Drive tourism: A view from the road
The nature of self-drive tourism is changing globally. In countries where privately owned vehicles have long been a popular choice of tourism transport, increased access to low-cost airfares and increased costs of vehicle maintenance and fuel have been critical influences. Holyoak et al. (2009) documented the shift in Australia, for example, from a market dominated by tourists ‘in transit’ – using the vehicle simply as the most convenient mode of transport between the origin and the destination – to one where the use of the vehicle was more central to the enjoyment of the trip as a whole. Consequently, self-drive tourism research is now beginning to pay more attention to four-wheel-drive travel (Taylor and Carson, this volume, Chapter 17; Prideaux and Coghlan, this volume, Chapter 18), caravanning (van Heerden, this volume, Chapter 6; McClymont et al., this volume, Chapter 16), motorcycling (Walker, this volume, Chapter 12) and other subsets of the market where the vehicle itself is embraced as a core attribute of the tourism experience, rather than as a necessary evil of transport. In countries where vehicle ownership is only now becoming widespread (Yu et al., this volume, Chapter 8; du Cros and Ong, this volume, Chapter 9, which highlight the case of China), whole new types of tourism experiences are being made possible, free from the constraints of scheduled mass transit. The use of the vehicle as conspicuous consumption reflects the rise of new middle classes who want to purchase tourism as part of a confirmation of their new place in a wider world than they previously accessed. It must also be noted that in a number of markets, including China, India, Eastern Europe and South America, self-drive tourism has emerged after the development of low-cost air travel. The development of the self-drive market in these countries will not take the same path as in North America, Europe and Australasia, where the mass ownership of cars pre-dated access to low-cost air travel.