We would like to use this post to analyze the influence and relationship of technology with the tourism industry from a historical perspective, from its most distant origins to the present day. Let’s begin!
The origins of tourism
The hotel and tourism industries are as old as humanity itself, as people have always travelled by nature and through need since the beginning of time. If we analyze human behaviour regarding travel and accommodation from a historical point of view, we see that the travel and hospitality industries have always been, and will always be, closely related to technology.
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In the 4th century, the Tabula Peutingeriana was an illustrated itinerarium of the ancient Roman roads. We can see the first incarnations of travel guides or a very rudimentary versions of what we all know today as Google Maps.
And although they were motivated by religion and geopolitics, the Crusades are considered by many to be the first major organized travel groups, and also depended on technology to be successful.
In the discovery of the Americas by the Spanish at the end of the 15th century, basic technology, such as the astrolabe or crossbow, were decisive in the success of an expedition that changed the world. A few years later, in the 16th century, Spain achieved the highest degree of professionalisation of maritime navigation, with the publication of fundamental works such as the “Art of Navigation” by Pedro Medina or the “Brief Compendium of the Sphera” by Martín Cortes de Albacar. Both Spaniards are practically unknown, although they made great discoveries such as the magnetic declination of the Earth or the measurement of the height of the stars.
The 16th century also saw the wealthiest classes in Great Britain beginning to organize Grand Tours throughout southern Europe, especially Renaissance Italy, as part of their education.
18th and 19th centuries: Tour Operation begins
By the 18th century, the Grand Tours had become very common among wealthy Europeans and led to a major innovation: the travellers check. This was a nominative means of payment or currency exchange which made it possible to travel without having to carry large amounts of cash. We’ll come back later to the subject of payment methods and their influence on marketing.
Throughout the 18th century, especially in Britain, the development of the steam engine led to unprecedented economic growth for the Western world. As a consequence of this economic and social development, in the 19th century, people began to want to “travel for pleasure” on a fairly major scale.
In July 1841, Mr. Thomas Cook organized the first train excursion to Loughborough in Leicester. The trip was made by 500 people, and curiously was intended to form part of a demonstration against alcohol consumption. So we can therefore say that the summer of 1841 saw the beginning of tour operation.
In 1855, Thomas Cook organized the first continental tour that included accommodation and meals, visiting Germany, France and Belgium. Ten years later, he opened the first travel store in Fleet Street, very near Covent Garden. The store sold travel tickets, travel guides, footwear and luggage. Additionally, they also began to market the Grand Tours as Cooks Tours. Know how was brought together with technology and business processes to create a product. This makes it one of the first marketing campaigns in the history of the travel industry.
In the period between the wars, in 1923, in what was then Prussia, a company called Preussag was founded. It was dedicated to mining, steel, oil and real estate, but was also involved in printing. Their printing press would produce the kind of brochure that would become the key feature of hotel distribution for decades. The Preussag company used advanced technology in a number of different fields, and would later go on to become the current TUI group.
In 1927, in the USA, Mr. Marriott opened a small nine-stool soda bar in Washington, DC. That was the beginning of what is today the largest hotel company in the world.