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Encyclopedia > Free Independent Traveler


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Free Independent Traveler/Tourist (FIT)

With world travel market having undergone significant changes over the last few years a new type of tourist has emerged known as the Free Independent Traveler or Tourist (FIT). The definition is broad but tends to refer to people over 35, often, though not necessarily, of above average income who like to travel in small groups, usually couples. They eschew mass tourism and the holiday package concept promoted by Travel operators, in favour of a more individualistic approach to travel.

There are two implications to the idea of the Free Independent Traveler. One is important in the context of a marketing niche with a distinct economic behaviour whilst the other concentrates more on the philosophy of travel. This distinction can be summarised in how they are described. For the economic importance of tourism and for marketing purposes they are Free Independent Travelers (Upper case as they are an identifiable group within the market) whilst the people themselves are perhaps more attracted to the possibilities and lack of limitations in the concept of being a free, independent traveler.

Free Independent Travelers as an alternative movement

They tend to be environmentally aware, enjoy experiencing new ways of life and are enthusiastic, off the beaten track explorers practising for travel what the Slow Food Movement does for eating. They enjoy good food, architecture, and the heritage of local cultures. They tend to reject the traditional Package holiday model and even the Dynamic packaging system of doing things. People may garner information from a wide variety of sources or tips. The Guardian Newspaper’s ivebeenthere site or Lonely Planet's forum are all examples and represent the fundamental difference between the FIT and other types of travel that this is about sharing and passing on of ideas and knowledge in accordance with the much talked about Web 2.0. The FIT vacation is a custom built cocktail then with suggestions from friends, forums, speciality providers or others creating the idea around which the vacation is built. The FITs themselves are responsible for adding components in place of the traditional package operators. The rise of low cost airlines in the US and Europe has also increased the supply of alternative and lower cost short haul destinations fueling demand for these newly available markets. Southwest Airlines in the US, Ryanair and Easyjet in Europe and later Spanish, German and nationally orientated airlines grew up adding destinations and creating an internationally networked portfolio of air-routes delivering people to destinations that were not previously available at a commercial, international level. The Slow Food movement was created to combat fast food and claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an ecoregion. ... A package holiday or package tour consists of transport and accommodation advertised and sold together by a vendor known as a tour operator. ... A package holiday or package tour consists of transport and accommodation advertised and sold together by a vendor known as a tour operator. ... Web 2. ... Southwest Airlines, Inc. ... Ryanair (ISEQ: RYA, LSE: RYA, NASDAQ: RYAAY) is an Irish airline headquartered in Dublin. ... easyJet is a low cost airline officially known as easyJet Airline Company Limited, based at London Luton Airport. ...

The internet is fundamental to the rise of the FIT, offering them the suggestions, for example, of a good meal out in Rome from a fellow FIT, across the globe, who ate there last week.

Free Independent Travelers as an Economic Phenonenon

Here they are an important and growing sector in the market. Governments, regional tourist boards [1] and other public sectors responsible for tourism development try to attract them. Why? The basic principle is economics. FITs spread their money around in a more efficient fashion. Fifteen FITs will eat, sleep, snack, take a coffee, go to theatres/art shows/opera festivals/football games/rural villages in fifteen different locations and introduce their money in hundreds of different channels harnessing the power of Keynes’ multiplier effect in a much more efficient manner. Contrast this with a group tour of another 15 people run by Tour Operator 1 based in and delivering share-holder profit to Country A. Their tour to Country B is less efficient from an economic development point of view as the Tour Operator controls so many of the components in the chain. Also those 15 sleep in the same hotel and eat in the same restaurants ensuring that though their money stimulates the local economy it tends to do so in a less than optimally efficient manner.


Merrill Lynch 4th Quarter Internet/E-commerce Report

The Economist, June 1st, 2002.

Tourism Trends for Europe/European Travel Commission September 2006



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