel involves an engagement with both people and place (2010).

Motivations of slow travellers

Dickinson, Lumsdon & Robbins (2011) created a model that shows that slow travellers form a continuum from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’ travellers. The authors identified three dimensions of slow travel interpretations: mode, experience and the environment. Slow travellers who choose this form of travelling out of environmental considerations often make the conscious decision to avoid air transportation and the usage of cars unless it is really necessary. These tourists have been identified as ‘hard slow travellers’ who often show environmental concern during their everyday life. Beside ‘hard slow travellers’ there are also various forms of ‘soft slow travellers’, however, a distinction between both groups cannot always be clearly made. ‘Soft slow travellers’ may cycle or travel by train simply because they like this form of transportation and not necessarily because of environmental concerns. Other motivations for soft slow travellers may be that they enjoy the pace of travelling slow, the social setting or the cultural excursions (Dickinson, Lumsdon & Robbins, 2011). However, it has to be mentioned the authors have only interviewed 15 ‘self-identified’ slow travellers, this number might be a little low to produce be representative, but also interviewing ‘other-identified’ slow travellers may have different and new outcomes. Another weakness is that the study was conducted only in England, so the outcome might be different for other destination. It can also be criticized that three pairs were interviewed as their respondents might be biased because of the partner’s presence.

Destination experience of slow travellers

In contrast to other forms of holiday, slow travel includes both the experience of the travel and the destination itself (Dickinson, 2010; Rawlinson, 2011; Lumsdon & McGrath, 2010). However, different groups of people might experience both aspects differently. Another point mentioned regarding the destination experience is the fact that slow traveller rather live at a destination instead of just staying there. This implies that slow travellers have a more intense destination experience than regular tourists (Rawlinson, 2011), creating ‘richer memories’ of the holiday (Lumsdon & McGrath 2011).

As mentioned earlier slow travellers have a tendency to consume local food products more often than other tourists. In her article ‘Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience’ Rebecca Sims argues that local food can enhance the tourist experience as consumers are connected to the region and its perceived culture and heritage. The study by Sims has been conducted in two different places in England. Conclusively, it has been suggested that successful tourist destinations must develop products and services that distinguish the destination from others. Local food may be a successful tool for differentiation, as tourists perceive food as authentic (Sims, 2009). In her study Sims (2009) only focused on two destinations in England. It should be researched whether the outcomes are different in other cultural settings.


This literature review has shown that the motivations of slow travellers to engage in this form of tourism are divers and range from travellers who are highly concerned about the environment and travellers who only travel slow, because they like cycling or hiking for example. In order to fully understand slow travellers in terms of motivation and drivers behind their decisions to engage in slow tourism, it would be interesting to research the relation between the distances to be travelled, the time and the price for certain modes of transportation.  Furthermore, it should be researched whether there are cultural differences among slow travellers.


Dickinson, J.E. & Lumsdon, D. (2010) Slow Travel and Tourism; Earthscan Ltd., London

Dickinson, J.E. & Lumsdon, D. & Robbins, D.K. (2010) Slow Travel: Issues for Tourism and Climate Change, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19:3, 281-300

Fullargar, S., Markwell, K. & Wilson, E. (2012) Slow Tourism: Experiences and Mobilities; Channel View Publications, Bristol

Gardner, N. (2009) A manifesto for slow travel; Hidden Europe Magazine 25, 10-14

Chiesa & Gautam (2009) Towards a Low Carbon Travel & Tourism Sector; retrieved October 22, 2012:  http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.greeningtheblue.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2FTowards%2520a%2520low%2520carbon%2520travel%2520%26%2520tourism%2520sector.pdf&ei=1jiFUMaON8fB0QXwjIHQBw&usg=AFQjCNFDrRTRg_6Wiotk3kqkMoZ9UTltXg

Lumsdon, D. & McGrath, P. (2011) Developing a conceptual framework for slow travel: a grounded theory approach, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19:3, 265-279

Nistireanu, P., Dorobantu, M. & Tuclea, C. (2011). The trilateral relationship ecotourism – sustainable tourism – slow travel among nature in the line with authentic tourism lovers. Revista De Turism – Studii Si Cercetari In Turism, (11), 34-37.

Petrini, C. (2001) Flow Food: The Case for Taste. New York: Columbia University Press

Rawlinson, J. (2011) The Evolution of Slow Travel – International – March 2011, retrieved October 22, 2012, from Mintel Oxygen

Sims, R. (2009) Food, place and authenticity: local food and the sustainable tourism experience; Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 17:3, 321-336

Warren, J.P. (2011): A review of ‘Slow travel and tourism’, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19:7, 916-918

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