Imagine if the Future Was the Same as the Past…

This month we published The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie. In this post the editors explain how the book explores the connection between the future and the past.

“Those who wish to look into the future are well advised to concern themselves first with the past, where all things originate” said Homer. We believe that the future is a replication of the past. If this is the case, it should be possible to analyse the past in a scientific manner to inform the future. Hence, one might ask, how does the past shape the future?

Are overtourism and sustainability old, new or constant issues in the evolution of tourism?

The biggest concerns about the future of tourism today is the exponential growth of tourism and its effect on communities and the environment, therefore we have invented the word ‘overtourism’. But these concerns are not new. As Thomas Cook began to capitalise on the idea of package holidays and mass tourism, a number of people began to complain about the negative effects of tourism. European towns and countryside were seemingly overrun with tourists, and ‘ruined by the increase in guesthouses, pensions and restaurants’. Tourists took a carefree approach to flowers, fish and fowl; they tended to do what they liked, unless restrained by keepers and land managers. In 1861, in what has been called an early instance of the ‘ecological blight that tourism so often brings in its wake’, Thomas Cook became embroiled in the alleged shooting of an eagle by one of his tourists on Iona.

The seaside in Scotland was a magnet for increasing numbers of visitors, of all social classes. But while there was the collecting of shells and fossils, the raiding of rock pools for crabs and sea life, the cheerful use of the sands, there was little worry about the impact on the beaches. There was, however, concern over the impact of mass tourism at the seaside, in terms of the behaviour of the day-tripper and the excursion­ist. There were tensions over mixed bathing, over the use or non-use of the Sunday, over dress and language. There was occasional damage to property, and more regularly to public order. But there seems to have been no concern in Victorian times over the use of the sea or the condition of the beaches, although access to the seaside itself could provoke objections from local landowners. Bigger numbers did lead to concerns over amenities at the seaside resorts: there were real questions of water supply, sewage and sanitation for the swollen summer populations. The overloading of systems could lead to outbreaks of epidemic disease, e.g. the typhoid epidemic in Bournemouth in 1936, which was due to contaminated ice-cream and milk. But resort enteritis, or beach tummy, was a small price to pay for the pleasure of a summer break from the harshness of the urban environment.

Changing Society

Tourism has become democratised as a result of changes in society i.e. the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was the catalyst for new forms of transport such as the steam train which enabled new tourists from the middle and working classes to travel further afield, marking the beginnings of mass tourism. Further technological developments in aviation, have meant tourists can travel further e.g. the Kangaroo route. This advancement in technologies was a game changer as the cost of aviation in real terms fell, making aviation not a form of luxury but a commodified product. As mass tourism created demand, so was born a new industry of infrastructure and supply, whether it was travel agents, airlines, hotels, destination planning or legislative frameworks. However, some things don’t change: the purpose of travel and why we go on holiday. Tourism is about adventure, connecting with family, mindfulness, relaxation, hedonism, enjoyment and culture. The motivation and behaviours stay the same. It’s just as the past moves into the future, the number of tourists has grown exponentially.

The Future

Right at the heart of The Future Past of Tourism is the concept that the future is just a re-occurrence of the past. What we have set out to do is identify the key turning points in tourism evolution in order to predict the future. In futures research, change is the constant from the past to the future. One of the roles of futures research is to model the development of society, looking for signs, social movements, technological advancement and signs of change at the point of evolution. This is what we have done. So, if you want to know what the future holds, read this book.

 

For more information about this book, please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Histories, Meanings and Representations of the Modern Hotel by Kevin J. James.

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