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.

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.