Trips of the Past and Trips of the Future

This month we will be publishing The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie, which looks at how the history of tourism will shape its future. Inspired by this, in this post the CVP team reflect on their favourite past trips and dream future ones…

Laura

I still remember the first holiday I ever went on, to stay in a holiday cottage in West Wales with my cousins when I was nine. I had a new suitcase especially for the occasion, which I filled with all sorts of things from my bedroom at home…none useful for a holiday! The holiday itself was very simple: days spent on the beach or playing in the garden, and I’m sure it wasn’t as sunny as I remember but in my mind it was a perfect week. My cousins and I still talk about some of the in-jokes and sayings from the holiday and it’s those shared memories which make it my favourite past holiday.

Laura and her cousin attempting some sunbathing

There are a zillion places I’d love to visit, some close to home and some further afield. Inching its way up my list is the North Coast 500, Scotland’s 516 mile long tour of its northernmost roads. The appeal is the stunning scenery, isolation and Scottish hospitality. I’m yet to decide if I want to drive or cycle it, but either way, I’ll need to be prepared for all weathers!

Tommi

My favourite travel has always involved trains and ferries. Childhood journeys to Finland for Christmas always involved a train ride first across the UK, then a ferry to Hamburg, Esbjerg or Gothenburg, and either an overnight sleeper train to Stockholm followed by the Viking Line to Turku or Helsinki, or the Finnjet direct from Travemünde. The excitement of travelling over several days to get to “Mummola” in the winter with the dark scenery passing mysteriously by the train window. Stopping off in Copenhagen to see the Tivoli, or spending a night in Lübeck and visiting the German Christmas markets, before the final ferry ride across the Baltic. Would the sea be frozen? Would we spot any seals on the ice? Having a proper sauna in the bowels of the exciting Finnjet ferry with a swimming pool that had a swell in it as the ship rocked on the waves…all the while knowing that as we got closer to Grandma the sweets started tasting nicer…. First we got Skipper liquorice pipes on the ferries to Europe, then Marabou chocolate if we went via Sweden or Haribo in Germany, and finally as we hit the Finnish boats – Fazer! And proper liquorice! As our ferry sailed into Helsinki we would be met by an uncle waving to us from the terminal building and they would drive us the last leg to where “mummi” and “vaari” were waiting, having filled the garden with ice lanterns and we would catch the scent of “pulla” and “makaroonilaatikko” drifting out of the door…it’s no wonder I’ve grown up to love travelling!

When I was a child we would often travel overland partly due to cost of flying a family of four to Finland in the early 1980s and partly due to the feeling that by flying over everything we were missing out on so much. My Dad always looked forward to the adventure and the endless planning to find a “new” route…although I have tended to travel more by air in the last few years, I definitely feel like I have missed out on a lot, so I hope to get back to a more exciting, and relaxing, way of getting around.

In the immediate future we are planning to travel by train to Anterselva in Italy for New Year, with an overnight stop in Munich and a ride over the Brenner pass before spending a week cross country skiing, and catching the overnight train from Milan to Paris and back to the UK.

One day I would dearly love to travel all the way to Japan by train. Japan is a country that I have always loved spending time in, and if I can travel overland I feel like I will better understand where it is, and hopefully arrive for once without any hint of jetlag! I would hope to travel via the Trans-Siberian either to Beijing or Vladivostok, and then take a ferry with a few days in South Korea on the way…I personally hope that the future of my own travel will come full circle to my past travels, and that more and more of my journeys will once again be taken by train and ferry.

