Humankind has always felt a strong urge to travel, be it to discover and conquer new realms or simply for enjoyment.
Focusing on leisure, learning, and fun, the roots of modern tourism can be traced back to the 17th century when young men from Western and Northern European nobility embarked on “the Grand Tour.” A forerunner to the modern gap year, this extensive trip typically encompassed regions of France, Germany, Greece, and Italy. The purpose of a Grand Tour was to expose young gentlemen to European art, history, and cultural heritage, effectively rounding off their education and preparing them for life as independent adults.
The Grand Tour became popular with Americans in the 18th century.
Toward the end of the 1700s, the Industrial Revolution sparked a period of technological and social transformation that spread across the globe. These far-reaching changes triggered a mass exodus from rural regions to rapidly expanding cities, where the influx of labor drove industry.
America’s first travel agency was founded in 1887.
In 1887 Walter T. Brownell launched Brownell Travel in New York, leading a party of 10 travelers on a sailing tour across Europe, departing New York aboard the SS Devonia.
Subsequently, in 1895, Alfred K. Baldwin founded the UK’s first travel agency. In Japan, Nippon Travel Agency opened its doors in 1905. China’s first travel agency was founded in 1923 by K. P. Chen after he experienced poor service from a British travel agency. Meanwhile, it was not until 1929 that the Soviet Union opened its first travel agency to attract foreign visitors to the country.
Interest in international travel took a nosedive during World War I and II.
Following World War II, increasing ease and affordability of travel triggered expansion in mass-market package tours, resulting in a proliferation of travel agencies targeting working-class individuals and families.
Tourism grew fast in the late 20th century due to increased disposable income.
In the mid-1900s, more and more households found they had money left over after paying the bills. In addition, increasing numbers of workers started to receive paid vacation days.
Travel has become easier and more economical over the years. In 2022 many people have their own cars and drive on roads and highways that are better maintained, making it easier for them to travel farther in less time. In addition, flights have also become drastically more affordable over the years.
In 1950 there were 25 million tourists globally, rising to 1.5 billion in 2019.
The latter part of the 20th century saw massive increases in the number of people joining the middle class. Combined with the falling cost of travel and the emergence of low-cost airlines, the impact on both social interactions and business models was revolutionary, driving a vast increase in tourism.
Technological advancements have transformed the travel industry.
Over the last 20 years, the digital revolution has impacted virtually every aspect of our daily lives, including tourism and travel. Tamara Lohan, the cofounder and chief technology officer of Mr & Mrs Smith, a boutique hotels website, explains that today, more people are traveling than ever before, with companies like Airbnb encouraging young people to start exploring sooner and more cost-effectively. Technology presents us with an unprecedented amount of information on travel destinations, enabling those planning their dream vacation to check out local attractions and amenities in advance.
Hundreds of thousands of travel blogs cover almost every place on Earth.
Just a decade ago, travelers were largely reliant on guidebooks like Lonely Planet to plan their adventures and learn about places they intended to visit. In 2022 bloggers all over the world share stories, photos, and helpful information about travel destinations. Many of today’s bloggers have turned professional, earning a respectable income by partnering with travel companies and resorts and even competing with travel companies like Tripadvisor for top rankings on Google. From the traveler’s perspective, this has led to a huge rise in easy-to-access information on travel destinations over the last decade.
Online travel agencies like Expedia have revolutionized the tourism industry.
Although some people were venturing online to organize their foreign trips a decade ago, today it is considered the norm, with 80 percent of tourists booking their trips, reserving hotel accommodations, buying plane tickets, and planning excursions via the Internet.
The rise of online travel agencies has had a significant impact on brick-and-mortar travel agents, with footfall rapidly declining over the last 10 years, triggering the demise of industry giants. Nevertheless, there remains a demand for the specialist services of traditional travel agents in some quarters. For those seeking a once-in-a-lifetime experience, particularly high-net-worth individuals, paying a professional to do all of the leg work is still appealing.