Tourist Through Anthropologist’s Glasses

Scholars said anthropology is the study of humanity, which seek to understand and explain how human societies work. Therefore, unlike tourism practitioner who generally agree with United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) that understood tourism as the activities of person travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure business and other purposes. Tourism anthropologists have slightly looking the definition tourism through its deeper meaning and not merely seen it as an industry or set of a related industry. But, they also look tourism as a complex set of social phenomena or known as anthropological tourism system. The picture below illustrates their thinking.

Anthropological Tourism System by Burns, P. (2003). An introduction to tourism and anthropology


 As result, tourism anthropologists have commented that tourism as a form of escaping or pleasure-seeking and allow for a systematic study of tourist motivation from a social science perspective. In practical, they are more looking or interesting to know what makes Eifel Tower (the primary tourist attraction in Paris, France) draw so much attention for tourist around the world when visiting Paris.

Moreover, anthropologically, tourist as the actor of the tourism system, can be categorized. Tourist is known as those that travel for a day or less (excursionist) or those that travel overnight or longer. The tourist’s categorization or typologies introduce by Cohen in his work titled “who is tourist” that published at sociological review in 1974, was differentiate a tourist into four (4) types such as (1) organized mass tourist, (2) individual mass tourist, (3) explorer, (4) drifter. Please see the picture below for the details of tourist’s natures.

Cohen’s Tourist Types


Interestingly, most of BINUSIAN 2022 Tourism Department do not prefer to be categorized as organized mass tourist, which tend to follow the mainstream “holiday package” offered by a tour and travel provider.

Instead, they are more like explorer type of tourist as it can be seen from their feedback as below when they’ve been asked to describe their self as tourist for example from VONNY CHINTYA (2201771614):

“When I go on vacation I usually visit famous places that I usually see on the internet or from the advice of friends or family. Go take pictures, visit the museum, try the local food (culinary), and shopping. I always go with my family. But I will try to find time and invite my friends. Actually, I’d like to go with my friends because as teenager i think we will have same taste of place (not all). I go on vacation (with my family) usually on semester break or holidays (Christmas, Eid). I prefer where it’s mixed with local culture or maybe the beach, forest. But it is quite difficult to unite me and my family because they have different interests and desires but my father has the same interests with me. My reason is because, I like to know new cultures. Seeing something different from what I used to see, adding to my knowledge as well and that was very fun. Besides that, the beach is a pretty good place especially at the sunset hours. But not with my mother and other family members. My mother prefers a cold place and she is getting older now, so she can get tired easily when walking a lot. I prefer to set my own schedule instead of having to tour package and want to try visit a place that maybe not too many people know. I also like to enjoy something that about culture
How i get there, of course with plane, car, walk, or use the public transport”.  

Next, EILEN PANJAYA (2201788653):

“How do I describe myself as a tourist? Well, I usually find myself going to other places in my leisure time especially when it’s holiday time are for relaxing, go buy some books, hunting for food, sightseeing, meeting some of my relatives and also do a medical check-up. I usually spending my holiday time with my family and my friends. It’s depending on my purposes to go there. If it’s for doing a medical check-up or meeting my relatives, I often go there with my parents. But if my purposes to go there are for buying new books, sightseeing, relaxing and hunting for food, I often do it with my friends, or even alone. I usually go for a holiday whenever I have the time and money to do it. But I would go for, twice or maybe thrice a year? As long as I know that it’s time for me to breathe and go out from my usual environment, then I would go for a holiday. The places I prefer to visit on holiday, well, I’m gonna say, it’s all depending on my purposes to go for holidays. But, whenever I arrived at new cities or countries, the first thing I would always look for is the bookstore in that place. As for why I go where I go, the main purpose is for relaxing, of course. Let’s put Singapore in the context. I usually go to Singapore by Ferry and I always go there to buy new books and sightseeing. It is so much fun to just walk around in Singapore by foot, not knowing where you are and just to see the surroundings around you. As long as the destination can be reached by foot, I would prefer to go there by foot. The pleasure of walking on foot and seeing everything from the short distance can’t be described by words. Even though my legs might be sore from walking, but I do think it is worth it.”


Additionally, drifter tourist’s type was also matching with their preference. It proves through this feedback from ENGGAR NILAM PRASTIANA PUTRI (2201763064):

I love to travel since i was kid i had sense of adventure. just going around the next bend on my bicycle to see what was there. I have loved the adventure of travel the unknown, something different, something new. I take every holiday as an opportunity to taste different food or different places, feeling like an explorer discovering a new land new language and all the little challenges that go along with it. ……..people always ask how travel has changed me. If I look back at who I was before I began traveling and compare that to who I am now, I would have to say that travel has made me a better and more well-rounded person. I think travel makes everybody a more awesome person. We end our travels way better off than when we started”.

Thus, the response from SAMUEL ALEXANDER (2201792732):

“Curiosity, impulsiveness, and adventure are the things that push me to go on impromptu trips during weekends or holidays. Most of the time I go alone but sometimes I go with a friend or two, or with my girlfriend. I don’t like to plan my trips, so I usually just go whenever I want to even without considering the weather, day or night. I have no specific preferences on the kind of destinations I’m going. Sometimes I just ride my bike and then follow random strangers until I found an interesting spot. Sometimes my girlfriend just spelled a random destination name and then we’ll go there as soon as we can. Other days I hop on random buses or trains, disembarking on unknown places.
About two years ago, after my class was finished I got into a random APTB bus without knowing where it will go to, I fell asleep until the driver woke me up and told me to pay and leave, it was on the roadside of a highway, after that I walked through a gate on the side of the highway into some kind of village. I bought a pack of cigarettes and a cup of black coffee, and then continued my journey on foot, looking for wider main roads. Then, I got on an Angkot trying to ask for directions from the driver only to find out that he could only speak Sundanese. Then, I found myself in a traditional market after following some passengers from the Angkot. The night came and I was in a mosque trying to ask for directions from the people around. Eventually, they let me sleep for the night in the mosque. The next day, I got on another random Angkot circling around until finally I recognized that I was in Bogor. So I asked the driver to bring me to the train station. I bought a train ticket and arrived home finding my family tried to contact the police worried about me, they thought I was lost or maybe kidnapped.  I also like to explore places that others considered spooky or haunted. Like last year my friends in Bandung showed me a photograph they took in Goa Belanda showing a shadowy being behind them. So I went there, alone, at 1 AM, on foot, from my dorm in Ciumbuleuit street. The park rangers asked me if I want them to accompany me during the trip, I said no thank you. With my smartphone as a flashlight, I went inside the cave, explored each of the hallways, sat in a room once used by the reality show Dunia Lain while smoking some cigarettes, tried to speak with anyone or maybe anything there. Bats, mosquitoes, and I. Eventually, something made me so scared that I ran to the gate as fast as I could, it was the park ranger’s dog. Damn. Although I like to travel unplanned, I never forget to bring these things with me; cigarettes, a lighter, and book. Because I like to read books in nature while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes”.

Well, a lesson learnt by understanding the tourist types might be translated by a tour and travel provider or those who’d like to offer a tour package to a market to think different than before. They should create a product that suits as many as tourist’s type as described earlier to reach a wider market and a more business.




Burns, P. (2003). An introduction to tourism and anthropology: Routledge.