Flo

I’ve been lucky enough to go on some amazing trips over the years, but maybe the one that stands out the most is a trip I took to Ghana in 2015. I went with my friend to visit her family in Accra, Kumasi and Abetifi. I loved everything about it – the people, the language, the colours, the tropical heat, the food, the landscape… We stayed with my friend’s parents on the compound of the school they run, so we were always surrounded by kids, which was fun (and very noisy). We spent our days visiting family friends, markets, local villages, museums, the cultural centre, a cocoa farm, a Kente cloth workshop, a lake and a waterfall, and our evenings at the local ‘spot’ which was a tiny neighbourhood kiosk/bar with really loud speakers. A highlight of the trip was a very long drive (with one, and later two babies on our laps) to stay with my friend’s grandmother up in the mountains. She was still working the land in her 80s!

There are so many places I’d love to go in the future, but I think Sri Lanka’s probably top of my list. Apart from how beautiful and diverse it looks, my grandparents, who were in the army and navy, met there during the war at a dance in Kandy, and so I’ve got a bit of a sentimental reason to visit too! It might be a little while yet though, as I’ve decided to have a ‘no-fly year’ in 2020, so I’ll be keeping any travel to countries I can get to by train.

Sarah

In 2015 my sister and I went to the US to embark on as many different kinds of tourisms as we could – sport, literary, film, tv and music! We started in Boston where we saw the Red Sox play and spent a bookish day in Concord, then to New York where we took in a Giants game, an Islanders game and a Red Bulls game! We bussed next to Washington, DC. After much sightseeing there we flew down to Orlando to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – and also managed some relaxing by the pool. Our last stop was Nashville, where we visited the Opry and Ryman before spending our last night watching Foo Fighters at Bridgestone. It was a pretty tiring holiday but every day was very exciting! 🙂

It would be amazing to have a whole year off and pack it with as many sporting events as possible. January and February in Australia to watch the Big Bash (and be warm!) then back to the UK touring round the country for the rest of the football season and cricket season, maybe taking in an England cricket tour at some point to the West Indies 🙂

 

For more information about The Future Past of Tourism please see our website.

Sport Heritage Stories from the CVP Team

This month we are publishing Heritage and Sport by Gregory Ramshaw. In this post, some of the CVP team tell tales of their own sport heritage.

Sarah

My parents met at a hockey match in which they squared off against each other (my mum was a kickass goalie) so I have always felt that sport is important in relation to my own heritage!

Aside from that, my sister and I were brought up constantly watching football and cricket; our mum is a fervent and dedicated Man Utd and England cricket fan. We were treated to replays of the 1981 and 1986/7 Ashes series at a young age (the latter of which Daddles the Duck was an exciting feature) and a subconscious impression that Australians-when-playing-cricket should not be liked – cue deep disapproval when we pretended to be the Waugh twins while playing in the garden.

My dad is still playing hockey at 75 – I hope I am as active at his age!

Tommi

I’ve always been fascinated by Finland’s heritage in long-distance running and other Nordic endurance sports. In particular the exploits of Paavo Nurmi, Ville Ritola, Hannes Kolehmainen and the other “flying Finns” has always been of interest, all the way up to Lasse Viren who famously fell during the 10,000m at the 1972 Munich Olympics, picked himself calmly up, chased down David Bedford to not just win the gold medal but also break the world record in the process. Although I haven’t visited many historic sites, the one place I did feel worth a visit was the Eläintarha athletics track in Helsinki, where on June 19th 1924 Paavo Nurmi tested whether it would be possible to run both 1500m and 5000m races in the same hour, since this was going to be the schedule at the Olympics that year. He set new world records for both distances…. Finnish long-distance running has had a glorious past, and as a child I dreamed of matching the exploits of these incredible athletes. Although I have lately conceded that I probably will never run at the Olympics, or break many world records, I do still feel a sense of pride whenever reminded of these events.

Laura

I’ve often found myself by chance or intention at the sites of previous Olympic Games. I find it fascinating to see how some sites have been put to good use and regenerated into something benefiting the local area, while others have become slightly eerie abandoned shells of their former glories. Here I am with some friends at the Olympic Rings in Portland, Dorset, which is where the sailing events were held during the London 2012 Olympics. It was a very cold and blustery day…perfect sailing conditions!

