Travel and Tourism Careers Background
People have always traveled. In ancient times, people moved from area to area to search for food or better living conditions. When the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power in AD 100, it built the first great system of roads (29 highways in all) connecting Rome to other cities in its vast empire. These cobblestone roads were the most extensive, well-constructed roads ever seen and spanned more than 50,000 miles. Some roads, such as the Appian Way, are still in use today (!). This road system was constructed by and for the Roman troops, but it was used mainly to transport goods between Rome and other cities. Eventually, inns and restaurants developed along the roads to accommodate the needs of travelers on long journeys.
As transportation improved, the number of travelers increased. Pilgrimages to holy lands, sacred places, and the sites of miracles became common undertakings during the Middle Ages. Later, those seeking adventure or business opportunities began to make voyages of several hundred or several thousand miles, and after a time even the idea of traveling simply for pleasure became accepted. For those with sufficient time and wealth, traveling provided a diversion.
Technology began to make travel much easier and more affordable in the 19th century. Until then, most travel was done by horse and carriage or by foot. Starting in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, inventors competed to develop the first steam-powered locomotives. In the United States, by the 1830s, the first workable engines and rail lines carried goods and passengers throughout the Atlantic states. In 1852, the first train reached Chicago, and soon the new towns in the Mississippi Valley had railway service to the Eastern seaports. The West and East were finally linked by a rail line in 1869, when the First Continental Railway was completed. The rise of the railroads increased the demand for hotels and inns. A railroad stop was usually a boon to small towns. Hotels often sprang up near the train station and grew to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers.
Starting in the second half of the 19th century, steamships gradually replaced sailing vessels on the world’s trade and passenger routes. Passenger travel between Europe and the United States increased. Luxury cruise ships that carried passengers to and from Europe offered accommodations, equal to those of fine hotels. These vessels featured orchestras, ballrooms, dining halls, and private suites. The Queen Elizabeth was probably one of the best known and most traveled of the luxury liners. Ship travel was intended to be leisurely. Crossing the Atlantic by ship took two weeks.
New methods of travel made tourism possible for others besides the idle rich. The working class could afford train fare to the countryside or the big cities. For Americans, a trip to Europe became an achievable goal. Although the cost was still quite high, it was within the reach of many people to save for and plan the trip. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a trip abroad was a typical gift to the graduating college student. Commonly referred to as a grand tour, it was seen as a reward as well as a learning experience.
A new age of travel began when the Wright brothers made the first successful powered flight of a heavier-than- air craft in 1903. Within a few decades, the airplane had secured its place as a vital means of transportation. As the airline industry developed, advancements in plane design allowed for a greater number of passengers to be transported on a greater number of routes. Small cities were able to establish airports for smaller vehicles, and large cities found themselves with large, international airports, multiple runways, and substantial air traffic.
Travel by automobile became especially popular after the end of World War II. Better production technology made automobiles more affordable. An increased number of families could buy cars, and with a healthy economy and growing amounts of leisure time, more people were traveling, dining out, and vacationing than ever before.
Due to the growing interest in and popularity of commercial travel, the need for people who could plan trips increased. Travel agents who knew which hotels were good, how to get reservations, and how to make travel plans, found themselves increasingly in demand. Thomas Cook, in England, began his guided tour business in 1841. He specialized in excursions that serviced hundreds of thousands of people a year. Cook tours opened exotic places, such as Egypt and the Orient, to interested travelers. Travel agencies developed everywhere in the West. Travel specialists who could arrange tours and travel guides who knew the ins and outs of faraway places became sought-after businesspeople. The booming travel industry relied on experts to steer tourists to their establishments.
The advent of travel services available on the Internet has had a major impact on the travel industry. Web sites such as Expedia.com and Priceline.com allow travelers to do their research, plan their own trips, hunt for the best price, and book their own vacations. Most hotels, entertainment venues, and airlines maintain Web sites that allow direct contact with the public and offer much of the information traditionally provided by travel agents.
Another major development in the travel industry has been the need for heightened security in the face of terrorism. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, struck a blow against many travel-related businesses, particularly airlines, as tourists elected to drive rather than fly or chose to vacation closer to home. Much of that business has returned, but travel has been permanently changed. Air passengers are subjected to close scrutiny and thorough security checks before boarding, and hotels and nightclubs have become potential terrorist targets.
Still, travel remains a robust part of everyday American life. Whether its purpose is for leisure or for business, travel choices have never been so abundant. In turn, career opportunities within the travel and tourism industry are plentiful, from travel agents to cruise directors to adventure travel guides.