History of Tourism

A Japanese tourist consulting a tour guide and a guide book from Akizato Ritō's Miyako meisho zue (1787)

Tourism is travel for business or pleasure; also the philosophy and practice of touring, accommodating, attracting, and entertaining tourists, and the business of running tours.

In other words, tourism is the act and process of spending time away from home to pursue recreation, business, pleasure, and relaxation.

Ancient History

Travel outside a family’s local area for leisure was primarily limited to the upper-wealthy classes in ancient times. These people traveled to different parts of the world, saw significant buildings and remarkable works of art, learned new signs and languages, encountered new cultures, enjoyed natural scenery, and tasted different cuisines. However, as early as Shulgi, kings applauded themselves for protecting roads and building way stations for travelers.

Traveling for pleasure can be seen in Egypt as early as 1500 BCE. During the Roman Republic, coastal resorts and spas such as Baiae were popular among the wealthy. The Roman upper class spent their free time at sea or on and traveled to their Villa Maritima or Villa Urbana. Numerous villas were situated in Campania, near Rome, and in the northern part of the Adriatic as in Barcola neighboring Trieste. Pausanias penned his Description of Greece in the second century CE. In early China, nobles sometimes made a point of exploring Mount Tai and, on occasion, all the Five Sacred Mountains.

Ancient Pilgrimage Travel 

As per Indian records, excavations in Gujarat and Punjab reveal that Indus Valley Civilisation was a highly developed urban kingdom with two major cities, Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Ancient tourists visited numerous early Hindi temples as pilgrims in these cities on two sides of the river ‘Ravi.’ This has been documented in India’s Rig Veda – the oldest known literary source composed in this era that sheds light on India’s past.

India’s Adi Shankara traveled to several holy places in India and debated with leaders from other schools of thought to make the message of the Vedas clearer and simpler for the world to understand. Our Founder Arushi Sana covered more about his journeys here

Middle Ages

By the Middle Ages, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam had a colorful pilgrimage tradition. Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales remain classics of Chinese and English literature.

The Song dynasty also saw travel writers such as Fan Chengda and Su Shi become popular in China. Under the Ming, Xu Xiake maintained the practice. In medieval Italy, Francesco Petrarch also documented an allegorical tale of his 1336 ascent of Mount Ventoux that celebrated the act of traveling and criticized frigida incuriosity (“cold lack of curiosity”). The Burgundian poet Michault Taillevent later wrote his own horrifying recollections of a 1430 CE trip across the Jura Mountains.

Modern tourism

Modern tourism can be recorded to what was known as the infamous Grand Tour, which was a legendary trip around Europe (especially italy and Germany), undertaken by mainly upper-class and middle-upper class European young men of means, principally from Northern and Western European countries. In 1624, a young Prince of Poland, Ladislaus Sigismund Vasa, the oldest son of Sigismund III, started a journey across Europe, as it was a custom among Polish nobility. He traveled through territories of modern-day Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, where he admired the Siege of Breda by Spanish forces, Austria, France, Switzerland to Italy, and the Czech Republic. It was an enlightening journey, and one of the outcomes was the introduction of Italian opera in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The custom prospered from about 1660 until the arrival of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s and usually followed a standard itinerary. It was an educational opportunity and ceremony of passage. Though originally associated with the British nobility and rich landed gentry, similar trips were made by rich young men of Protestant Northern European nations on the continent. From the second half of the 18th century, some South American, US, and other internationally born youth joined in. The tradition was stretched to include more of the middle class after steamship and rail travel made the journey more comfortable, and Thomas Cook made the “Cook’s Tour” a catchword.

The Grand Tour became a genuine status symbol for upper-class students in the 18th century. In this era, Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s theories about classic culture’s power became very attractive and welcomed in the European academic world. Writers, artists, and travelers (such as Goethe) affirmed the power of classic art, of which France, Italy, and Greece present excellent examples. For these reasons, the Grand Tour’s primate destinations were to those centers, where upper-class students could find excellent examples of classic history and art.

The emergence of leisure travel

Historians connected leisure travel with the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom – the first European nation to encourage leisure time to the growing industrial population. Initially, this applied to Founders of the machinery of production, the economic government, traders, and factory owners These comprised the new promising middle class. Cox & Kings was officially the first official travel company to be established in 1758.

The modern founder and promoter of the travel agency business, Thomas Cook’s idea to provide tours came to him while waiting for the stagecoach on the London Road in Kibworth. With the extended Midland Counties Railway opening, he decided to take a group of 540 temperance campaigners from Leicester Campbell station to a rally in Loughborough, 11 miles (18 km) away. On 5 July 1841, Thomas Cook organized a rail company to charge one shilling per person; this covered rail tickets and food for the journey. Cook was paid a percentage of the fares charged to the passengers, as the railway tickets, being legal contracts between passenger and company, could not have been issued at his own price. 

During the following summers, he planned and managed outings for Sunday school children and temperance societies. In 1844, the Midland Counties Railway Company agreed to make a continual arrangement with him, provided he found the customers.

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