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5.7.1841: The birth of mass tourism
On this morning, 570 people pushed their way onto the station platform in the Midlands town of Leicester. Crowds of curious onlookers watched the guests who had been invited by Thomas Cook to take a special trip from Leicester to Loughborough and back.

The cost of the trip was one shilling. Yet the shilling not only covered the third-class return standing ticket, but also a ham sandwich and a cup of tea. It was the first package tour in history.

Cook ran the enterprise as a one-man band. He was the operator, printer, publisher and lay preacher. But the travel agency's founder did not plan the trip for the purpose of making a profit. The 570 travellers were members of the temperance league, a group which is dedicated to abstinence from alcohol. Cook’s real aim was "to get away from the gin bottle and out into the fresh air."

The passengers who were packed like sardines into the Midland Railway’s open carriages definitely got plenty of fresh air. Their arrival in Loughborough was almost triumphant. Thousands of curious onlookers had gathered to welcome the pioneers with flags and brass bands.

Cook had thought of the idea a few months previously while travelling the same route on foot. "About halfway between Loughborough and Leicester, I thought how wonderful it would be if the powers of these recently-developed trains and travel opportunities could be harnessed to spread the word on abstinence," he said.

Obviously, people travelled perfectly well before Cook came along. But those who did travel regularly were in the minority. And the usual purpose of travelling was not relaxation or Cook’s aim of "uniting people with people and people with God."

The people who travelled most often were traders, diplomats and tradesmen. There were couriers, soldiers, pilgrims and plenty of crooks on the roads. So, few people envied those who had to travel long distances. Travel for pleasure was inconceivable to the population at large.

In the 18th century, members of the aristocracy started to travel to spas, which served the purpose of both health and pleasure. It is due to these heath cure holidaymakers that cities such as Baden-Baden or Wiesbaden are so prestigious today.

When the railways were built, it was suddenly possible to travel long distances in relative safety and at a low cost. Travellers became tourists.

Cook wanted to give everyone the chance to travel. He offered night excursions for people who worked in factories for 12 hours or more every day. When he offered a trip to the London Industrial Exhibition in 1851, he used his advertisements to further the cause of workers’ rights to leisure time.

Yet the travel revolution not only played an important role in the emancipation of the lower and middle classes, but also the emancipation of women, who were traditionally among Cook’s numerous clients.

"In terms of their energy, courage and endurance, they are generally equal to the other sex," Cook said. "And on many occasions, they put mollycoddled gentlemen to shame. Some are hindered from tackling gorges by their fancy feminine clothes. But there are also many who disregard fashion and customs to overcome all obstacles and become fully-fledged tourists."

The first tour with the 570 members of the temperance league gave birth to a movement: the tourism movement. Soon, Cook organized the first overseas tour packages and invented the first hotel voucher. Later, he introduced travellers’ cheques to ease the immense problems that foreign currencies posed at that time. Travel agencies were established all over the world. Thomas Cook became a synonym for travel, although not all tourists met with his approval.

He wrote about one group: "The noisy Teutons took over every cabin on the top deck and our ladies were forced to go below deck as if they were French citizens under German rule."

Cook’s tour packages included something for everyone. He made it possible for an Indian prince to take 33 tigers with him on his trip to Europe and organized transportation for British troops in Egypt. One hen-pecked husband asked him for information about where "a British citizen could find peace and quiet away from a devil of a woman. If possible, with a mild climate, at a low cost and where there is plenty of fruit."

Today, the company is no longer in the hands of the Cook family. It is owned by German concerns Lufthansa and KarstadtQuelle. Even so, its pioneering reputation remains intact. Now, Thomas Cook’s Moon Register contains the names of thousands of adventurous tourists who have put their names down for the first package tour to the moon.
   
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Zitat des Tages
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