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This post was last updated on December 18th, 2019 at 07:10 am
Tourism is present in almost every city around the world. But where did it start? How did it come about? Here is a brief history of tourism over the years…
What is tourism?
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines tourism as: ‘a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes’.
The word ‘tourist’ was first used (in print) in 1772. It comes from the Greek and Latin words for circle and turn, and it is suggested that ‘tourist’ represents the act of circling away from home and coming back again.
Way back when: the early history of tourism
The history of tourism can, if you look hard enough, be found dating back to ancient times. For example, there is evidence of recreational travel existing in Ancient Egypt. The upper class travelled to see the Sphinx, and the step pyramid of Sakkara.
The Greeks travelled too. The very first Olympic games, in 776 BC, welcomed people from across the country. Around 50,000 people from all over the Greek world attended the games every four years.
Making a pilgrimage
Another form of tourism that dates back throughout history is the pilgrimage. Christian pilgrimages have taken place since the 4th century, and pilgrims in Japan have been exploring the Ancient Trail since the 10th century. While these still happen today, it is important to note their early existence within the history of tourism.
Chaucer documents the tradition of pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales. In fact, the modern word ‘holiday’ comes from this era: hāligdæg means holy day, and holiday derives from this.
The Grand Tour(s)
In the 17th and 18th centuries, wealthy upper-class men would embark on what was known as a ‘grand tour’. This would happen when they turned 21 and typically they would have a chaperone with them, most likely a family member.
Less commonly, upper-class young women (known as debutantes) would do the same. Those from middle-class backgrounds who were lucky enough to find a sponsor could also partake in the tradition.
It was mostly a British tradition. However, a similar custom existed in Northern European nations as well as, later, Central Europe and both South and North America.
A person’s Grand Tour could last from several months to several years! The value of a tour was the exposure to art, society, music and history. It wasn’t scholarly or religious. However, a guide or tutor would usually be present.
Thomas Cook and “Cook’s Tours”
The history of tourism took a slight turn in 1800s. In July 1841 Thomas Cook escorted 500 people from Leicester Campbell Street railway station to Loughborough, which was an 11 mile journey. For just a shilling each for the return journey, Cook succeeded in bringing leisure travel to those who were less well-off.
This continued throughout the 1800s. In 1845, Cook made arrangements for a group to visit Liverpool – he had taken a trip previously, to ensure local hotels and restaurants would be available to the party. He arranged trips to Scotland and London , and later a ‘grand circular tour’: Belgium, Germany and France. After that, he organised trips to Switzerland, Egypt, Italy and the USA.
Cook and his son, John, went into business together in 1872. As well as arranging trips and tours, they sold travel essentials such as luggage, telescopes and guide books. Cook offered hotel coupons. These were given to travellers in a book that they had paid for, and could be exchanged for a meal or an overnight stay with a restaurant or hotel that Cook had an arrangement with. This was the beginning of modern tourism!
All-inclusive holidays – a more modern history of tourism
Travel continued in a similar vein to how Thomas Cook had envisioned. However, in 1950, Belgian entrepreneur Gérard Blitz founded Club Med resorts in France. This is what modern all-inclusive resorts are modelled on: everything included in the price you pay upon booking, such as accommodation, food, drink and even activities and entertainment.
These hotels and resorts, while providing somewhere for tourists to stay and enjoy themselves, also create jobs for locals. In fact, as of 2017, one in five of all new jobs created were attributed to tourism!
Flying without wings…
The very first passenger flight took off in 1914. Passenger flights have existed since then; in the 20s it was slower than travelling by plane, because they could only fly in the day and had to stick to a speed of 100mph. In the 30s, female flight attendants were introduced. This was to make flying more comfortable. Planes were faster now, too!
In the 40s, people didn’t really fly commercially due to the war. However, after the war there were a lot of leftover planes which were repurposed for passenger flights. Transatlantic flights became a daily occurrence, and new airports were opened close to capital cities across the world.
Read more: The history of aviation
Flying was expensive in the 50s. Everyone dressed up and ate lobster, and it was seen as a glamorous way to travel. This relaxed a bit in the 60s, and you also didn’t need any ID to fly.
Security checks didn’t come along until the 70s. This was also the decade in which the first Jumbo Jet was made and used. Flying became more widespread as ticket prices dropped.
Fun fact: the Jumbo Jet is made of six million parts!
In the 80s you could check in as many bags as you wanted, smoke on the plane and visit the cockpit. Flying was a fun experience for all the family! The 90s were similar: free alcohol, aeroplane food, and phones attached to the seats.
Flying in the 00s changed drastically because of 9/11. The TSA was formed, nobody could visit the cockpit anymore, and security was a lot a tighter. Now, flying is all about convenience: it can be budget-friendly, getting you to a city in another country for under £20, or it can be luxurious. But there are often USB ports, touch screens and other home comforts on planes!
There you have a brief history of tourism and the industry surrounding it – without it, life would be pretty boring…