Categories of activity

By Matt Burdett, 3 November 2017

On this page, we see how leisure activities can be classified into different categories, including the categorization of touristic activities (cost, duration, destination) and sporting activities (cost, popularity, site).

Ways of classifying tourist activities

Tourist activities are wide ranging, not least because the definition of tourism is any overnight stay outside a person’s usual environment. These activities can be classified according to the cost, duration and destination, as well as the purpose of the tourism, resources used, and the type of person engaging in the activity.

The diagram below shows a model of the relationship between distance, duration and cost. As the distance and duration increase, the cost of the trip is likely to increase too.

However, there are several reasons why this may not be so simple:

  • For people living in HICs, it is often cheaper to travel a long distance to a lower income country to take advantage of cheap hotels, food and activities
  • Some destinations are ‘hubs’, which can make them cheaper to travel to (such as a city with a major airport) but also making them popular, increasing the price of the hotel etc.
  • People taking longer trips, such as a three month trip to South East Asia, often save money by staying in lower quality accommodation and eating local food. Deliberate budgeting can make longer trips cheaper than a two-week holiday in an expensive resort.
  • When taking a longer trip, the travel time to the destination is only a very small part of the trip, and therefore makes up a lower proportion of the trip cost

These limitations of the model mean it’s important to take into account the type of tourism in terms of the activities that are done. There are several main types of tourism as shown in the diagram and explained further below.

Type: Business tourism

Definition: Travel for the purposes of work.

Characteristics: Often city-based, with workers staying in high quality hotels near their offices. Chain hotels are common (such as Mariott or Hyatt).

Type: MICE tourism

Definition: Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions tourism.

Characteristics: Very similar to business tourism, but with larger numbers of business people coming together for events.

Type: Leisure tourism

Definition: Travel for the purposes of enjoyment.

Characteristics: There are many types of leisure tourism, which can be split into mass tourism and niche tourism.

Type: Mass tourism

Definition: Tourist activities on a mass scale; many people engage in the same activity in the same location

Characteristics: The traditional relaxing ‘bucket and spade’ beach holiday (Spain, Thailand). Usually short-term e.g. one or two weeks. Families are well catered for. Hotels, restaurants and activities are usually offered in the tourist’s home language.

Type: Niche tourism

Definition: Tourist activities that are popular among a small group of people. Also known as specialised tourism.

Characteristics: Often deliberately aim to provide an experience beyond relaxation, such as engaging with a new culture, participating in voluntary work, or experiencing the natural environment. Other types include visiting historic sites, taking part in physical adventure activities (such as mountain climbing or scuba diving), or receiving medical care.

Primary and secondary tourist resources

A further way to classify tourism is through the type of resources that are used.

Primary tourist resources are those that exist, or originally existed, for non-tourist purposes. They were created for another purpose. Typical examples include the natural landscape (e.g. mountains, rainforests, coral reefs), and religious buildings (such as mosques and temples), defensive sites (castles, city walls).

Secondary tourist resources are those that were deliberately built to satisfy the needs of tourists. Examples include hotels, restaurants, and theme parks.

There can be some overlap between the two. For example, the Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong is on the site of a temple where religious ceremonies continue to be celebrated, so it can be considered a primary resource. However, it was built with visitors in mind including the creation of a ‘village’ below the statue to provide food and activities for tourists, so it can be considered a secondary resource too.

Ways of classifying sporting activities

Sporting activities and clubs can be classified in many ways, including cost, popularity, and the site required. Other ways include the participation (team, individual) and purpose of the activity (competitive, recreational, social, instructional) (Sport Risk, 2012).


High cost sports tend to involve large amounts of equipment, such as safety gear. They may also require large spaces of land, which can be expensive in high density urban environments. Low cost sports often involve little or no equipment, such as running or football.

However, any sport can become costly if taken seriously. Coaching, nutrition, travel to competitions, and payments to enter race can all significantly add to the cost of participating in any given sport.


Popularity can be viewed by either the number of people participating, or the number of people who are interested in the sport (including spectators, both in person and through mass media). The map below shows the most popular sport in each country (source: Chartsbin, 2014).

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Site may refer to the type or size of land required for a sporting activity. This is an important consideration especially in urban areas where land may be expensive. A small site on which many people can play is ideal in areas of high density – so football, netball, and similar team games are often found in cities.

Type of participation

Participation may be on an individual basis, a team basis, or a combination of both. However, the key way to differentiate these demands is by asking the simple question: is anyone else needed to participate? Football, volleyball and ice hockey are examples of sports where at least two players are required and ideally large numbers of players to form teams. Running, cycling, shotput and skiing are examples where individuals can still reach their potential even without team mates.

Purpose of activity

The purpose of the activity can be sub-categorised even further (Sport Risk, 2012).

  • Competitive: Is there a competitive nature to the sport? Most team games involve two teams playing against one another.
  • Recreational: Is the sport being played for enjoyment as a primary motivation, as opposed to playing to win a position in a league, or for payment?
  • Social: Is the sport a way to meet people and participate in a group activity? Most sports fit this category but some are more social than others – for example, hiking may be more social than running because participants can talk to each other during the activity.
  • Instructional: Is the sport being used to improve an aspect of physical or mental well-being? For example, some sports can be used to reduce pain or emotional problems.


Chartsbin, 2014. Most Popular Sports by Country Accessed 30th October 2017.

Sport Risk, 2012. Classifying Sport Clubs through Leadership, Education and Service. Accessed 30th October 2017.

Categories of Activity: Learning activities


  1. Briefly describe the relationship between duration, distance and cost. [2]
  2. Suggest reasons why this relationship is not straightforward. [2]
  3. Outline the differences between business tourism and leisure tourism. [2]
  4. Outline the differences between mass tourism and niche tourism. [2]
  5. Identify as many types of niche tourism as you can. [3]
  6. There is a castle on a hill in the centre of a city. It is visited by thousands of people each year. Is it a primary or secondary tourist resource? Explain your answer. [3]
  7. Distinguish between primary and secondary tourist resources. [2]
  8. Put the following activities into a table with two columns: primary or secondary tourist resources:
    1. Coral reefs [1]
    2. Mountain [1]
    3. Temple [1]
    4. Hotel [1]
    5. Castle [1]
    6. Airport [1]
    7. Rainforest [1]
    8. Museum [1]
    9. Restaurant [1]
  9. What are the three main factors by which sporting activities can be classified? [3]
  10. Suggest alternative ways to classify sporting activities. [2]

Other tasks

  1. On the graphs below showing the link between cost and duration, and cost and distance, add the following (based on your current location and personal preference regarding duration):
    1. Beach holiday
    2. Trip to the tropical rainforest to see gorillas
    3. Visiting a local castle
    4. Travelling to see a sporting event
    5. Going on a residential school theatre trip
    6. Trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp

  1. Using each scale below, identify where the sports in the list would be placed within your community (i.e. at the local scale). Remember that ‘popularity’ refers not just to participation but also to the level of general interest (including watching the sport).
    1. Football
    2. Tennis
    3. Golf
    4. Hiking
    5. Mountain biking
    6. Hockey
    7. Skiing

© Matthew Burdett, 2018. All rights reserved.

All secondary material on this site is clearly referenced and may be subject to copyright restrictions by the original authors. All original material on this page is subject to copyright.