Urban areas act as tourism destinations, attracting domestic as well as international visitors. Capital cities and historic towns and cities attract holiday makers as well as those on business and conference trips.
This is quite natural as towns and cities offer a wide range of attractions. Tourists visit urban areas for various reasons for night life and entertainment, for enjoying historical and cultural attractions, for attending major sporting events or for shopping. Tourists share these attractions with local people.
Conferences and special events draw many visitors. Commerce and industry, museum or castle attracts a large number of business travellers. Sometimes visitors come to the cities to meet friends and relatives.
Tourism in urban areas is an extremely diverse phenomenon in three ways. The first is the heterogeneous nature of urban areas themselves, the other two dimensions are associated with the variety of facilities offered.
The facilities refer to ‘different types of city’. Thus, there are ‘tourist city’, ‘the shopping city’, ‘the culture city’ and the ‘historic city’ within an urban area.
Urban tourism is also characterized by the fact that cities very often exist within distinctive spatial networks which function at two different levels. The first level concerns urban areas operating regardless of their regional and national contexts, with particular cities forming parts of important tourism circuits.
At west European level, Paris, London, and Rome may operate as part of an international tourism network. At national level, within India, the overseas visitor circuit encompasses Delhi, Agra and Mumbai which are linked by strong historical and cultural factors.
At the second spatial level, the tourism activities of cities from the viewpoint of domestic tourists exist within a strong regional framework. In this context, cities act as an important focal point for a region’s tourism industry.
The urban environment itself can be considered as a ‘Leisure product’. An urban tourism product can offer three main levels of facilities primary elements covering major tourist attractions which in turn are supported by retail and catering facilities and a general tourist infrastructure.
In many cities the so-called secondary elements of shops and restaurants may well be the main attractions for certain groups of visitors.
All tourists visit cities with definite expectations of its sights and attractions. The urban tourists can be distinguished from other visitors by two criteria, their place of residence, situated outside the urban hinterland and their motives for visiting.
Tourism in large and historic cities is not a new trend for example; Paris, London and New York all have long-standing tourism industries. In India, Delhi, Agra, Mathura, Gwalior, Mussouri and Indore all have long-standing tourism industries.
While tourism was traditionally recognised in historic cities, within large cities and industrial centers. The significance of tourism had been neglected until 1980s; since then it has been perceived as having important roles in economic and environmental improvements.
Urban tourism has strong international dimensions relating to the transfer of ideas. The ideas behind using tourism as a spur to economic and environmental regeneration were initially experimented in North America.
Tourism was selected because it was a growth industry, provided jobs and could lead to environmental improvements. The idea was that the visitors will be attracted to the city, thus generating income and jobs.
Moreover, as tourism develops, new facilities will help create a better urban environment, some of the benefits of which will be passed on to local residents and there will be a general improvement in the image of the city to potential investors.