The Father of Modern Tourism

“Where are you going on holyday this year?”
This question in the past was customary exclusively among nobles or members of the upper class, the only ones able to afford one of the fascinating journeys of the Grand Tour, to discover the culture and art of different European peoples.
But Thomas Cook opposed this “tourism for the rich” and invented modern tourism.

He was a former carpenter and furniture maker, who became a printer and a Baptist missionary and toured the region preaching in villages and distributing pamphlets
In the 1830s, noting the terrible effects of drunkenness and convinced that alcohol abuse was one of the major social problems in the Victorian age, he became involved in the Temperance Movement, which promoted temperance or complete abstinence from alcohol.

In 1841, when Cook was thirty-two years old, he had the idea of using the country’s rapidly expanding rail network to spread the views of the movement.
So he persuaded the Midland Counties Railway Company to run a special train to carry temperance supporters from Leicester (where he lived) to a meeting in Loughborough, 12 miles away, on 5th July.
“What a glorious thing it would be if the newly developed powers of railways and locomotion could be made subservient to the cause of temperance”, he wrote

Leicester at the time was home to 700 spirit stores, breweries and pubs and had an above average amount of drunkards and cases of alcohol related diseases. His social idea was to organise a railway excursion which would provide a more attractive and wholesome form of recreation than the alehouse.

The five hundred travellers on the chartered train paid 1 shilling each for the round trip, a brass band, entertainment, afternoon tea, and food.
For most passengers, this was the first time they had ever boarded a steam train. The trip, in third class open air carriages, was a success, with enthusiastic crowds lining the tracks and cheering as the locomotive passed by.
The day was filled with a cheerful holiday atmosphere, with a typical English picnic, family games and a match of cricket before the various preachers made their speeches accompanied by the band.

Thomas Cook later wrote about the trip: “And thus was struck the keynote of my excursions, and the social idea grew upon me” and in The Excursionist of July 1854 : “To travel is to feed the mind, humanise the soul, and rub off the crust of circumstance – to travel is to read the last new book – to travel is to dispel the mists of fable and clear the mind of prejudice taught from babyhood, and facilitate perfectness of seeing eye to eye. Who would not travel at a penny per mile?”

Financially, there was nothing in that first trip for Cook but it led him to consider “tourism” as his mission to humanity: a means of emancipation for large numbers of people whose work was drudgery and whose only recreation was offered by alcohol.
He organised repeat trips each summer for the next three years, without making a profit until 1845, and formulated what later became known as “Cook’s law,” namely that the largest profits came from “intensive use by the greatest number of people at the lowest cost.”’

“Dove vai in vacanza quest’anno?”
Questa domanda in passato era usata solo da nobili o membri dell’alta borghesia, gli unici, in grado di permettersi uno degli affascinanti viaggi del Grand Tour, alla scoperta della cultura e dell’arte europea.

Ma Thomas Cook si oppose a questo “turismo per ricchi” e inventò il turismo moderno.
Era un ex falegname e mobiliere, diventato tipografo e missionario battista in giro per la regione a predicare nei villaggi e distribuire opuscoli.
Negli anni ’30 dell’Ottocento notando i terribili effetti dell’ubriachezza e convinto che l’abuso di alcol fosse uno dei maggiori problemi sociali nell’età vittoriana aderì al Movimento per la Temperanza, che promuoveva la moderazione o addirittura l’astinenza dall’alcol.

All’età di trentadue anni, nel 1841, ebbe l’idea di utilizzare la rete ferroviaria in rapida espansione per diffondere le idee del movimento.
Così si rivolse alla Midland Counties Railway Company e li convinse a organizzare un treno speciale per trasportare i sostenitori del movimento da Leicester (dove viveva) a un raduno a Loughborough, a 12 miglia di distanza, il 5 luglio.
Sarebbe magnifico – scrisse- se la nuova potenza di ferrovie e locomozione potesse essere assoggettata alla causa della temperanza.”
Leicester all’epoca ospitava 700 negozi di alcolici, birrerie e pub e aveva una quantità superiore alla media di ubriachi e casi di malattie legate all’alcol. La sua idea era quella di organizzare un’escursione in treno che fornisse una forma di svago più piacevole e salutare di quello trovato in birreria.

I cinquecento viaggiatori pagarono 1 scellino a testa per il viaggio di andata e ritorno, la banda, l’intrattenimento, il tè pomeridiano e il cibo.
Per la maggior parte dei passeggeri questa era la prima volta che salivano su un treno a vapore. Il viaggio, in terza classe su vagoni aperti, fu un successo, con folle entusiaste che fiancheggiavano i binari e applaudivano al passaggio della locomotiva.
La giornata fu intrisa di un’allegra atmosfera vacanziera, con un tipico picnic inglese, giochi per famiglie e una partita di cricket prima che i vari predicatori tenessero i loro discorsi accompagnati dalla banda.

Thomas Cook in seguito scrisse del viaggio: “Così fu lanciata l’idea base delle mie escursioni e l’intento sociale mi piacque sempre più“, e in The Excursionist del luglio 1854: “Viaggiare è nutrire la mente, umanizzare l’anima e cancellare la crosta delle circostanze – viaggiare è leggere l’ultimo libro nuovo – viaggiare è dissipare la nebbia della fandonie, ripulire le mente dai pregiudizi insegnati fin dall’infanzia e facilitare la perfezione del vedere con gli stessi occhi. Chi non viaggerebbe a un centesimo per miglio?”

