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The current role of sociological research in tourism planning and skilling

Sociology of tourism studies the relationships, roles and motivations of tourists and the ongoing exchanges between tourists, institutions and host communities. It helps us to understand the social and cultural dimensions of tourism, the impact of tourism on people and places, and the potential of tourism as a tool for social and economic development and social justice.

The impact of sociological research on the enhancement of tourism skills

Sociological research can have a significant impact on the updating of skills in the tourism sector by providing valuable insights into the social dynamics, trends, and challenges within the industry. Here’s how this research can influence skills development:

  1. Identifying Emerging Trends: Sociological studies help in identifying emerging trends and changes in consumer behaviour, cultural preferences, and societal values. This information is crucial for updating skills to meet the evolving demands of tourists.
  2. Understanding Cultural Sensitivity: Tourism often involves interactions with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Sociological studies can shed light on cultural nuances, helping professionals develop skills in cultural sensitivity, communication, and understanding.
  3. Addressing Social Issues: Sociological studies may uncover social issues within the tourism sector, such as inequality, discrimination, or environmental concerns. Updating skills may involve incorporating training on ethical and sustainable practices to address these issues.
  4. Enhancing Customer Service: Insights from sociological studies can contribute to improving customer service by understanding the social factors that influence tourist satisfaction.
  5. Promoting Inclusive Practices: Sociological research may highlight disparities in the tourism sector. Skill development initiatives can then focus on promoting inclusivity and diversity, ensuring that professionals are equipped to cater to a broad range of tourists.
  6. Adapting to Technological Changes: Sociological studies may indicate the impact of technology on travel patterns and preferences.
  7. Improving Community Engagement: Sociological studies often explore the relationship between tourism and local communities. Skill updates can include training in community engagement, responsible tourism, and strategies to minimize negative impacts on local cultures.
  8. Preparing for Crisis Management: Sociological studies may reveal potential social or political challenges in certain destinations. Skill development can include crisis management training to prepare professionals for unexpected situations and ensure tourist safety.

What are the most common difficulties when carrying out sociological research on tourism?

  1. Lack of multidisciplinary approach

There is a need for many more multidisciplinary studies in which sociologists can bring the insights of their discipline to bear on the study of aspects of the tourism phenomenon. There is a clear need for research into the social carrying capacity of destinations; work that needs to be closely linked to community-based models of tourism planning and the ‘limits of acceptable change’. research into mechanisms of community involvement in the planning process. Indeed, although much has been written about why community empowerment is important, much less has been written about how to do it.

  1. Inability to compare tourism statistics from different sources

The main difficulty in measuring the level of tourism demand is the fundamental incomparability of tourism statistics. This incomparability exists not only when attempting to compare data from different nations, but also creates problems when regions, provinces, states or cities within a country attempt to compare data on tourism demand with each other. Differences in the definitions of tourists and visitors, as well as differences in data collection methods, complicate the comparison of data and statistical analysis.

  1. Economists’ excessive prominence

Quantifying the socio-economic costs and benefits of tourism requires the combined efforts of sociologists and economists.


Role of digital technology in sociological research on tourism

Technology plays a crucial role in sociological research on tourism, offering new tools and methods that enhance the study of social phenomena. Here are several ways in which technology serves as an instrument in sociological research:

  1. Data Collection:

Surveys and Questionnaires Online: Technology allows researchers to design and distribute surveys and questionnaires online, reaching a broader and more diverse audience; and of large amounts of data in a relatively short time.

Social Media Analysis:  Social media mining tools help identify patterns, sentiments and trends

  1. Big Data Analysis:

Data Mining: Advanced analytics tools enable researchers to mine large datasets for patterns and trends that may not be immediately apparent. Techniques such as machine learning can be applied to analyze vast amounts of data, helping researchers identify correlations, predict trends, and understand complex social processes.

  1. Qualitative Research:

Online Interviews and Focus Groups: Technology facilitates virtual interviews and focus groups, allowing researchers to connect with participants regardless of geographical distances.

Spatial Analysis: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology helps researchers map and analyze spatial patterns of social phenomena. This is particularly useful in studying issues related to urbanization, migration, and social inequality.

Experimental Research: Technology enables the creation of virtual environments for experimental studies. Researchers can manipulate variables and observe social behaviors in controlled digital settings.

Archival Research: Technology has digitized many archival resources, making historical documents, newspapers, and other records easily accessible for sociological research. This facilitates the study of long-term social trends.

Communication Platforms: Technology provides avenues for researchers to engage with study participants, disseminate findings, and interact with the broader academic community.



The application of sociology in tourism is crucial, hence the need The sociologist of tourism plays a vital role in facilitating collaborative partnerships that support destination management. The absence of this professional figure can hinder the creation of tourism districts or systems, or to prevent tourism skills from developing and improving.


This blog is written by Javier Cansinos Cabello, Ruraltour – The European Federation of Rural Tourism







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