Events have become central to special interest tourism (SIT), catering to travellers with specific passions and interests. From music festivals and sports championships to cultural celebrations and professional conferences, these events attract visitors globally, highlighting the evolving nature of tourism and underscoring the economic and social impacts on host destinations.

Author: Johanna Heinonen

The Uniqueness of Special Interest Tourism

Special interest tourism is a gateway to unique, immersive experiences that not only entertain but also inspire and educate. Unlike mass tourism, which often revolves around sightseeing and general leisure activities, SIT is about deeply connecting with a specific interest or hobby. Events, with their structured environments, are perfect for such deep engagements (Getz & Page 2016). They offer participants a chance to not just indulge their passions but also to learn new skills and form connections with like-minded individuals. This transformative potential, with its emphasis on personal growth and learning, is a key driver for the rising popularity of event-based SIT, sparking new ideas and possibilities for the future of tourism.

One of the most captivating aspects of events in SIT is their power to create vibrant cultural exchanges and nurture a sense of community. Events like music and art festivals are a magnet for diverse groups, fostering a rich environment of cultural interaction. These gatherings serve as melting pots, where attendees can immerse themselves in different cultural expressions, traditions, and perspectives (Richards 2011). The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland and the Rio Carnival in Brazil are prime examples of events that draw international crowds, each bringing their cultural influences and contributing to a dynamic, multicultural atmosphere. These events not only provide entertainment but also play a significant role in promoting cultural understanding and appreciation, fostering a sense of belonging among attendees and nurturing a strong community spirit, thereby uniting people from different parts of the world in a shared cultural experience.

Economic Benefits and Community Development through Event Tourism

The economic impact of events as special interest tourism (SIT) is profound, generating substantial revenue for host cities or regions through tourist spending on accommodation, dining, transportation, and other services. Large-scale events like the Olympic Games significantly boost local economies through immediate spending and long-term infrastructure investments (Preuss 2019). Even smaller events, such as food and wine festivals, create considerable economic opportunities for local businesses (Felsenstein & Fleischer 2003). Moreover, events are crucial in destination marketing and branding, enhancing a destination’s global visibility and reputation. High-profile events can establish a destination as a hub for specific types of tourism, such as Cannes with its film festival and Munich with Oktoberfest (Mossberg & Getz 2006). Additionally, events foster community engagement and development, with local communities playing vital roles in organising and supporting events. This involvement enhances social capital and can lead to local development projects that improve infrastructure and public services, leaving lasting legacies for host cities. By involving the community in event planning, their contributions are recognized and valued, making them feel integral to the success of the event and the development of their local area.

Sustainability and Adaptation in Event Tourism

The rise of events as special interest tourism (SIT) brings challenges, particularly environmental impacts like waste management, carbon emissions, and resource consumption. Sustainable waste reduction, energy efficiency, and materials are essential (Mair & Laing 2013).

Cultural commodification is another concern, as local traditions risk being commercialised, potentially diluting authenticity. Balancing tourist expectations with cultural preservation requires engaging local communities in planning and ensuring equitable tourism benefits (Ning 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic forced many events to adapt by transitioning to virtual or hybrid formats, expanding their reach and allowing global participation without travel (Sigala 2020).

Technological advancements and personalisation trends will likely shape future SIT events. Technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can enhance event experiences with immersive elements (Neuhofer et al. 2014). Personalisation will lead to events catering more to niche interests and demographics, offering tailored experiences (Pine & Gilmore 1999).

Contextualising Events as SIT within the EKTAK Project and LAB Course

The EKTAK (South Karelia Event Cluster) project by the LAB University of Applied Sciences exemplifies special interest tourism (SIT) by enhancing South Karelia’s regional event cluster through stakeholder collaboration, improved event management, and sustainability. It aims to create engaging events that highlight the region’s cultural, natural, and historical assets, attracting specific interest tourists. (LAB 2024a)

Emphasising community involvement, the EKTAK project ensures cultural authenticity and economic benefits by engaging local businesses, artists, and residents, fostering ownership, pride, and social capital. Complementing this, LAB University offers a course on Special Interest Tourism, providing students with practical skills in event management, destination marketing, and sustainable practices (LAB 2024b). This synergy between the EKTAK project and the LAB course illustrates how academic programs and practical projects can advance SIT by integrating theoretical knowledge with real-world applications.

This collaboration helps build a robust SIT framework, ensuring events are well-planned, culturally authentic, and economically sustainable. As the tourism industry evolves, such initiatives are crucial for maintaining the vitality and enrichment of SIT, focusing on community engagement, sustainability, and innovative event management practices.


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Johanna Heinonen is a senior lecturer and RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences. In particular, the diverse development of tourism, digital communication, and customer experience are close to her heart. In the EKTAK project, she works as an RDI specialist and is responsible for the cooperation of educational institutions.

Illustration: (Pixabay Licence)

Reference to this article

Heinonen, J. 2024. Events as Special Interest Tourism: A Dynamic and Evolving Landscape. LAB Pro. Cited and the date of citation. Available at