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Despite the common beliefs that travel provides positive benefits to health, a considerable number of tourists experience ailments abroad. Tourism and health remain a neglected area in tourism research, and in high-altitude destinations it is nonexistent. This study explores the holistic concept of the travel health experience among foreign tourists in Tibet. A sample of 340 tourists who had visited Tibet responded to a survey that was administered employing convenience sampling in the Kathmandu Valley. The results showed, despite comprehensive pretravel anticipation among visitors to Tibet, the majority (9 out of 10) experienced some form of health ailments. The most common ailments were mountain sickness symptoms, diarrhea, and respiratory symptoms. The study also found several significant connections between the incidence of health ailments and travel motivation, level of knowledge and education, fitness level, and pretravel preparation. The study suggests that visitor education should be more holistic in its approach by considering all the possible factors that contribute to sickness in high altitude. The Tibet tourism authorities should provide a better health infrastructure and facilities as well as put special emphasis on educating the high-risk group of tourists. While tourism development in Tibet remains a low priority this is unlikely to take place, in which case travel agents or governments in tourist-generating countries may need to assume a greater role in providing critical health information for visitors to high-altitude destinations such as Tibet.

Keywords: Ailments; High altitude; Mountain sickness, Tibet; Travel health experience

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Tourism, University of Otago, New Zealand

Publication date: December 1, 2002

More about this publication?
  • Tourism Review International is a peer-reviewed journal that advances excellence in all fields of tourism research, promotes high-level tourism knowledge, and nourishes cultural awareness in all sectors of the tourism industry by integrating industry and academic perspectives. Its international and interdisciplinary nature ensures that the needs of those interested in tourism are served by documenting industry practices, discussing tourism management and planning issues, providing a forum for primary research and critical examinations of previous research, and by chronicling changing tourism patterns and trends at the local, regional and global scale.

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