12. Tourism, leisure and genuine urban cultures
In the last 50 years, tourism has had a massified growth at an average annual growth rate of 6.5%. As shown by several authors, this was possible due to a combination of numerous factors, that range from the political, economic and social reasons (consecutive and considerable gains in free time among the general population; increasing purchase power of the population of several economic strata, growing internationalization and globalization of economies) to the technological ones (increase in mobility, generalize use of ICT). Worth mentioning are also factors inherent to the tourist sector (development of tourist offer, increment of competitive production formulae, selling and promotion of tourist real estate developments and services, growing internationalization of a multitude of heritage resources in value chains of tourist products).
Tourism is presently one of the driving activities of the world economy and a key driver and facilitator of globalization. Economically speaking, the tourist sector has a total annual turnover of 1.2 billion international tourists, being responsible for 9% of the world gross product and employment, and 6% of the world exports.
The tourist market is global and characterized by the increase, diversification and innovation of offers and segmentation of demand. The tourist experience tends to gain centrality in the moment of decision making considering the tourist products and destinations. However, cities continue to be the foci of major tourist attractiveness, reinforced by the growth of low-cost airlines. Cities are also the stage of touristification processes with some meeting rehabilitation and enhancement of material and immaterial heritages and local identities, whereas others stress the loss of character of places and repeat the standardizing prescriptions of the global economy.