 

 

For more information about Heritage and Sport please see our website.

I attended my third Critical Tourism Studies (CTS) conference last month and it was yet again a hopeful and optimistic experience – and included the usual singing and colouring 🙂

The week kicked off with a brilliant keynote from Alison McIntosh and Paul Lynch on the concepts of welcome and hospitality in relation to refugees and asylum seekers.

I managed to get to a few of the sessions – highlights included papers on Lego, homeless tours, Indigenous tourism, and air passenger shaming! And a brave and open dialogue around academia and careers from Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, Keith Hollinshead and Meghan Muldoon.

The highlight of the evening activities was definitely dinner and the beautiful sunset at Café del Mar – thanks to the organisers, Ana and Kellee!

Sarah

Laura and Anna Explore the Canadian Rockies

Laura and Anna recently made the most of a trip to Alberta for the International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB) by having a few days’ holiday in the Canadian Rockies beforehand. Highlights included bears, early morning lake swimming, a hike near Lake Louise and a drive up the Icefields Parkway. They stayed on a farm near Lake Mara and in a very secluded cabin between Jasper and Edmonton (that they’d probably never be able to find again if they tried!) It was a very pleasant way to get over the jet lag before the conference. Below are some photos of their travels!

Exploring the Languages of Tourism

This month we published Language and Tourism in Postcolonial Settings edited by Angelika Mietzner and Anne Storch. In this post the editors talk about their experiences of being linguists at mass tourism sites.

For linguists, tourism is very likely a difficult topic. Language at places such as beaches and buffets seems to resist paradigmatic description and categorization: it is about encounters, or attempts to avoid the same, is fluid, dynamic, noisy, yet part of scripted performance. Language in tourism contexts might therefore help us to understand what language is, besides structure: emergent communicative practice that is creative and transcendent. Research on language and tourism in postcolonial settings can show all this, and it can tell something about the power relations in place that are relevant for the ways in which knowledge on language is constructed. At the beach, whatever is said is said in a manner that defines and categorizes, describes and fixes. A hakuna matata space, where being without problems is a requirement. Our own research in Kenya, Jamaica, Spain and elsewhere has taken us to places that differed greatly from the sites of our usual fieldwork. No villages, but beaches and clubs and bars and souvenir shops. We often found these places strange, as common as they appeared, and our work felt more difficult than ever, maybe because our own language practices, bodies and experiences were so clearly inseparable from it (they always are, we believe, but here this couldn’t be concealed).

At the mass tourism sites, the beaches and pools, everything seems banal. Linguists don’t belong there; they are experts, they have methodologies, word lists and other questionnaires, and they lead semi-structured interviews. Linguists are in control. But we weren’t. We stood at the beach, in a swimming costume, and we were what the place and those present there made us into. We immersed. We were tourists. We disposed of our linguistic skills, our knowledge of the respective language under research, our critical thinking, and dressed like tourists, moistened our skin with sun milk, put on sunglasses and strolled along the beach in search for authenticity. Later, our work and presentations, the images we had shown in our PowerPoints and the critical questions we raised – about the ‘field’ and the ‘informant’ – must have touched upon taboos surrounding expert bodies and expert identities.

We and all the other authors of the volume have chosen different approaches to field research. Our achievements have convinced us that linguistics offers strange journeys. An author of the volume once said that he has never done such exhausting research as he has experienced in mass tourist places. This volume gives a lot of courage to explore the different, often simple and always complex languages of tourism.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Cultural Tourism in Southern Africa edited by Haretsebe Manwa, Naomi Moswete and Jarkko Saarinen. 

The Future of Tourism and Airbnb: Is This Where We Wanted to Go?

We recently published The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ by Jeroen A. Oskam. In this post the author explains the motivation behind the book.

