Unlocking the Enigma: Unveiling Cohen’s Tourist Classifications for Unraveling the Traveler’s Mind

According to Cohen, tourists can be classified into four categories: the organized mass tourist, the individual mass tourist, the explorer, and the drifter. These classifications are based on the tourists’ motivations, behaviors, and preferences during their travel experiences.

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According to Cohen’s classification, tourists can be categorized into four distinct types based on their motivations, behaviors, and preferences during their travel experiences. These categories are: the organized mass tourist, the individual mass tourist, the explorer, and the drifter.

  1. Organized Mass Tourist: This type of tourist seeks a hassle-free travel experience and is typically part of a large group or package tour. They often rely on organized itineraries, predetermined destinations, and a structured travel schedule. Organized mass tourists are interested in popular attractions and often prefer familiar and comfortable accommodations and amenities. They might prioritize activities that provide them with a sense of security and minimize uncertainties during their journey.

  2. Individual Mass Tourist: Unlike the organized mass tourist, this category includes individuals who prefer to travel independently but still follow well-established routes and itineraries. They seek a balance between structured activities and personal freedom. Individual mass tourists often make use of guidebooks or online resources to plan their trips. They are open to exploring popular attractions but may also seek out unique experiences and local culture during their travels.

  3. Explorer: Explorers are enthusiastic travelers who actively seek out novelty and adventure in their journeys. They often seek destinations that are off the beaten path and prefer to immerse themselves in the local culture, traditions, and lifestyle. Explorers place a higher value on authenticity and meaningful experiences rather than convenience or comfort. They are willing to step out of their comfort zone, take risks, and engage in more adventurous activities.

  4. Drifter: Drifters are the least structured and most independent type of tourist. They tend to have a spontaneous approach to travel, often moving from one place to another without a fixed itinerary or specific goals. Their main objective is to experience a sense of freedom and escape from the regular routines of life. Drifters often embrace a nomadic lifestyle and may engage in spontaneous interactions and activities with locals and fellow travelers they encounter along the way.

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Quote: “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.” – Paul Theroux

Interesting facts related to tourism classifications:

  1. Cohen’s classification system was developed in the 1970s and is considered one of the pioneering attempts to categorize tourists based on their behavior.
  2. The classification acknowledges that individuals may exhibit characteristics of multiple tourist types, and their preferences may change over time.
  3. Different tourist types may have varying impacts on destinations, with mass tourists often contributing to overcrowding and environmental concerns, while explorers and drifters may have a lighter footprint and support lesser-known destinations.
  4. Understanding tourist classifications can help tourism planners, marketers, and businesses tailor their offerings to cater to the specific needs and desires of different tourist segments.


Tourist Type Characteristics Motivations
Organized Mass Tourist Part of large groups, structured travel Convenience, familiar experiences
Individual Mass Tourist Independent yet follow established routes Blend of structure and personal freedom
Explorer Seek novelty and adventure, offbeat destinations Authenticity, meaningful experiences
Drifter Spontaneous, nomadic, no fixed itinerary Freedom, escape from routine

See the answer to your question in this video

In this YouTube video, the narrator explores the different types of tourists found around the world. Two key typologies are discussed – one developed by Eric Cohen and another by Stanley Plog. Cohen’s typology categorizes tourists into categories such as drifters, explorers, individual mass tourists, and organized mass tourists. On the other hand, Plog’s typology classifies tourists as allocentric, psychocentric, or mid-centric. The video also delves into other types of tourists, including domestic tourists, international tourists, sustainable tourists, ethical tourists, experiential tourists, adventure tourists, dark tourists, and cultural tourists. It also touches upon the types known as eco-tourists, medical tourists, religious tourists, and business tourists. The speaker also addresses the ongoing debate between being a tourist and a traveler.

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See more answers I found

Cohen (1972), a sociologist of tourism, classifies tourists into four types, based on the degree to which they seek familiarity and novelty: the drifter, the explorer, the individual mass tourist, and the organized mass tourist. Table 1 depicts the characteristics of these four types.

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