Travel TrendsChocolates or crystals? Airplanes or cars? Niche tourism products are finding new fans.

What's so cool about industrial tourism?

In its most popular form, winery tours can be considered as industrial tourism.
In its most popular form, winery tours can be considered as industrial tourism. Photo Credit: Gettyimages/monkeybusinessimages

You've marvelled at the museums, checked out the churches, strolled the shopping streets and taken a trip down the river. So, what’s next in designing the holiday of a lifetime?

A niche sector that’s gaining a lot of fans is industrial tourism – anything from cars to chocolate, perfume to planes, heavy industry to light engineering.

Factory tours, industrial museums and brand visitor centres can provide an insight into manufacturing heritage and cutting-edge technology.

“Industrial tourism is a class of tourism less traditional than the typical sun-sea-sand offering, but provides a niche product with an increasingly dedicated following,” according to Tourism Industry Advisors (TRA) senior director Benjamin Rhatigan.

What is industrial tourism?

Industrial tourism revolves around visiting destinations or locations that are associated with industrial production, either past or current. In its most popular form, winery tours can be considered as industrial tourism.

Why travel agents should have industrial tourism in their sights

“As tourism and itineraries become more bespoke and personalised industrial tourism offers a viable alternative for travellers seeking options beyond traditional categories of tourism like beaches or skiing,” says TRA’s Rhatigan.

In Germany, BMW Welt offers tours behind the scenes and explains the complex logistics of delivering automobiles to customers.
In Germany, BMW Welt offers tours behind the scenes and explains the complex logistics of delivering automobiles to customers. Photo Credit: BMW Welt

Also, industrial tourism is generally less dependent on the elements and may even be a more enjoyable experience in the off-season.

And it can appeal across multiple segments – individuals who are not interested in an ocean cruise, those focused on culture and education, school groups, or seniors looking for something different.

What’s in it for less well-known destinations

Rhatigan says, “Industrial tourism can bring substantial benefit to a region, for example by providing a tourism offer in destinations where one currently does not exist, highlighting a region’s star products, attracting a broader range of visitors, mitigating seasonality, and providing income for the preservation of the physical industrial assets.”

12 coolest industrial tourism hot spots

1. Cars and sake – Toyota, Japan
The town of Toyota in Japan – close to Nagoya - is the home of the Toyota Automobile Museum and an art museum. Toyota also offers several tours of factories making everything from beer and sake.

2. Steam and steel – Kawasaki, Japan
Sandwiched between Japan’s two largest cities, Tokyo and Yokohama – and largely ignored by tourists speeding between the two – Kawasaki is industrial junkie heaven. Night cruise pass LPG tanks, steel towers and steam power plants. The Japanese call it kōjō moe, "factory infatuation”.

3. BMW World / BMW Welt – Munich, Germany
At Bavaria’s most popular attraction, visitors can learn about the brand’s history and future; see BMW Group’s latest products in a state-of-the-art showroom; and discover Germany’s automotive heritage in the nearby museum.

4. Murano Glass Factory & Museo Vetrario – Murano, Venice, Italy
Several factories offer guided tours and glass-blowing demonstrations, including the traditional Murano Glass Factory. Tourists can also explore the Museo Vetrario – or the Museum of Glass – to learn about the history of Venetian glassmaking. 

5. Volkswagen Autostadt Factory & AutoMuseum – Wolfsburg, Germany
With up to 4,000 vehicles produced daily, visitors to the Autostadt site can witness a car being fully assembled in approximately two hours. In addition, the spectacular Car Towers is a 48-metre-tall glass structure designed to store brand new cars.

6. Guinness Storehouse – Dublin, Ireland
At the Storehouse visitors can discover the history of Guinness before enjoying a tasting session in one of the bars, with great views over the Dublin skyline.

7. Airbus Assembly & Aeroscopia Museum – Toulouse-Blagnac, France
Visitors can take a guided tour of the expansive Airbus final assembly plant before exploring the museum of aviation.

Airbus manufacturing facility in Toulouse, France.
Airbus manufacturing facility in Toulouse, France. Photo Credit: Xinyi Liang-Pholsena

8. Heineken Experience – Amsterdam, Holland
With an interactive tour through the former brewery of one of the world’s largest beer producers, the Experience showcases the brand’s history, brewing process, and technological innovations, culminating with a drink in the Heineken Museum bar.

9. Parfumerie Fragonard – Grasse, South of France
Constructed in 1782, a tour of the historic Fragonard factory demonstrates perfume production while taking in the perfume workshops, laboratory and distillery.

10. Japan's oldest modern silk mill, Tomioka
The world heritage-listed Tomioka silk mill, Japan's first modern silk production factory, has been turned into a museum, offering a hands-on experience operating a historical silk-reeling machine. 

Easter chocolate egg making.
Easter chocolate egg making. Photo Credit: Cadbury World

11. Cadbury World – Birmingham, England
Located on the brand’s Bournville manufacturing site, the multimedia experience showcases Cadbury’s heritage, production and packaging processes, as well as a gift shop and chocolate-themed café.

12. Swarovski Crystal Worlds / Kristallwelten – Innsbruck, Austria
Swarovski’s Crystal Worlds is a dazzling series of gardens and Chambers of Wonder featuring crystal-inspired art installations.

Sources: Europe Incoming and Tourism Industry Advisors

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