In the late eighteenth century, sea water gained a reputation for its medicinal properties and as a result many British coastal fishing villages were transformed into fashionable resorts. Brighton and Weymouth both became popular with genteel holidaymakers after George III paid them a visit to try and cure the fits of madness from which he suffered.
The earliest organisation of anything that we would recognise today as tourism started in the mid-nineteenth century. It is common to consider 1841 as the beginning of modern tourism when Thomas Cook from England organised an excursion for 570 members of the South Midlands Temperance Association from Leicester to Loughborough. Methodist missionary Henry Lunn pioneered the skiing holiday just a few years later.
However, it was 1815 when the traveller and writer J. Galinyany organised the first joint tour in Paris, mainly for the English public. In 1829 the traveller K. Baedeker began publishing guide books for those who travel independently. These guides later became essential sources of information for almost all 19th century travellers in Europe.
By this time the Industrial Revolution in England had already resulted in great advances in transport. On September 15, 1830, the first passenger railway line between Liverpool and Manchester opened. By 1842 English railways had already carried over 23 million passengers. It is significant to note that at that time the total population of England and Wales was only 18 million. The development of capitalism demanded the mobility of the population. A major factor in meeting this demand was the expansion of the railway system enabling much greater numbers of people to travel further and faster than before. The increased wealth generated and the development of more effective transport links were the main preconditions for the development of modern forms of tourism.
It was the Industrial Revolution that really began to open up tourism to the working classes. As a result of the widespread social and technological reforms a new middle class grew up, whose increased prosperity meant that they could afford to travel. The Bank Holiday Act of Parliament in 1871, is creating four annual public holidays and the Factory Act of 1901, which gave the first ever paid annual holiday allowance of six days, provided the necessary legislation to give the working British public leisure time at no financial loss.
The new railways provided cheap travel to seaside resorts such as Scarborough and Blackpool. Public holidays would see a mass exodus from the large cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds to the coast, for people to be entertained at fun-fairs and shows catering to the tastes of the working man.
Thomas Cook was among the first to notice and to use all these opportunities! In 1843 he organised the first group tour using a rented train and provided tourists with food and tickets for the races. When the First International Industrial Exhibition opened in London in 1851 he managed to arrange a visit by tourists from various areas of England. From Yorkshire alone 165 thousand visitors attended that exhibition.
The rapid expansion of domestic tourism gave Thomas Cook the idea of organising overseas trips. The first trip took place in 1855 and was associated with the Great Exhibition in Paris. In 1856 regular tourist trips started to other European countries, It is worth noting that in the 1854 edition of the directory describing the hotels of London there were almost eight thousand hotels and inns listed.
The activities of Thomas Cook's agency promoted growth in the number of English tourists travelling to Europe. Between 1850 and 1870 Britons made up the majority of foreign tourists on the Continent. In 1888 there were already 500,000 English tourists. During that period of time hotels with such names as Angleterre, Britannic, and London had appeared in Europe. English words "express", "comfort", and "liner" became international.
People were also becoming aware of a world outside their own direct experience. Soldiers travelling to foreign countries saw opportunities and wanted to return in peacetime. The colonial era brought India, Australia, Africa and other parts of the world into the spotlight of the European colonial powers. The advent of photography provided visual evidence of the existence of the exotic and began to stir interest among the more adventurous to see sights for themselves. The Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Sphinx and the Statue of liberty are all examples of famous tourist attractions which we travel to see in real life because we've seen pictures of them.
In 1838 a regular passenger steamship line between London and New York opened, and in 1866 Cook organised the first trip of two groups of English tourists to the USA. The five-month tour of the steamship Quaker City in 1867 was the beginning of regular tourist voyages. Mark Twain was aboard amongst 60 other tourists. Later he described the journey in his book Simpletons Abroad.
Following Cook's agency, Freims and Henry Lunn set up tourist offices in England. Later in France and other European countries new tourist agencies were established. Yet tourism in the 19th century was mainly for the rich with time to travel. Few European employees had holidays with pay until after the Second World War, and even then they were not many.
In only a century the holiday has changed beyond recognition. In 1890 a typical family holiday would be a day trip to the nearest seaside town. Armed with bucket and spade and a picnic, the family would take advantage of the half-a-crown cheap-day excursions offered by the private companies who ran the new railway network. At the beginning of the 20th century most tourists used railway and water transport. In that era the passenger ships Lusitania and Mauritania dominated the transatlantic lines. However the acclaim which greeted the launch of the Titanic, reputedly the largest and strongest ocean liner ever built, turned to horror as she struck an iceberg and sank, causing the loss of hundreds of lives.
Although the First World War in Europe distracted people from tourism, after the war the geographic boundaries of world tourism expanded. New types of transport, such as automobiles and aeroplanes were developed and rapidly became accessible to a greater number of people.
In 1925 in The Hague the First Congress of the International Union of Official Organisations for Tourism Advertising was held. Fourteen European countries took part in the congress.
By 1938 the number of tourists reached its pre-Second World War peak. 488 thousand tourists visited England. 4 million went to Italy. Belgium received 1.8 million visitors, Switzerland 1.5 million, and Austria and France 1.2 million each.
After the Second World War tourism rather quickly returned lo its former position, and by 1950 the total number of recorded tourists had exceeded its pre-war level reaching a total worldwide of 25 million. The number of car and air trips grew especially fast because of the surplus of aeroplanes and pilots after the Second World War, many of whom had developed a taste for overseas travel. In addition private ownership of cars grew very fast in the 1950s.
The 1990s family, however, is far more likely to take a two-week package tour to the Mediterranean, where the whole holiday will be paid for before leaving home and one can enjoy the guaranteed sunshine.