A short History of International Tourism

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A short History of International Tourism

Skipping several thousands of years of colonialism – from the antiquity, Vikings, crusades to the Western industrial powers – as well as pilgrimage for at least the equal amount of time, commercial tourism as we know it today is a much, much newer concept.

A little more than a decade after WW2, European and Western economies, consumption and materialism grew to unprecedented levels. A new concept appeared to the general public – international tourism. Until then, mass tourism had almost exclusively been domestic.

The popularity of international tourism relied on few basic principles: The destination had to be in a warm, dry climate, it had to be cheap and an elevated feeling of luxury and an overly full stomach – the idea being that hard-working people would be able to recover after a couple of weeks of this lifestyle.

International tourism barely left a mark on environment or community in the first 30 years after WW2 – in 1951 25 million people travelled internationally as tourists and 70% of them went to either US, Canada, Italy, France or Switzerland. 20 years later 166 million arrivals internationally and the 5 countries above now only received 50 % of the total number.

Fast-forward to 2012, and a little more than a billion arrivals were reached.

What on earth happened? To make a long story short, coming out of two decades, 1960’s and 70’s, where civil movements had grown strong and pushed the general public to be keep in mind the existential topics, such as the established Western lifestyle and the health of this planet, political leaders in Western countries pushed for an agenda that was far more liberal, in terms of economic growth and not being so concerned with stuff like climate. In fact, when Ronald Reagan was elected as the President of USA in 1981, one of the first things he did was to demonstratively remove the solar panels that Jimmy Carter equally demonstratively had put on roof of the White House, to show the way to new energy sources as a response the spiking oil prices in the end of the 70s.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher led the way towards a widely deregulated financial system and soon after, the growth in the West sky-rocketed. The developing world, who already at the time of the energy crisis, had an economy mostly based on producing goods for the developed world and simply did not have the means to influence the financial system, resulting in debt and instability. The International Monetary Fund was ready to give enormous loans to developing nations on all continents, resulting in further debt and deregulation of infrastructure and assets. The basis was now established for an economic system that created exponential inequality and the relatively rich countries were now able to travel like never before. and from the 1990s the global tourism grew with a pace not seen before – so did global inequality.

Until now, the story has been that people from relatively rich countries do the relatively poor countries a big favor by spending money there, during vacation. This story serves as the rationale making us all feel better about it. We can even see with our own eyes how many jobs it creates.

However, after decades of growth in international tourism, the likes of which not seen in other sectors, it is clear that these relatively poor countries rely on staying poor, in terms of the price for labor, good, taxation, infrastructure and environmental concerns.

In MatKon Travel, we propose a comprehensive set up at the destination, that ensures that the carrying capacity of the country is serving as a basis for how to develop tourism locally, in a way that ensure the money spend at the destination stays in the country and benefit local communities. Tourism infrastructure and demand is based on the carrying capacity of communities and the environment they life off and incentives of itineraries are directed towards improving insights concerning the planet we live on, more than looting more resources than needed.