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Tourist, Visitor, Traveler Or Fudgie: What Words Should We Use?

When I go SCUBA diving in the Caribbean, I go as a tourist. Or is that as a visitor? Or traveler?

The general public thinks a “tourist” is a leisure visitor. A “traveler” is thought to be somebody who is traveling – sometimes to other dimensions and periods of time. And a “visitor” is someone from out of town.

But the terminology is not always clear, and at times, can be downright confusing.

When I go on vacation to some far away destination, like diving along the shores of Bonaire in the Netherland Antilles, I’m obviously a tourist. But if I travel to beautiful Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-in-awe) – which I highly recommend, by the way – I would probably be referred to as a ‘fudgie’, an endearing term for visitors who buy tons of fudge from the dozen or so shops located in the island’s downtown core.

Back home, when I talk about the industry, it’s referred to as the “travel industry.” But when I speak about tourists, I use the word visitor. See how confusing things can get?

The top three reasons for travel include (and this is in order of why people travel):

  1. Visiting friends and/or family
  2. For business
  3. As a leisure visitor/vacationer

The word “visitor” easily encompasses all three categories without people thinking that “tourists” are only leisure visitors. In reality, anyone traveling 50 miles or further from their home and spending time in your community is technically a tourist. A visitor, in contrast, would include people from other communities perhaps just 25 miles away; the “out-of-towners.” Both are important, because when any of these folks spend money in your community, it’s a good thing!

Since tourism is about importing new cash into your community, offsetting the export of locally earned money spent elsewhere, you want as many “out-of-towners,” or “visitors” as you can possibly get to spend time and money in your downtown, at your attractions, and with your complementary activities (I’ll explain “complementary activities” in my next blog).

Since I’m on the road about 250 days a year, I could be termed a professional tourist. Yet I don’t really feel like a tourist because I’m working in your communities as a visitor. That term, visitor, just seems to fit all occasions and uses.

And by the way, locals often discover the place they live as a tourist. But once they become a resident, they want no more tourism. “Visitors” are always welcome, even if “tourists” are not. Using the term “visitor” is often a softer and more effective way to sell the tourism industry to locals.

Happy travels all you visitors!