Off on our hols . . .

Here comes the Sun. Just as it finally turned its face to Britain, I and many of my fellow Britons, will be off on our summer holidays overseas. Most of the trips are organised by travel companies although it is increasing easy to book the elements yourself, thanks to Google Translate.

Here Comes the Sun” is a song written by George Harrison that was first released on the Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road.

Holidays (or vacations) where you actually leave home for fun are a comparatively recent phenomenon.  The word `holiday’ is an English contraction of `Holy Day’, a religious occasion when even the most hard-pressed serfs could expect a rest.

Prior to the existence of efficient mass-transport the journey to a desired destination would be no fun at all unless you were rich enough to travel in opulence with servants.  As late as the nineteenth century there are records of people drowning in potholes on the poor-quality roads.

Rapid improvements in transportation spurred on by industrialisation improved turnpike roads, canals and most importantly railways which equally benefitted individuals who fancied a day out.  The first known mass tourist venture was led by temperance campaigner Thomas Cook in 1841 taking a massive 500 people twelve miles along the railway line for a shilling a head.  Finding the idea a great success he organised many other trips for large groups and branched out overseas.  Church groups often took hundreds of people on day trips using the new railways and organised tea-parties at the other end.

A tourist industry grew up and many towns such as Blackpool found that their whole economies revolved around tourism.  It became a highly competitive business. The picture above shows Blackpool by night.  It is a seaside resort on England’s northwest coast in Lancashire.  It had an estimated population of 142,065 at the 2011 Census.

In Britain, however, the tourist industry had one great drawback and that was the British weather.  Tourist towns became ghost towns in winter or even on dull summer days and still do somewhat.  Blackpool hit upon the idea of the `illuminations’ in 1879 which come on in November and attract tourists in the darkest days of winter.  Other towns have cultural or historical attractions that draw in tourists all year round, some places seem at their best in winter.

In the same way as the trains changed the face of tourism so did the advent of cheap flights from the 1960’s.  Large numbers of Britons began to fly abroad for guaranteed sunshine utterly changing the appearance and economies of regions such as Mediterranean Spain.

Tourism, whilst adding revenue, can also have devastating ecological effects.  For example, the delicate ecosystem that supports the beautiful, vulnerable city of Venice is harmed by the presence of enormous cruise-ships full of enthusiastic tourists desperate to enjoy the city.   People have all sorts of reasons for holidays nowadays, some like a retreat, some like party-venues and some like myself want to get closer to the past and places you studied and read about.

Bon Voyage.