Travel, tourism industry makes rapid growth despite problems - GulfToday

Travel, tourism industry makes rapid growth despite problems


Tourists listen to a tour guide in Havana, Cuba. Reuters

Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industries and the number of leisure travellers globally is set to increase enormously despite recurring problems in this sector. It is expected that more families to reach middle-class status for the first time in the next few decades.

Leisure travel is set to make one of the largest contributions to rising energy consumption and carbon emissions through 2050, with much of the increase concentrated in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

International air travel will make an especially large contribution to emissions because aviation is energy-intensive and for the foreseeable future there are no low-carbon alternatives to relying on jet fuel.

Before the modern era, leisure journeys, or indeed any travel, were difficult, expensive and rare for most of the population.

Governments discouraged casual travel because of the potential threat to social and political stability; travellers were almost universally viewed with suspicion.

In Britain before about 1700, almost the only long-distance travellers on the roads were aristocrats, soldiers, judges, priests and tax collectors, together with a small number of sailors plying coastal sea routes. The law banned non-essential trips. Anyone found outside their home parish without a lawful reason could be punished for vagrancy by whipping and forced to return.

Similar restrictions on casual movement were introduced in most other European and Asian countries to maintain political control and economic stability.

“Most of the population travelled little, rarely seeing neighbouring villages, let alone the nearest market town”.

But the improvement of transportation during the 18th and 19th centuries, with heavy investment first in roads and later on canals and railways, unleashed a tremendous increase in personal mobility.

Some of that increased travel was work-related, as economies became more integrated, with local markets and industries gradually replaced by regional and then national markets.

But much of the surge in journeys by road and later rail was more discretionary and reflected rising incomes and the greater opportunities to travel created by more advanced technology.

The introduction of turnpike trusts, charging tolls to build and maintain highways, on major routes led to a significant improvement in the quality of Britain’s roads from the middle of the 18th century.

The result was a rapid and sustained increase in long distance inter-city travel for freight but more especially for passengers.

Inter-city coaching services became more frequent and faster - with the number of passenger services to and from London quadrupling between 1760 and 1780 and then doubling again by 1790.

Passenger services increased much faster than freight, at least in the first few decades, an indication of the pent-up desire to travel that was released once transport became easier and cheaper.

The same pattern was repeated a century later with the advent of the railways, which quickly replaced horse-drawn carriages as the dominant mode of passenger transport for journeys of more than a few miles.

Growth in rail traffic was led by passengers rather than freight, most of them drawn from relatively low-income groups that had not previously travelled much. “Contrary to the original expectation, the opening of Britain’s early railways had a more immediate impact on the pattern of passenger travel than it did on goods traffic,” according to historian Philip Bagwell.

Passenger rail journeys increased from 5 million in 1838 to 100 million in 1854, 500 million in 1876 and 1 billion in 1897, a 200-fold increase in 60 years. Rising incomes and improvements in the transport system unleashed a revolutionary increase in personal mobility in Britain between 1750 and 1900.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the mobility revolution continued with the introduction of the motor car and then international air travel.

The number of passenger-miles flown surged from 3 million in 1925 to 50 million in 1937, 500 million in 1948, 1 billion in 1951, 10 billion in 1969 and 31 billion in 1980.

International travel is still increasing. UK travellers made almost 72 million visits overseas in 2018, up from 51 million in 1998 and 29 million in 1988.

Britain’s mobility revolution has been matched or exceeded in all the advanced economies of Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia.


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