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A Dictionary of Travel and Tourism


This dictionary provides definitions of terminology and ‘decodes’ acronyms and abbreviations for the world’s largest industry. It is the only source of explanations of many industry technical terms and is particularly rich in its coverage of travel agency jargon. It is also the only source of many obsolete names, knowledge of which is essential for understanding of older textbooks, newspaper articles, and research papers. The comprehensive list of web addresses makes it a crucial and invaluable research and reference source for students and practitioners of statistics, many associations, trade bodies, and other voluntary organizations.

Containing many descriptive articles on travel and tourism concepts, this dictionary covers a wide range of topics in great depth. Where comprehensive information is readily accessible from the Internet, web access points have been detailed, sometimes in the text and also in the comprehensive website list. These web addresses are particularly important in respect of tourism information about countries; if readers seek data about any particular country, locate the country name and then access the appropriate web site.

This dictionary expands on Allan Beaver’s work in volume 3 of his encyclopaedic book, Mind Your Own Travel Business; but to indicate the coverage of the present book, it is first necessary to indicate the intended parameters. The UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has, in recent years, benchmarked degree courses, identifying the characteristics of programmes in specific subjects and the learning outcomes to be expected. These are detailed in Appendix I. Having specified that a typical honours graduate should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the stated areas, this dictionary has been designed to support the learning process in those subjects. Despite the wide-ranging nature and variety of tourism courses, the intention is that this dictionary should be appropriate to the needs of all those courses. It is important to state clearly that this book is mainly limited to tourism terminology used in the English-speaking world. Many non-English words are used by tourism practitioners in Britain, North America, and Australasia, hence, not all the words explained are English.

The accent in this dictionary is on the definitions themselves. Many tourism dictionaries include substantial listings of the organizations in the field with contact information. The entries in this dictionary provide quick access information alongside links to recommended websites on the subject or organization. It does not cover words or phrases relating to the culture or geography of travel destinations. The British GNVQ (General National Vocational Qualification) in this field included studies of both leisure and tourism but, at the advanced level, tourism and leisure are separate subjects.

There is a thin borderline between travel and tourism, and environmental studies; most of the latter have been omitted. However, environmental sustainability is now part of tourism courses and the main terminology is repeated in this text for the convenience of users. There is no attempt to include definitions of words which, although they can be applied to tourism, are not specific to it. The book you are now reading is restricted to decoding and explaining words that are particular to tourism. Thus, most business terminology in general and marketing jargon in particular has been omitted as these are not tourism specific.

Another grey area, when deciding what to include, concerns technical transportation terminology. Readers should not, for example, look in this book for an explanation of all of the parts of an aircraft engine, train, or ship, although an attempt has been made to cover basic nomenclature. Furthermore, tourism is specific to people rather than goods; so no aspects of the carriage of goods are covered. The acronyms for terms that are technical jargon outside the scope of this dictionary are included to enable their identification but a specialist dictionary must be consulted to provide definitions. Such acronym decoding is followed by the area to be consulted, for example ‘aviation term’. So what is included?

Operating language of the providers (the industry) of tourism services

The travel and tourism industry is very diverse, not merely limited to the providers of hospitality and transport by road, rail, air, and sea. There are also a huge number of ancillary services such as the provision of car rental, travel insurance, passports and visa services, health requirements, foreign currency and travellers’ cheques, as well as the information services provided by national and local tourist boards and guiding services. There are organizations known as tour operators that package several of these services together and sell these either directly to consumers or via intermediaries. Travel agents, the retailers of the industry, are in competition with newer intermediaries, communicating with consumers via the Internet, telephone, digital cable television, or a combination of these. The Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and national travel computer reservation systems provide services to all the organizations mentioned so far. Each of these fields has an operating language. The words may have only a descriptive function or may set a specific standard.


The dictionary explains where and why the qualitative and quantitative definitions differ. The latter are used for measuring tourism while the former are valuable because they are descriptive of the phenomenon of tourism. This dictionary explains the evolutionary nature of tourism definitions, and attention is drawn to alternative definitions found in textbooks. An explanation is given of why many have been superseded and recommendations for the most appropriate definition are justified.

Acronyms and abbreviations

This is a problem area for new entrants to tourism. Even the headlines in the trade press or titles of papers in tourism journals are a complete mystery without the ability to decode them. Many acronyms are of organizations. The worldwide nature of tourism means that the names of the trade bodies, official and regulatory bodies, are from many countries. The major providers of hospitality and transport by road, rail, air, and sea are all international, and the letters that stand for their names are meaningless to the uninitiated. Each area of travel and tourism has its own set of acronyms; this book decodes 350 International Air Transport Association (IATA) acronyms not previously generally available.


