Worldwide tourism revenues have tripled in the last decade. Yet, there is a gap in our understanding of how distances shape peoples’ travel choices. To understand global tourism patterns we map the flow of tourists around the world onto a complex network and study the impact of two types of distances, geographical and through the World Airline Network, a major infrastructure for tourism. We find that although the World Airline Network serves as infrastructural support for the International Tourism Network, the flow of tourism does not correlate strongly with the extent of flight connections available worldwide. Instead, unidirectional flows appear locally forming communities that shed light on global travelling behaviour since there is only a 15% probability of finding bidirectional tourism between a pair of countries. We find that most tourists travel to neighbouring countries and mainly cover larger distances when there is a direct flight, irrespective of the time it takes. This may be a consequence of one-way cyclic tourism that we uncover by analysing the triangles that are formed by the network of flows in the International Tourism Network.