How Has the Travel and Tourism Industry Developed?

The travel and tourism industry has developed and continually innovates in response to economic conditions, advancing technology and the interests of customers. Early forms of tourism were associated with luxury, but in the 21st century, travel is routine for people of many income levels.

Historically, tourism varied by region and an identifiable industry only developed with advancements in technology and communications. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks traveled to places of historical and spiritual importance, according to European History Online. Travelers in medieval Europe included noblemen, robbers and scholars, but the common man rarely left his city of residence.

The advent of steamships and railroads in the 19th century gave tourists more options and led to the emergence of grand hotels in major cities, according to The Economist. Attractions became common along these well-traveled routes and the tourism industry served to inform and sell trips to travelers. Guidebooks were published to provide information about accommodations and activities. European entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook offered packages to simplify the travel process, and so the travel agency was born. These agencies created affordable trips such as one-day excursions from the city to the countryside.

The modern airline, born in the 1920s, brought about the next major shift in the tourism industry. During the Great Depression, travel returned the status of luxury activity. As flights were complicated to book, travel agencies continued to grow. After World War II, auto manufacturing brought new prosperity and new modes of transportation to the United States, leading to the modern era of affordable travel.

Up until the 1970s, government-regulated airlines charged high prices, and the grand hotels continued to thrive. With competing automobile transportation and airline deregulation in the 1970s, the travel industry changed drastically. As reported in The Atlantic, airfare prices dropped by 50 percent between the 1980s and early 2000s. Hoteliers such as the Hiltons popularized budget accommodations. Online services began to take the place of travel agencies and drove down prices. The economic and technological conditions of this period have meant travel is now affordable to most people, and new services emerge within the industry regularly. As technologies advance, the tourism industry continues to change and develop.