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Module 1: History of Tourism

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History of American Travel

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Introduction to the Development of Tourism
History of Travel
History of American Travel

Early Travel in America
As with Europe, The United States of America began developing a unique tourism culture in the 18th century. Indeed, America’s tourist culture was defined by the same factors as in Europe; the methods of transport available, the vacation habits of the wealthy and the advancement of workers’ rights.

It was the development of the railway that opened up the USA to travellers. The completion of the Erie Railroad spurred the development of Niagara Falls into a honeymoon resort by the 1870s. The vast river network at the interior of the nation allowed the development of steamboat excursions, particularly gambling and amusement trips between New Orleans, Louisiana and St Louis, Missouri.

The first tourist resorts created in the United States were seaside resorts. As in Britain, physicians began encouraging people to bathe in seawater to promote good health. By the early 1800s, resorts like Saratoga in New York State became fashionable amongst the wealthy. As these destinations increased in popularity, local entrepreneurs established attractions in these resorts. This led to the popularisation of the seaside fun fair or amusement park.

As American industry developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, wealthy business owners began touring throughout the country. The southern elite were especially fond of travelling and would undertake an American equivalent of the Grand Tour. Three types of attraction were paramount on these tours: northern cities, historical sites (those associated with the American Revolution and the US Civil War), and seaside resorts.

By the late 1800s the west coast had also become a popular tourist destination. Travellers from the east coast and the south would travel to the west to hunt buffalo and enjoy the landscape. Eventually, the west coast also became popular amongst European tourists.

During the 19th century, labour rights began to advance in America. The 12-hour workday was reduced to 10-hours by the 1830s. Simultaneously, employers began offering workers a weeks’ vacation. These factors, combined with a gradual increase in wages, meant that most workers could were able to take a holiday by the mid-19th century.

Modern American Travel
Tourism Today: Today, Americans take more than 500 million trips annually to places 160 kilometres or more from home. Over two-thirds of these trips are pleasure-oriented. Over half of the pleasure trips are to visit friends and relatives. Approximately two-thirds of all trips are taken by auto, truck, or recreational vehicle. Weekend trips, as distinct from the traditional vacation trip, have been increasing and now represent about 40 per cent of all trips taken.

For every $100 spent on trips over 40 kilometres from home, about $37 is spent on personal transportation, $21 on purchases, $14 on food, $13 on public transportation, $9 on lodging, and $6 on entertainment and recreation. The major beneficiaries of tourism, in terms of US dollars spent there, are the states of California, Florida, New York, Texas, and New Jersey.

END OF UNIT:
History of American Travel