Tourism as such, was born in the 19th century, as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, with displacements whose main intention is leisure, rest, culture, health, business or family relationships.

Tourism, has become one of the main activities of our economy, in addition to representing a very important factor within it, employing millions of people (directly or indirectly) and moving very important economic figures every year, it has crept into most homes as another part of leisure. Something that has been linked to our history forever.

The origin 

At the beginning of the 1930s, one of the first theoreticians of the German School of Tourism studies, Arthur Bormann, defines tourism as the set of trips made for pleasure or for commercial reasons, during which the absence of habitual residence is temporary. Trips made to travel to the workplace are not tourism. According to the UNWTO, a visitor (internal, receiving or sending) is classified as a tourist (or overnight visitor) if his trip includes an overnight stay, or as a same-day visitor. A hiker is a person who visits a destination, but does not spend the night there.

The theoretical pioneers in Tourism, Walter Hunziker and Kurt Krapf, say in 1942 that “Tourism is the set of relationships and phenomena produced by the displacement and permanence of people outside their domicile, insofar as said displacements and permanence are not motivated by a lucrative activity”. Both Hunziker and Krapf come from the school of St. Gallen (Switzerland) which proposed the idea of ​​studying tourism as a mechanism focused on the socio-economic reproduction of a society. Tourism consumption reflects the cultural values ​​of a society.

Sightseeing in Ancient Rome

Other historical data that we can find in reference to the beginnings of tourism are during the splendor of ancient Rome. It is that they continued to enjoy trips with religious and sporting reasons. But also of other types, such as health tourism in the hot springs or the vacations enjoyed by the emperors.

At this time, new communication channels began to open that the patricians and nobles used to go to the beach or visit places throughout the empire. Will these be the beginning of the beach vacation?

Already in the Middle Ages pilgrimages to sacred places began. Jerusalem, Rome or Santiago de Compostela acquire great importance in the medieval era. Pilgrims hired a guide to take them along the best path, as well as soldiers to protect them during their journey. They are the first records of organized trips in the full sense of the word.

Contemporary age

In 1841 Thomas Cook organized the first planned voyage in history. Although it was an economic failure, it is considered a resounding success in terms of the precedent of the tourist package, since it realized the enormous economic possibilities that this activity could have, thus creating in 1851 the first travel agency in the world, Thomas Cook and Son.

The Second World War absolutely paralyzed tourism in the world and its effects lasted until 1949. Between 1950 and 1973, the tourist boom began to be talked about. International tourism is growing at a higher rate than it had in all of history. This development is a consequence of the new international order, social stability and the development of leisure culture in the Western world. At this time it begins to legislate on the sector.

The economic recovery, especially in Germany and Japan, was amazing, raising the income levels of these countries and giving rise to a comfortable middle class that is beginning to be interested in travel. The recovery raised the standard of living of the most important sectors of the population in Western countries. The so-called welfare society arises in which, once the basic needs are covered, the level of training and the interest in traveling and learning about cultures appear.

On the other hand, the new labor legislation adopting paid vacations, the English week of 5 working days, the reduction of the 40-hour week, the extension of social coverage (retirement, unemployment…), greatly enhance the development of leisure and tourism.

Brief history of tourism in Spain

The evolution of tourism in Spain was born late compared to Europe, specifically at the end of the 19th century. As in the rest of the continent, the offer was centered on spas and was aimed at a clientele with high purchasing power made up almost entirely of the aristocracy and the incipient upper bourgeoisie that had emerged in the cities.

Some of these spas, such as Panticosa or Mondariz, became a kind of mini-cities with churches, shops, post offices and a residential area for domestic service, which accompanied the wealthy families during their stay.

However, in the first quarter of the 20th century, an unusual interest in beaches was born among the population. The health benefits of the seawater, again a therapeutic source that turned the beaches into much cheaper open-air spas.

Thus, places such as Sardinero in Santander, or La Concha in San Sebastián, became the origin of what we now call “summering”. There, the influx of bathers was considerable in the summer period, perhaps due to the number of services offered by both cities and the attendance of members of the royal houses and high nobility. The habits of these first bathers are extravagant before our eyes: they dived only once a day and a total immersion that lasted only a few seconds, sometimes helped by a swimmer.

If you want to extend your knowledge, we recommend the book, History of Tourism in Spain in the 20th Century (Editorial Síntesis, 2007), by Ana Moreno Garrido.