Primary and Secondary Tourist Resources

By Matt Burdett, 7 November 2017

On this page, we look at the differences between primary and secondary tourist resources, and how they vary between rural and urban areas.


  • Hangzhou, China: The Liangzhu Museum, a secondary tourist resource, is built on the rural-urban fringe of Hangzhou on the site of the discovery of many of the exhibits of ancient local culture.

Defining primary and secondary tourist resources

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), religious buildings (such as mosques and temples), and 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.

If the main attraction is a primary resource then secondary resources such as hotel accommodation and transport infrastructure will be required for the growth of tourism in a location.

Tourist resources in urban areas

Primary tourist resources in urban areas are often focused in the Central Business District (CBD). The CBD is usually the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by newer areas of housing. Since most CBDs were built before the modern age of tourism, many attractions were built to satisfy local needs. Examples include cathedrals, bridges, libraries, museums, restaurants, defensive sites such as castles, and parks. These were later adopted as tourist attractions.

Secondary tourist resources in urban areas are often deliberately more spaced throughout the urban area. This is because they were built more recently and with tourists in mind. City planners often try to spread tourism out around the city, rather than allow it to focus on just one location. The CBD may still have a significant number of secondary resources such as hotels, tourist restaurants and guided bus tours. Other secondary tourist resources may be found in other areas including on the rural-urban fringe (the edge of the city), such as adventure theme parks, country park hotels and more modern museums (such as the Liangzhu Museum in China, pictured above).

Tourist resources in rural areas

In rural areas it’s common to find the entire natural landscape is the primary tourist resource, even if it is heavily modified by humans through farming, mining, forestry and settlement. There are also human-built primary tourist resources such as castles, stately homes, ancient ruins (such as Stonehenge, pictured below),


  • Amesbury, United Kingdom: Stonehenge is a primary tourist resource in a rural area. It is a collection of stones placed in a circular formation approximately 5000 years ago.

Secondary tourist facilities in rural areas generally form into three types:

  • Facilities that require very large areas of land, such as Disney-style theme parks or long distance footpaths
  • Those that are built around primary tourist resources and help to manage the demands made by the number of tourists, such as cafes, souvenir shops, car parks and hotels


No specific secondary sources were used to write this page.

Primary and Secondary Tourist Resources: Learning activities


  1. Distinguish between primary and secondary tourist resources. [2]
  2. Describe where most primary tourist resources are found in
    1. Rural areas? [2]
    2. Urban areas? [2]
  3. Suggest reasons for the distribution of secondary tourist resources in urban areas. [2+2]
  4. Suggest reasons for the distribution of secondary tourist resources in urban areas. [2+2]

Other tasks

For your local area, outline the main primary and secondary tourist resources and explain their distribution.

© 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.