Responsible tourism is tourism that is carried out
according to principles of social and economical justice,
with full respect toward the environment and culture.*

*Source: AITR (Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile)

Historical concept of tourism and its consequences

summarized history of tourism

In the ancient times, within the strongest civilizations (China, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Islam, etc.) people moved for migration, commerce, military reasons, official tasks, exile, religious reasons and pilgrimages, but tourism, in the modern sense of free travelling not connected to a job or a duty, doesn’t exist, with the exception of some wealthy people, for example in the Roman Empire. Some scholars, from Tacitus to Ibn Khaldun made knowledge trips and any good merchant, general, sailor, etc. in his trips was also acquiring and interchanging knowledge, but these travels were always directly related to their specific social role.

It was the same for the “Big Tour” of the intellectual people in 17th-early19th century in Europe, related to the rediscovering of the “ancient Rome and Greece”. The modern concept of “tourism” started only with the growing up of the new bourgeois class in the 18th-19th century, when travelling started to be for many people belonging to the upper class and to the upper-middle class a form of “enjoying”. In the English language, the word tourist was used for the first time in 1772 and the word tourism only in 1811. Hotels and restaurant, thermal tourism and sea-side tourism started to transform travelling in a proto-industry with the support of the new transport instruments: trains. coal-ships and in the 20th century airplanes. The first experience of all-inclusive tours was organized by Thomas Cook (using a chartered train) in England, in 1841, while in 1891 the German Albert Ballin organized the first cruise in the Mediterranean Sea, from Germany, but until the First World war tourism was not a mass phenomenon.

During the year 1930s, the European dictatorships (Italy and Germany) promoted “popular tourism” as a mass control action, a physical improvement measure for military growth and a national identity construction.

In 1936, the League of Nation defined a foreign tourist as "someone traveling abroad for at least twenty-four hours". The United Nations amended this definition in 1945, by including a maximum stay of six months

Before the 1950s, tourism in Europe and USA was mainly characterized in 5 ways:

  • long duration luxury trips and staying for very rich travellers, in Europe, USA or “colonial countries”;
  • middle/short “exotic travels” for upper-middle class people in some of the nearest colonial areas of their own countries;
  • middle/short duration vacations for middle class people and in some cases state-supported initiatives for working classes in their own country (especially to the sea-side, the cultural sites, etc.);
  • short returning home to their family sites for the migrant working class.

During this age the amount of tourists started to grow up, and this growing exploded in the years 1950s-1960s, also without reaching the monstrous level of nowadays; the first bad consequences of the modern tourism (some of them inherited from the travelling age of the previous period) started to produce their effects:

  • exploiting and disrupting the local cultures and people (within the colonial and postcolonial logic);
  • overcrowding of some sites and areas;
  • savage buildings of holiday-houses and hotels,
  • sex-tourism

The increasing incomes of western people, the changing of their attitudes concerning leisure and amusement, the marketing strategies of the growing up tourist industry, the cheap costs in the not-western countries, etc. contributed to push the tourism to a mass phenomenon. Today, only international tourist arrivals reached 1.035 billion in 2012 (940 million in 2010) and in 2011 3 Mediterranean States were among the first 5 tourist destinations in the World: France (1st in the World), Spain (4th) and Italy (5th), also if for France it’s not the Mediterranean coast the main tourist area but Paris .

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This website has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union under the ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.
The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Live Your Tour-Consortium and its members, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union or of the Programme’s management structures.