Last year I was invited by the world’s first “crystal ball gazer” in tourism, Ian Yeoman, and his co-editor Una McMahon-Beattie to write a book in their new series on The Future of Tourism. I had been studying Airbnb for a few years with the futures view Ian had introduced me to. And although it is always good to see that one’s analyses and argumentations have made sense, in the case of Airbnb (and other urban vacation rentals) this has become a very bitter “told you so”.

At Hotelschool The Hague, a small but internationally top ranking single-discipline university, the research team acts as an antenna for new insights and developments, but it also seeks to inform alumni and professionals about new trends and innovations. We seek to jump on emerging new trends before they get big, and in 2015 we invited a mixed group of researchers and practitioners to discuss something cool: the Airbnb trend, its appeal to travellers, and its future evolution. This seems not too long ago, but remember the context: urban tourism was still hardly controversial, a millennial generation was said to have adopted an anti-consumerist attitude to possessions and Amsterdam had declared itself a “sharing city”.

However, in the course of this first research the social climate started changing. The development of Airbnb in New York had already got out of hand, as had been demonstrated by the data and analyses of Murray Cox; our data showed that also in Amsterdam, rather than a utopian movement, we saw the beginning of a similar commercial development. When we published our numbers, which showed an explosive growth during that year, we were immediately accused of being secret agents of a hotel lobby that wanted to destroy the sharing movement. We made predictions about the future development or Airbnb that almost seemed bizarre back then but that nevertheless have become reality.

Closely linked to these developments was the growth of city tourism during that same period. All of a sudden, city residents all over Europe started hating tourists (from September to May, that is, when we are not travelling ourselves). City authorities started looking for a brake to at least slow down growth; but there was none. Airbnb and the platforms cannot be blamed for this growth. But they are responsible for making the situation unmanageable for cities.

In this book, I have tried to summarize the information we have so far, combining an analysis of the numbers with insights on the nature of ‘Sharing’, such as the concept of ‘cult marketing’, which for me has become crucial to understand the phenomenon, and which also directly explains so many of the misinterpretations and the deceitful claims that surround it. I have looked at the users or ‘guests’, at the Airbnb operators or ‘hosts’, at the impact on hotels and on cities. The book gives new scenarios for the development of Airbnb and other urban vacation rentals towards 2025. Let’s just hope that this time we are not heading towards a new “I told you so”.

Finally, I have tried to give an interpretation of this trend — along with that of Uber, task platforms etcetera— as a societal development. Can we find a reason why all this apparent idealism turns out to be something completely different? What drives these changes and what is their future outlook? Has the ‘sharing’ movement been taken over by greedy impostors, or has its current manifestation always been a part of their way of thinking?

I am also eager to see the rest of the books in The Future of Tourism series. Without any doubt they will help spur debate on what we can expect from tourism, and maybe on wider societal trends. Fortunately, I understand that some other authors are more optimistic than I am.

Jeroen Oskam

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reinventing the Local in Tourism edited by Antonio Paolo Russo and Greg Richards.

Firsthand Experiences of Overtourism

This month we are publishing the first book in our brand new series, The Future of Tourism: The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ by Jeroen A. Oskam. Inspired by the themes discussed in the book, in this post some of us reflect on our own experiences of overtourism, the phenomenon of there being too many visitors to a particular destination.

Anna

On a trip to Rome I found myself getting annoyed that you are not allowed to stand still in the Sistine chapel – so many people want to see it that unless you’re someone important you have to move through on a kind of human conveyor belt. As I left the chapel, having imbibed my 30 seconds of Michaelangelo, I did realise that really I was the problem in that scenario: I have little interest in High Renaissance Art, or Catholicism, and I was yet another tourist ticking an item off their list. If people like me stayed away, the people for whom it might truly mean something would have a chance to stand and wonder.

