A book describing the history of tourism, i.e., travel for leisure reasons. Although humans have migrated for thousands of years, travel for fun was not common until quite recently. In ancient times, people traveled for trade, in search of new resources, or for religious reasons, but these types of travel have a very different nature from modern tourism. The reason was that travel was too dangerous, difficult, and expensive, until the industrial revolution when the advent of railways meant that much larger amounts of people could be moved.
The earliest precursor to leisure travel was the “Grand Tour”, where aristocratic children from Britain in the 18th century would travel to cities in continental Europe, ostensibly to learn more about their culture. In reality, however, they mostly engaged in debauchery and learned little of any foreign culture. The roads of Europe were dangerous and robberies were common. Prior to the Enlightenment, places such as oceans and mountains were seen as dangerous, not pleasant, but this gradually changed and people started to see them as beautiful and worth visiting.
Steam-powered railways and steamboats opened up travel to many more people. For the first time in history, the working class could afford to travel for fun. In the 1840s in Britain, Thomas Cook sold the first packaged tours to visit Scotland by rail, and these gradually expanded to visit continental Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Tourism was attractive since England was the first to industrialize, so there was a period where British incomes were higher than everywhere else.
In the United States, tourism developed around the automobile. Rather than Europe’s cultural sites, the main attraction of North America was its natural wonders such as Niagara Falls. National and state parks were constructed to give Americans places to visit within driving distance, and the ability to camp on these grounds; Michelin published guidebooks on restaurants to eat at and hotels to stay in along the way.
After WW2, living standards improved in many countries, leading to a rapid increase in tourism. The two world wars accelerated development in airplane technology, making them a fast and efficient way to travel, so people were able to take longer trips. Recently, tourists are constantly demanding novel forms of travel experiences, such as visiting uncontacted native tribes, Antarctica, and climbing Mount Everest. There is a never-ending cycle of a place being discovered, promoted, eventually becoming oversaturated and less attractive, and tourists turning to more novel forms of adventure.
The rise of tourism highlights the consequences economic development in the last few centuries, from nonexistent, to a hobby for the rich, to a commonplace activity that we take for granted today. I was surprised at how relatively late tourism emerged, but evidently it requires several prerequisites: safe and efficient transportation, accommodations, and people having enough time to spare to travel instead of working. Now tourism is a major part of our lives and accounts for about 10% of the global economy.