Industrial tourism, also known as “industrial sightseeing,” is gaining traction worldwide. This trend allows visitors to peek behind the scenes of companies, offering a unique and enriching experience. At the same time, it provides businesses an opportunity to showcase their expertise and enhance their brand image.

Industrial Tourism “consists in visits to deactivated industrial sites, to industrial complexes in operation, and in the implementation of specific industrial routes that complement other traditional historical-artistic routes. (Presa, 2004)

While the term is relatively recent, it typically refers to the opportunity to tour facilities where raw materials undergo transformation. Prat (2013) notes that since the mid-20th century, locations with industrial remnants have emerged. When these sites are renovated and repurposed for tourism, they can rejuvenate declining territories. This phenomenon contributes to industrial tourism, a subset of cultural tourism.

The Growth of Industrial Heritage sites

During the period from 2018 to 2022, the worldwide industrial tourism sector experienced a decline at a CAGR of approximately -14.6%. According to data from Future Market Insights (FMI), the market’s value stood at US$ 1,338.4 million in 2022.

Industrial tourism manifests in various forms across the globe, yet the core principle remains consistent: exploring attractions centered on specific industries. Here are diverse manifestations of industrial tourism:

– Observing work environments
– Guided factory excursions
– Explorations of mines
– Agricultural farm visits
– Wine tasting and vineyard tours
– Parliament building walkthroughs
– Specific company site tours
– Business-driven factory visits

The Rising Trend of Industrial Tourism

The allure of industrial tourism is on an upward trajectory for several reasons. Contemporary travelers are veering away from conventional leisure travel. Instead of merely lounging by a pool or sunbathing, there’s a growing desire to delve deeper into a destination’s essence. As information becomes readily available through photos, blogs, and documentaries, curiosity is piqued, driving tourists to experience these industries firsthand.

Top 10 Most Visited Companies in Europe

Industrial tourism has gained significant traction in recent years, with a surge in attractions that allow visitors to delve into manufacturing and production processes. Europe, with its rich history of industrial revolution and innovation, offers a plethora of sites that showcase both its manufacturing heritage and modern production techniques. Here are the top 10 most visited industrial sites in Europe:

  1. Volkswagen Autostadt Factory & AutoMuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany: Visitors can witness a car being fully assembled in roughly two hours, with up to 4,000 vehicles produced daily.
  2. Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland: This iconic location offers a deep dive into the history of Guinness, complete with tasting sessions and panoramic views of Dublin.
  3. Murano Glass Factory & Museo Vetrario in Murano, Venice, Italy: This site showcases the ancient art of glass-making with guided tours and glass-blowing demonstrations.
  4. The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Holland: An interactive journey through Heineken’s history, brewing process, and innovations.
  5. Parfumerie Fragonard & museum in Grasse, South of France: A historic factory tour that delves into the art of perfume production.
  6. Cadbury World in Birmingham, England: A multimedia experience highlighting Cadbury’s heritage and chocolate-making processes.
  7. Airbus Assembly & Aeroscopia Museum in Toulouse-Blagnac, France: A guided tour of the Airbus assembly plant, including the A380 production line.
  8. BMW World/BMW Welt in Munich, Germany: A comprehensive look into BMW’s history, products, and Germany’s automotive legacy.
  9. voestalpine Stahlwelt in Linz, Austria: An immersive experience into the steel-making process, complete with an exhibition and plant tour.
  10. Swarovski Crystal Worlds/Kristallwelten in Innsbruck, Austria: A mesmerizing exploration of crystal-inspired art installations and Swarovski’s renowned crystal products.

These sites not only offer unique insights into the world of manufacturing but also serve as a testament to Europe’s enduring industrial prowess. By opening their doors, these companies not only strengthened their brand image but also contributed to promoting industrial tourism and showcasing global craftsmanship.

Understanding the Essence of Industrial Tourism

The promotion of industrial tourism by tourism boards and individual enterprises has also fueled its popularity. Certain regions, renowned for specific industries or products, leverage this uniqueness by offering it as a tourist attraction, thereby bolstering their economy.

Particularly, industries that have become obsolete or less prevalent due to technological advancements find a new lease on life through tourism. As modern techniques overshadow traditional methods, these industries pivot to showcase their historical significance. A prime example is agritourism, where farms serve dual purposes: traditional agriculture and tourism.

Furthermore, the innate human craving for novel experiences plays a role in the surge of industrial tourism. With many having explored churches, museums, and conventional tours, there’s a quest for something distinctive. Industrial tourism satiates this desire, offering a refreshing perspective on the world’s industries.

Economic Impact

Beyond the tourist aspect, company visits present real economic benefits for businesses. They promote locally made products, highlight local products, and attract a broader clientele. Moreover, given the labor shortages, it’s also an excellent way for companies to introduce themselves to the youth and inspire future careers.

The economic impact of industrial tourism is multifaceted and significant, benefiting businesses, local communities, and the global economy. Here are some of the primary economic impacts of this trend:

– Revenue Generation: Paid visits, souvenir shops, and related activities generate direct revenue for businesses.

– Promotion of Local Manufacturing: Industrial tourism values local expertise and “Made Locally” products, potentially boosting sales and strengthening company brand images.

– Job Creation: Organizing visits requires staff to guide visitors, manage bookings, handle logistics, and more, creating direct jobs within companies and indirect jobs in related sectors like catering, accommodation, or transportation.

– Local Economy Boost: Visitors spend money not only in the companies they visit but also in local restaurants, hotels, shops, and other services.

– Talent Attraction: Company visits can pique the interest of the youth and job seekers, helping businesses attract new talent, especially in sectors facing labor shortages.

– Awareness for Specific Sectors: By opening their doors to the public, some industries can improve their image and raise public awareness about specific issues, such as sustainability, innovation, or safety.

– Investment Stimulation: The growing popularity of industrial tourism can encourage businesses and governments to invest more in facility improvements, staff training, and sector promotion.


School groups make up a significant portion of visitors. These visits aim to allow students to apply their knowledge, discover career opportunities, and familiarize themselves with the professional world. Companies particularly target this audience with a recruitment perspective and to raise awareness about certain professions or sectors.

Moreover, senior citizens find these visits a rewarding  activity. Between these two extremes, there are individuals simply curious, eager to learn more about the world around them.

An audio guide is a valuable tool for visiting an industrial site for several reasons

To enhance the visitor experience and provide in-depth insights into complex industrial processes, companies should employ audioguides, ensuring a comprehensive and engaging tour of their facilities.

– Access to Detailed Information: An audio guide for visiting an industrial site or company provides in-depth explanations about machines, processes, and the site’s history, allowing visitors to fully understand what they observe.

– Flexibility: Visitors can progress at their own pace, listening to the commentary when they wish and revisiting particular points of interest.

– Safety: In a noisy industrial environment, the audio guide allows visitors to stay informed without having to get close or directly interact with the equipment.

– Multilingualism: Audio guides can offer commentary in multiple languages, ideal for sites hosting international visitors.

– Enhanced Experience: Sound effects, testimonials, or anecdotes can be integrated to make the visit more immersive and memorable.

In summary, the audio guide enhances the visit experience by providing relevant information in a convenient and engaging manner while ensuring visitor safety.