You perceive I generalize with intrepidity from single instances. It is the tourist’s custom… Mark Twain


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Not since the miller led the pilgrims out of Southwark on their way to Canterbury has a single man had so much influence on British – and later international – tourism. We are used to a travel industry that when it is not leaving us stranded on cruise ships awash in sewage – or worse yet hard aground in the Mediterranean – is busy organizing us into a herd to catch a glimpse at the grandeur of Rome and having plenty of leisure time to shop at the Gap in Rome and eat at MacDonald’s in Rome and generally fulfilling Boorstin’s description, The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.”

Cook’s tours were inclusive. They were packed from start to finish with activities and edification and probably helped foster the idea that a vacation was two weeks that left you to tired and too broke to do anything else. But they had some substance to them other than shopping, gambling and allowing foreigners to know exactly how crass you may really be. That may be why it has been observed that the tourist transports his own values and demands to his destinations and implants them like an infectious disease, decimating whatever values existed before.

This is not a blanket condemnation of all who travel it is just advice to get the most out of your travel – to have the opportunity to go and learn something about music and about people and to see things apart from being a tourist – and we think by looking back we can see the model we need to follow in looking forward. My son is a traveller having embarked on a non-guided trip through parts of Africa and I enjoy reading his blog on a continuing basis. My days of travel are long since done but that doesn’t mean that I can not still be an intelligent tourist and I think that was finally the goal of Thomas Cook for his clients.

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Thomas Cook: the holiday-maker Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Pub., 2005      Jill Hamilton Tourism Great Britain History 19th century Hardcover. 1st. ed.  vii, 280 p., [16] p. of plates: ill., map; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 268-269) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Thomas Cook, the father of tourism, is a forgotten hero of his age. When he was born, neither of the words ‘tourism’ or ‘sightseeing’ had been invented. Driven by his Baptist faith and the promotion of Temperance, Cook founded the travel industry – now one of the world’s biggest sectors. One hundred and fifty years after his first overseas conducted tour, Jill Hamilton brings to life the complex man behind the famous name. There have been many accounts of the history of his firm, but this book is the first full-length biography of Cook himself.

His early years in Melbourne, Derbyshire, as a gardener, carpenter and preacher, then in Leicester as a printer and travel organiser, give a vivid picture of the political influence of the Nonconformists in England in the nineteenth century. Cook did everything from starting soup kitchens to leading an innovative campaign for the repeal of the Corn Laws.

During his fifty-year career in travel he drew on the same enthusiasm and originality to make holidays easier by introducing pre-paid inclusive tours, hotel coupons, traveller’s cheques, the ’round the world’ trip and the first travel newspaper.

Few people know of his determination to improve the lot of the working classes, his abhorrence of drink and his deep faith. The sex, alcohol and over-spending now associated with holidays would horrify the man whose first escorted trip in 1841 was a Temperance outing to Loughborough. He also helped set up a Baptist Chapel in Rome in the 1870s, and from 1869 onwards he brought the largest number of British people to the Holy Land since the Crusaders.

At the end of his life Cook could boast that he had escorted thousands of tourists abroad without mishap. This book gives a new perspective not only on Thomas Cook himself but on the birth of the travel industry.

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