Dal punto di vista finanziario da quel primo viaggio Cook non guadagnò nulla, ma l’esperienza lo portò a considerare il “turismo” come la sua missione per l’umanità: un mezzo di emancipazione per un gran numero di persone il cui lavoro era duro e faticoso e il cui unico svago era offerto dall’alcol.
Organizzò altri viaggi ogni estate per i successivi tre anni senza realizzare alcun profitto fino al 1845, e formulò quella che in seguito divenne nota come “legge di Cook“, ovvero che i maggiori profitti provenivano “dall’utilizzo intensivo da parte del maggior numero di persone al minor costo.’

Image: BBC.com

89 thoughts on “The Father of Modern Tourism

  1. I wonder if it even makes sense to think about long-distance travel: Here in Europe, more and more flights are being canceled because the airlines have lost staff. And some airports are on strike. This is not the ideal background music for a relaxed holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Industrial Revolution brought about many new things of joy for England . When a child asked his mom ‘ Where is my pa ? ‘ Her response was ‘ He is in the factory ha ha ha .’ Such an extent of joy prevailed in the English society with the commencement of the Industrial Revolution in England . Thomas Cook brought about the second Revolution i.e in the field of modern tourism . He opened the closed door of tourism for one and all . Previously it was only meant for the elite class of the society . With his movement he also eradicated many of the social evils prevailing in the then English society . He organized Grand Tour by newly introduced Steam Engine Railways for the commoners rather than rich people to discover the culture and art of the different European countries . He also became the part of the Temperance Movement run against sever alcoholism prevailing in the then British society by organizing tours for the such people who were addicted to alcoholism simply for one Penny per KM. His company didn’t earned much for , at least , three years . But he carried on his Movement of Tour for the common man, thus , truly called the father of modern tourism . Thanks Luisa for introducing Thomas Cook’s contributions for the mankind as such by making tourism open for the commoners .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much for the attention you paid, as usual, to my post and the interesting social observations you made. These interventions of yours add value to my articles 🙏🌹🙏

      Like

  3. Temperanza termine oggi sconosciuto , al massimo temperino. Oggi il mezzo per viaggiare conta poco, e quello che vedi in itinere una perdita di tempo 👴👋🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. And who of our age group, has not seen or been on a Thomas Cook tour or used Thomas Cook traveller’s cheques or heard of the getting the “Cook’s tour”. When I was working, I travelled to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on business. They even had a restaurant called Thomas Cook, in a rail station . But, they served alcohol, so tourism won over temperance, methinks. the Awesome back story Luisa. Happy Tuesday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating story, Luisa. While I had heard of Thomas Cook, I had never read anything about. I’m glad he turned from temperance to tourism. River cruises to wineries would not have evolved. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This post was right up my street Luisa. Being an avid traveller, I knew that Thomas Cook was the instigator of tourism for the masses, but I never knew how it came about, so thank you for enlightening me.

    Today here in England, we have ‘Rail Ale Trails’ which for those who like ‘Real Ale’ can go on train journeys that provide all the information about how to get to stations that have a Real Ale pub nearby. I’m not sure what Mr Cook would think about that.

    As you probably know, Thomas Cook was still a household name in the travel business right up until 2019 when the group went bust. I hate it when names like this disappear altogether. Another smashing post 😊

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    1. I don’t think Mr Cook would have agreed either 🍻
      I knew that the business, which had become an international giant, went bankrupt less than three years ago

      Thanks a lot for your lovely reply 🍻💙🍻

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Un plauso a Cook 👏👏👏 Peccato che poi questa nobile idea abbia preso tutta un’altra piega… e se non erro vi era anche un’agenzia di viaggi a suo nome… Bello questo tuo articolo, completo in tutto Co e sempre del resto tutto ciò che ci proponi, grazie 🥀🥀🥀 Buona serata un abbraccio 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Grazie per il tuo articolo. Cone sempre molto interessante. Un’altra piccola idea del passato che si distingue per la genialità… poi è arrivata la generazione 2019 e sappiamo com’è andata a finire. Buona serata

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ahh…, Luisa, you do find so many fascinating stories of things we might have heard about but not known
    much. I am delighted to learn about the origin of Thomas Cook travels and the photo makes me smile.
    Everyone look so happy. Imagine an airport with such happy faces. 😊🚂.
    Thanks dear friend

    Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly how it started, to bring moral and social benefits to the working class. Then, of course, it became a tourism agency and expanded enormously
      Thanks a lot for your kind comment

      Like

      1. Certo… e ha creato un colosso che non si limitava solo ad agenzie turistiche, ma aveva acquisito alberghi e linee aere… per poi fallire tre anni fa, alla vigilia della pandemia da Covid

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I got this in an email and since it is real complaints about Cook’s travel agency, I thought they might be of amusement.
    THESE ARE ACTUAL COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY “THOMAS COOK VACATIONS” FROM DISSATISFIED CUSTOMERS:

    1. “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”

    2. “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”

    3. “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”

    4. “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”

    5. “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”

    6. “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”

    7. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallartato close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time — this should be banned.”

    8. “No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”

    9. “Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”

    10. “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”

    11. “The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.”

    12. “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”

    13. “I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”

    14. “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort.’ We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”

    15. “When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”

    16. “We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning.”

    17. “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”

    18. “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”

    19. “My fiancée and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed.

    We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant.

    This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well Explained !!

    I want to make you aware about a company Tairs Worldwide who is responsible for doing fraud on the name of tourism using its ponzi schemes. Its CEO Attilio Perna is also involved in this.

    Liked by 1 person

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