Often, various sources offer different meanings for the same word. This dictionary covers the alternatives, and when appropriate, it discusses their merits and suggests definitions for general adoption. An acronym or word may also have entirely different senses, not necessarily obvious from the context. These alternative senses are indicated by 1. preceding the first sense; 2. before the second sense and so on.

Information Technology terms

Technological change has caused a revolution in the way the tourism product is distributed to the travelling public. Many large dictionaries of technical and computer terminology have been published and it has not been the intention to compete with these works. Nevertheless, some technical computer terms are commonly used in the travel industry and for the convenience of users of this book, an explanation of the basic ones has been included.

Control language

There are a large number of government, official, and trade bodies that lay down laws, rules, and regulations applicable to travel and tourism; this dictionary identifies these bodies and their functions, and includes their associated terminology.

Brand names

These are liberally strewn throughout the travel business like confetti, without any indication of the associated organization. For example, most airlines have clubs with a brand name and frequent flyer schemes, often with a different brand name. The airlines may be affiliated with alliances such as Star Alliance or OneWorld. This dictionary identifies the main organizations associated with these brand names.

Accuracy of definitions

The travel and tourism industry changes rapidly, in response to consumers’ needs and technological advances, particularly in information technology. This dictionary aims to be correct up to nine months before its publication date. However, some seminal papers and books on many aspects of tourism were published many years ago; to understand them, it is necessary to be able to ‘decode’ the acronyms, brand names, and expressions that were current at those times. A selection of these obsolete terms has been included, identified as such.


All Internet search engines sell their services, which results in high ranking following a user search for those who have paid for preferment. In the travel and tourism field, this means that searches involving key words often result in commercial organizations appearing first, with the sought-after organization thousands of results behind. The comprehensive listing of website addresses that accompany this dictionary make it a crucial and invaluable research and reference source for students and practitioners of statistics, many associations, trade bodies, and other voluntary organizations. Registration has taken place for ‘dot travel’ Internet addresses. As there were a huge number of travel websites, it was felt that instead ending with ‘dot com’, or in the case of Britain,’ dot co dot uk’, they should all end in dot travel. Despite massive advertising, coercion, and persuasion during recent years, very few travel organizations have changed their URLs. However, this may change.

Definitions preceded by ‘The 2003 CEN/European Standard official definition is’ are indicative of wording published by the British Standards Institute on behalf of CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) and is the European Grouping of National Standards Institutes. CEN members are the national standards bodies in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. Committee 329 was established in 1996 and is concerned with tourism and travel and; it agreed to set up two working groups to create and agree standard terminology and associated definitions. Tourism is inherently diverse; laws, customs, and practices vary so widely in each country that agreeing internationally acceptable definitions was always likely to be difficult.

The letters (WTO TM) after a definition indicate that the source is the series of World Tourism Organization Technical Manuals (subsequently, the name was changed to UNWTO) Concepts, Definitions and Classifications for Tourism Statistics; Collection of Tourism Expenditure Statistics; Collection of Domestic Tourism Statistics and Collection and Compilation of Tourism Statistics. References to the WTO Thesaurus relate to the World Tourism Organisation and Secretariat of State for Tourism of France (2001), Thesaurus on Tourism and Leisure Activities.

North American and European differences

It is a particular aim of this dictionary to identify differences each side of the Atlantic, in the meanings of many of the words or phrases defined. The author is not aware of any other publication that has covered the differences in industry and travel professionals’ usage, although many have covered the differences in everyday language, which are outside the scope of this dictionary.


The background spelling is British usage but US Acts, organizations, and purely American terms follow American usage. It is hoped that readers will find this consistent.

Cross references

Informal cross-references that occur naturally in the text are indicated with an asterisk set close up to the entry point word. Only the first mention of the term in an entry is asterisked, and the form of the term may not follow the headword exactly, although it will be recognizable. Formal cross-references mainly use see, directing readers to another entry for the information sought; see also is used at the end of the text when the reader is directed to another entry for additional related information that may be of interest.

Disclaimer: no responsibility is accepted by the author or publisher for any errors that may have inadvertently arisen. Users are particularly recommended to check with appropriate sources, information critical to their travel arrangements.

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