Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Travelers and Tourists

palaces-1160047_640Travelers vs Tourists

Travelers and tourists are both people who travel to different locations. The difference is that they have different connotations and that one is a broader term than the other. All tourists are travelers, but not all travelers are tourists.

The word ‘traveler’ simply means someone who travels. ‘Travelling’ itself means going from one place to the other, but it most often means going on a long journey. It isn’t very common to describe yourself as travelling when all you’re doing is going to get groceries. In the UK and Ireland, it can also mean someone who leads a nomadic lifestyle, always moving from place to place. ‘Tourist’, on the other hand, is a very specific word. It means someone who temporarily travels to another location just to enjoy the new place.

When describing people who travel to other countries, there are a few categories they can fall into. Some people have to travel for business, such as when they go to have a conference. Other people go to a place in transit. For instance, someone who wants to go from the US to Tibet would probably have to change planes in China. They would be travelling to China, but it wouldn’t be their final destination. Other people will go to places for charitable work, such as helping out with relief and aid after a major disaster. The last category is travelling for pleasure. This can mean anything from going to another country to enjoy the landscape to going to a theme park or tourist trap.

Tourists are specifically people who go to another place for pleasure when that’s the main goal of the trip. If a businessman were to take some time on his trip to experience the landscape of the place he’s in, then he wouldn’t be a tourist, since that wasn’t the purpose of the trip. Someone who travels for pleasure and takes some time to do some business work would be a tourist.

There are some who divide people who go somewhere for pleasure into travelers and tourists. According to those definitions, tourists are shallow people who care more about boasting that they were in a place than actually experiencing it, while travelers are people who blaze new trails and experience a much deeper connection with a place by going to the exact same attractions that the tourists go to, but more deeply. This is because the people who created this definition are all self-described travelers.

Tourism has gained a bit of a bad reputation. Some tourists will go to places and become a nuisance. For instance, in the United States, the Quileute reservation was damaged by tourists, though that is an extreme example. Other people will act like the stereotype of tourists. However, the majority of tourists do not – it is just far more common to hear about the horror stories than about the people who don’t do anything worth complaining about. Still, because of those people, some don’t want to be associated with the word ‘tourist’ even if they are doing the exact same things a tourist does.

It could be argued that the two words mean different approaches to travelling abroad: tourists want to have a good time with the “normal” travelling activities while travelers have fun by experiencing the culture. There’s nothing wrong with either mindset, because they’re just personal preferences.

To summarize, travelers are people who go to somewhere else. Tourists are people who go to another place to have fun. Some people prefer not to be called tourists, however, because they do not want to be associated with tourists who have behaved badly in the past.


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6 Comments

  1. This article is just so…. I mean, there are some truths to it, but it is not True with a capital T. Yes, tourists plan every detail of their travels, mapping out which attractions to hit, what museums to go to, what restaurants to eat in, etc. We all know what tourists are, and your definition of them is very accurate. However, your description of travelers is almost totally arbitrary and generalized to the point of laughability. Reading lights are important to travelers, because they read all the time? That’s like saying fishermen like to bring iPods when they go fishing. It might happen, but it’s not “important” or in any way a defining characteristic of a fisherman. Some travelers may carry what you say, some may not. The travelers I’ve met aren’t defined by what they have, but instead defined by what they do.

    In any case, most of the travelers I’ve met are too busy meeting people, drinking, wandering around and getting involved with what’s in the area to be be hunkered down in some cheap hostel with a reading light. To me, you missed the point almost entirely. BOTH tourists and travelers LOVE to “pay attention to the sights and sounds” of the area they’re in, and both love to observe the differences in culture between where they currently are and where they’re from. However, the key difference is HOW they pay attention and WHAT they pay attention to. Tourists have a distance/disconnect with the place they are visiting, looking at the architecture/art/monument/people as alien, something to be observed but not necessarily participated in, something to have showcased in picture frames when they go back home. Travelers, on the other hand, are all about trying to find a connection, something of intangible significance, like befriending locals, crashing on couches, learning new languages, participating in events in the area (ex: if there is a political election or civil rights event happening in the town, going to it because you’re genuinely interested, not to take pictures of it and say you did it). True, the overwhelming majority of travelers pack light and don’t buy tons of souvineers, if any. However, it doesn’t mean that they don’t ever make any plans at all and only buy one-way tickets (many take spur-of-the-moment weekend trips and return). It just means they follow their own ebb and flow of traveling, instead of what some Frommer’s guidebook says or planning out everything to be efficient to a time schedule.

    Ultimately, in the big picture, tourists are more interested in things and travelers are more interested in people, though the two aren’t mutually exclusive. A traveler can go to an art museum and appreciate what he/she sees, just as a tourist can befriend a local. There are many overlapping grey areas, depending on the travelers or tourist in question, but for the most part, tourists are primarily concerned with seeing, whereas travelers are primarily concerned with connecting.

  2. Tourist, traveler, visitor, explorer, they’re all only labels with definitions that can interpreted many different ways which all intersect at some point.

    It’s easy to conjure images of the tourist as being herded like sheep and not taking an active part in shaping their travel experience. It might not be how I would like to experience my journey, but it’s just that, a choice.

    Many travelers “tourist” at some point on their journey. Even the most down-and-out backpacker has gazed at some famous monument or building if only from a distance or casually hung at the back of a tour group to catch what the guide was saying.

  3. Travelers take their time to experience a culture more in depth, other travelers like to enjoy sightseeing and local foods. Others, just like to swim in the ocean and have a great nightlife….Tourists are people who travel to other countries, then the travelling starts…

  4. what is difference between character and attitude?
    what is difference between goal ,ambition and aim?
    what is difference between sympathy and empathy?

  5. Amazing blog. Nice to see it here. I got very informative information from this blog.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  6. I’ve just read BBC news abt Living in Uruguay. When reading a part which has 2 words “travellers and tourists”…I felt confused..Why they had to write the two words instead of using one of them? And I just used Google to search it..and so amazing when finding this page. I read all this article and comments. Awesome that I found out some helpful info. In my country, it also differs these two words “traveller-lữ khách”, “tourist-khách du lịch”. Some differences…very useful. Tks a lot.

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