Elinor

When I went to Japan on a work trip in 2013 I really enjoyed visiting temples particularly in Kyoto. However, some of the more popular ones were so busy with tourists (mostly large groups of Japanese schoolchildren) that it was almost impossible to see the temples or get a photo without other people in it. I much preferred visiting some of the less popular temples which were smaller and quieter where I could wander round the gardens in peace. If I were ever to visit Japan again I would certainly try and avoid the more popular spots and seek out the quieter, more tranquil places.

Laura

I have experience of overtourism from a resident’s perspective. I grew up in a tiny village in one of the UK’s National Parks. Some years ago, cycling became increasingly popular and with it came a rise in the number of ‘sportives’, where hundreds of cyclists participate in an arranged ride, touring countryside along a predetermined route over a number of miles. Our village happens to fall on the route of one of the more competitive, rather than leisure, routes. I remember the first time it happened when for about 3 hours one morning it was almost impossible to get out of our house and across the road as cyclists whipped through the village at high speed. The village also feels the benefits of increased tourism as it also falls on the route of a popular and well publicised walking route. We have seen increased maintenance of gates and stiles in the surrounding countryside and the village pub also benefits from huge numbers of walkers coming through the village. But it does also mean that it’s much harder to go out for a peaceful country walk without seeing another soul!

Flo

I’ve experienced (and been a part of!) overtourism a couple of times on holiday. The first time was when I was interrailing with my friends as a teenager and we went to the Louvre in Paris. The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa was ridiculous – just a sea of arms holding cameras and phones aloft, taking pictures. I never really got close enough to the picture to see it without somebody’s head in the way. The second time was in Lisbon a couple of years ago. I was there in August – peak tourist season and it was packed. Impossible to walk down the pavement in the centre without having to step down into the road, trams spilling over with people and graffiti all over with variations of “Tourists Go Home”. It was the first time I’d been confronted with the friction between locals and tourists and I couldn’t help feeling guilty about being on the wrong side.

Sarah

I was in Copenhagen for work and had a spare couple of hours so I made the 45-minute walk from my hotel to the Little Mermaid. I had just arrived in the city so took a lot of photos on the way. Approaching the sculpture, there were very few people around which I thought a good sign but realised I’d reached my destination on seeing a crowd gathered. After patiently waiting my turn to take a photo my battery ran out at exactly the point of snapping the pic! It was lovely to be there and experience seeing the statue in person but I had to admit to myself that it didn’t seem the same without the photo, a feeling I assumed I shared with everyone else there – especially those posing precariously on rocks and draping themselves over the statue! I returned a few days later – when it was much busier – to get my precious photo. I’m going to try harder in future to experience places without my phone/camera at work!

For more information about The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ please see our website.

The Role of ‘The Road’ in the Australian Imagination

This month we published Roads, Tourism and Cultural History by Rosemary Kerr. In this post the author explains how ‘the road’ inspired her book.

As the summer holiday season approaches in Australia, many people will take to the road – visiting family and friends; heading up or down the coast for some rest and relaxation; revisiting favourite spots, or exploring new places off the beaten track. The road trip looms large in Australian culture. Distance and mobility have shaped the nation’s history and character, but until now the role of ‘the road’ and road tourism in the Australian imagination has been relatively unexplored.

From sacred Aboriginal ‘songlines’; trails blazed by explorers and pioneers; to the rise of the road trip in the early 20th century, as cyclists, motorists and caravanners answered the ‘call of the open road’; to modern-day backpackers and grey nomads following ‘Highway One’ around and through the country on journeys of national and self-discovery; to four-wheel-drive adventurers, who dream of getting off the road altogether, this book examines how roads and road travel beyond urban settings are imagined, experienced and represented by travellers, writers, poets and film makers. Through detailed studies of iconic routes, including the Birdsville Track, Stuart Highway and Great Ocean Road, it asks, how and why have some roads become more famous than others? What are the implications for heritage preservation and tourism interpretations of these routes?

