Tourism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Tourism, the act of paying money to go from one place to another to see different and unique sights, has been a fact of civilized life since approximately the 12th century. Of course, back in those days it was basically the upper, upper classes that had the time, the money, and the interest in travelling from one spot to another. The word "travel" by the way comes from the medieval English word "travail" which means suffering great hardship, and that is a very good description of travel in its earliest days. Much has been written about the journeys of Marco Polo, who until recently was considered the world's first tourist.
Celebrated in books, movies, musicals and television specials in several countries, Marco Polo is today a hero in Italy and in China:
Venice named its airport after a beloved native son. There's the Marco Polo bridge outside Beijing, and no tourist to the Chinese capital in the 1980s was ever allowed to miss the Marco Polo Carpet Shop at the Temple of Heaven. Across Asia, in tributaries of the storied Old Silk Road that linked West and East, Polo's name beckons modern travelers to restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops (Montalbano, 1996, A1).
Now the question of whether Marco Polo actually did his famous travels has come up for hot dispute after a British Librarian, Frances Wood, published a small book called Did Marco Polo go to China? In that, she uses vast research to cast doubts upon the famed Italian traveler and his mythic trip. The arguments she proposes are too complex to present here, but what is evident is that, whether Marco Polo did what he said he did or not, is not relevant. One cannot fault the fact that Marco Polo, at the very least, brought the subject of travel and tourism to the world in general (Montalbano, 1996, A4).
In the 17th and 18th centuries, what has become known as the "Grand Tour" became quite popular among the noble class...