This paper will try to outline, on the basis of the existing international literature and figures, the general trends in contemporary tourism. International tourism is nowadays undergoing an epochal transformation due to cultural, economic and technological factors, in close interaction with globalization, that has accelerated the transition from closed to open systems, from fixity to mobility, from isolation to interdependence. Hence comes the desire of the contemporary individual to belong to a socio-cultural system that is wider than local or national ones, and therefore to broaden his horizons through the experience of different realities, cultures and territories: in one word, with the "other". Such an experience becomes possible primarily through the practice of tourism. One of the main features of contemporary tourism is the increasing segmentation of the demand, in terms of income, age, consumptions, habits, origin of the flows, educational levels, motivations, attitudes. Analysts agree, moreover, that the world demand for tourism will further diversify in the medium and long terms. Supply, therefore, is moving towards an increasing customization: on the one hand, new types of tourism arise and develop; on the other hand, new destinations emerge for the traditional types. All of this gave rise to a cultural shift from the consolidated “4 S” paradigm to the newly coined “4 E” one. The causes can be technological (increased accessibility due to the development of transport networks), motivational (search for alternative destinations), but also geopolitical (e.g., the collapse of Soviet Union and communism in Eastern Europe and the subsequent opening of the borders – and of the markets - to inbound and outbound tourism). Therefore a growing number of destinations, that just a few years ago were left out of the tourism market because lacking of major tourist attractions, or peripheral to mainstream tourist routes, or difficult to access due to geopolitical reasons, are now experiencing a growing reputation and a promising development through a combination of effective promotion and increased accessibility. Another feature of contemporary tourism is the strict interdependence – higher than in the past - with environmental, sanitary, political, economic crises, which can heavily affect global tourist flows by restricting them or redistributing them towards other destinations. On the other hand, it can be argued that tourism has a “short memory”: statistical evidence shows that in many cases it took just a few years for the pre-event conditions to restore. It should be stressed, lastly, the growing importance of the Internet for the tourism, which is proving to be one of the most dynamic economic sectors in adopting ICT innovations, and is becoming a real model of e-business. For Internet users it is absolutely obvious to plan and buy tourist products on the Net, which is revolutionising purchase habits and confining traditional channels to a marginal role.
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