Based on my doctoral research, completed at the University of Sydney in 2012, the topic was inspired partly by my work as a historian and heritage consultant, where I was involved in several projects studying the heritage of roads and bridges. This work focused on assessing the physical fabric of roads and infrastructure as well as their historical context and significance. Questions such as: ‘how and why were they built? Where did they go? Who travelled them?’ and ‘Why are they important?’ made me think about the layers of history, memory, meaning and mythology embodied in roads. I wanted to explore the idea of the road in broader Australian culture.

Travel narratives, tourism literature, fiction, poetry and feature films reveal the Australian road to be a space of contrasts and contradictions between: Aboriginal and European conceptions of space, road and off-road, coast and outback, nostalgia and modernity, nature and technology, freedom and constraint, memory and forgetting, dream and nightmare.

As well as representing adventure, escape and opportunity, the road also has a dark side. The much-anticipated holiday road trip often ends in tragedy, and Australia has one of the highest incidences of road trauma in the world. Terms like ‘horror stretches’ and ‘accident black spots’ attest to the spectre of death which haunts the nation’s highways. Disturbing – and often bizarre – cases involving murders and disappearances of hitchhikers, backpackers and other travellers on outback and regional highways contribute to the image of the road as a ‘badlands’. These images have also entered our cultural consciousness, inspiring road movies such as The Cars that Ate Paris, Mad Max and Wolf Creek.

 Yet, the ‘weirdness’ and ‘melancholy’, which often characterised representations of the Australian bush and outback can be attributed partly to Australia’s history as a settler colonial society. It reflected the sense of dislocation and alienation experienced by many, both convict and free, who found themselves far from ‘home’ in an unfamiliar and often threatening environment; and the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples which the process of colonisation entailed. That history has had a lasting and ongoing impact on imaginings, experiences and representations of the Australian road.

By exploring ‘the road’ as both a physical and imagined space, the book delves deep into the Australian psyche, revealing much about underlying Australian culture including relationships to landscape, modernity, national identity and colonialism. It offers a new way of thinking about roads and road tourism as important strands in a nation’s cultural fabric.

Rosemary Kerr

Consulting Historian

rtk@tpg.com.au

 

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.

Q&A with the Authors of “Contemporary Christian Travel”

This month we published Contemporary Christian Travel by Amos S. Ron and Dallen J. Timothy. In this post the authors answer some questions about the inspiration behind the book and their experience putting it together.

What were your motivations in writing this book?

We have some motivations in common, as well as some individual ones. We both love religions in general, as they reveal a great deal about cultures and people, and their encounters with deity and nature. We have an awareness of the magnitude and impact of faith-based travel in general, and Christian faith-based travel in particular, which is an increasingly important phenomenon worldwide. We wanted to highlight that Christianity is diverse with many different denominations practicing their own versions of pilgrimage and manifesting in different patterns of travel, products and destinations. We also enjoy gaining knowledge and sharing it with others, which is why we decided to write this book to fill an academic gap as regards one of the largest faiths on the planet.

An additional motivation was to create a dialogue and understanding within Christianity, which seems to be important, albeit somewhat lacking, in our world. We believe that this book has the potential to contribute to this goal.

Amos at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

In my case (Amos), working on such a book is less obvious because I am not even Christian. However, my professional background is very relevant. Apart from my academic career in cultural geography and tourism studies, I have been guiding Christian pilgrims through the Holy Land for decades, and often these encounters encouraged me to know more. For example, I once guided an evangelical group that came on their pilgrimage with suitcases full of medications to give away to needy locals. At the end of the tour, I had boxloads of medications in the back of my car. Through this event and others I became more interested in humanitarian needs and volunteer tourism.

Dallen with his wife, Carol, at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

In my case (Dallen), I am a devout Christian and have personally undertaken spiritually-oriented travel that I found to be uplifting, enjoyable and relevant. I have many friends and colleagues of many different religions throughout the world. I also have numerous friends who belong to many different Christian denominations. I have spent years trying to understand different churches’ doctrines and practices associated with religiously-motivated travel, relationships with deity, the earth and other sojourners. Amos and I have been researching religion and tourism separately for many years and together for the past 12 years. There is always more to learn; this book represents a step in the right direction toward providing a deeper understanding of how religion simultaneously venerates, blesses, consumes and commercializes sacred places.

