The first people to travel in any numbers were the individual British tourists who went on the Grand Tour (Guide Book). The British aristocracy finished their studies at Oxford and Cambridge and then went to see Europe. This trend started from around 1650 or so and continued more or less until rail travel took tourism downmarket. And it was rail travel that revolutionised the market. Organised tours (package holiday) came quickly afterwards. The intermediary was born. On 5 July 1841, Thomas Cook chartered a train to take a group of teetotallers to visit a rally to travel the huge distance of 18 kilometres! Over the next few years, Thomas Cook concentrated on his religious market, providing trips for Sunday schools and for temperance groups. Much of his expansion was driven by his packaging rail travel, hotels, restaurants and cruises.
Packaging travel with an intermediary expanded incredibly with air transportation. Mass tourism really took off. As a phrase, “package holidays” was first mentioned in the Times in 1959. The definition given was “a holiday in which the charge covers everything and not just the air fare” with cost advantages of up to 50%. The holidays referred to were organised by Horizon from England to destinations such as Palma, Lourdes, Costa Brava and Sardinia.
With budget airlines and the Internet, the intermediary has a much more limited function. Because the elements of a holiday such as air fare, rental car and hotel can be booked individually, the high street travel agent is disappearing and travel companies have to find different ways to add value.
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