01/12/2019

How Capitalism Brought Tourism To The Masses

Marian L. Tupy, CapX

In a January 4 article in The Telegraph, Anne Hanley reminisced about her recent trip to Venice. “Venice’s inhabitants were outnumbered by visitors,” she observed. “Around 54,000 under-pressure locals shared their city with just over 62,000 incomers … [and] that, for La Serenissima, is a ‘quiet’ day,” she continued. The city, she concluded, is being “killed” by tourism and will not be saved by new taxes levied on visitors.

As disposable incomes in previously underdeveloped countries increase and transport costs decline, global tourism will continue to expand. Overcrowding in major tourist spots, like Venice, can be unpleasant. I know. I have seen and experienced it firsthand. But, democratisation of travel has an upside. Millions of people are getting the opportunity to see the world for the first time and that is something worth celebrating.

As with so much else in the past, travelling was difficult and often dangerous.

Roads, where they existed, were rutted. Sailing was hazardous. Highwaymen and pirates were ubiquitous. Moreover, a great many people were not free to travel. Serfs and slaves could not journey without their masters’ permission. Similarly, women were discouraged from travelling unaccompanied. Most people could not afford to buy or rent a horse and had to walk long distances. Travel was also limited to daylight hours, meaning the window of opportunity was much smaller, especially in winter.  And when on their journey, travellers were often preyed upon by unscrupulous innkeepers.

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