Did you enjoy writing it?

We definitely did. It took us a number of years to gather all of the information we needed and many site visits in order to experience Christian tourism for ourselves first hand. One of the reasons we enjoyed writing the book was the fact that this book is different, unique. It is not ‘more of the same’, and so far, the reviewers have agreed with us.

How was it to work together?

A pleasure. A very positive experience. Writing with others can be challenging, but for us it was easy, as we think in much the same way.

How will the Christian travel market accept this book?

We will find out, but we think that in addition to the academic aspects of this book, it is relevant to the Christian faith-based travel industry for the purpose of developing new markets, understanding consumers’ experiences, and connecting supply with demand.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Tourism and Religion edited by Richard Butler and Wantanee Suntikul.

The ‘Hotel Rat’: Personal Identity, Social Relationships and Hotel Space

This month we published Histories, Meanings and Representations of the Modern Hotel by Kevin J. James. In this post Kevin explains what first sparked his interest in hotel history.

Until I read the report in the pages of an 1833 newspaper, the story seemed to belong only to the madcap antics in one of the most memorable episodes of the John Cleese television classic ‘Fawlty Towers’. A German baron, ‘about 35 or 36 years of age, of slender make, with light hair, and sandy moustachios’, speaking imperfect English, arrived in a hotel near Berkeley Square. The baron impressed the management with impeccable credentials, including letters of introduction to Foreign Ministers, and ‘one of the principal embassies’. He declared that he was undertaking crucial diplomatic business. In the conduct of those important affairs, he hired ‘a dashing cabriolet and livery servants’, ordered a number of luxurious hand-crafted goods, and entertained lavishly. Only when the keeper of a hotel at which he had previously stayed paid a visit to the keeper of the smart establishment was the swindler – and the extent of his fraud – revealed. The single trunk with which he travelled was discovered to be completely empty, and the names under which he had commissioned expensive craft work were false!

This story played out many times, and drew my interest: yes, these cases were especially sensational (and the press knew that). But they also raised profound questions about personal identity, social relationships, and hotel space. Under what pretences could people identify themselves as guests? What systems of surveillance operated in the public and private spaces of the hotel? How were agents of the law involved in hotels? How, in an age before credit card authorisations, when people still travelled long distances for business and pleasure, was risk addressed by keepers of grand hotels keen to fill their rooms with the best sort of guest, and thereby accrue prestige? No place seemed immune from the designs of the figure who became known as the ‘hotel rat’ – a man or woman who appeared well dressed and respectable, and insinuated themselves into the spaces of, and exploited, the hotels which accepted them, and their credit, at face value.  No place was immune from the seductions of high rank: The Evening Telegraph in 1883 reported that a ‘spurious Duke of Richmond’ travelling in New York had ‘traded rather unscrupulously on the veneration which many people in that democratic capital feel for a title’. In a world in which the petty nobility of the continent boasted a range of lofty-sounding titles almost unfathomable in number, the ease with which a swindler could claim aristocratic birth and a swift place in the high society of a foreign city, including access to its finest hotels, is sometimes shocking to the modern reader.

Thus began my quest to understand more about the nature of ‘modern hotel life’, and how other historians have handled it. In researching and writing about hotels, I have encountered cases of adultery, and of thefts of hotel articles as mundane as towels monogrammed with the initials of a railway hotel. I have also discovered reports of spies operating under the cloak of anonymity in restaurants and lobbies of an institution – the hotel – so complex and compelling that it demands as close attention from today’s readers as the press accorded the most notorious imposters who savoured the hotel’s splendour, and then failed to pay their bills.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Histories of Tourism edited by John K. Walton.