Naissance D'une Industrie Touristique: Les Anglais et la Suisse Au XiXe Siecle

Article excerpt

Laurent Tissot, Naissance d'une industrie touristique: les Anglais et la Suisse au XIXe siecle, Payot, Lausanne (2000), Sfr 39.00.

Historiography is generous with tourism and tourists, but it is not evenly focused. There are numerous historical monographs on tourist resorts, and the subject has also been studied in the context of railway and airline history, urban history, gender studies (travelling women), and cultural and medical history (spas). However, the actual history of tourism as an industry is still in its infancy and Marc Boyer's Le tourisme (1972) remains one of the few books with a global view of the topic. The reason for this relative neglect lies mainly in the heterogeneity and international character of tourism itself: it is, after all, an activity which brings together transport, accommodation, catering and various complementary services. Moreover most of the players in the tourist industry have traditionally been small and medium-size companies, and access to archives has been difficult.

This study by Laurent Tissot - one of the leading historians of tourism - is therefore to be welcomed. His book explains why tourism has been an industry `with no restrictions' for over a century, and his cross-disciplinary approach helps to guide the reader through its complexities. It is a case study of nineteenth-century English tourism to Switzerland, the first mass tourist destination. Understandably, the biggest tourist flows came from the most advanced country at the time and one that was a leader in railway transport; consequently it was British entrepreneurs who shaped the organisation of tourism.

One of the most original aspects of Naissance d'une industrie touristique is its close analysis of travel guides, to which the first part of the book is entirely devoted. Tissot has used an impressive number of these guides and pamphlets, starting with John Murray's famous Handbook. The guides acquired their modern utilitarian form in the 1830s. Contrasting sharply with the romantic Weltanschauung variety which dominated the scene before then, they focus on sightseeing and practical travel tips, developing a range of codes and symbols to classify resorts, hotels and restaurants. …