The 11-Mile Teetotal Train Trip That Kickstarted Modern Mass Tourism; 175 YEARS OF THE PACKAGE HOLIDAY DEAL

Sunday Mirror (London, England), July 3, 2016 | Go to article overview

The 11-Mile Teetotal Train Trip That Kickstarted Modern Mass Tourism; 175 YEARS OF THE PACKAGE HOLIDAY DEAL


Byline: LEWIS PANTHER

IT'S July 5, 1841 and passengers are queueing up for one of those new-fangled package trips.

For one shilling - just under PS5 in today's money - 540 temperance campaigners are off on an 11-mile train journey from Leicester to Loughborough for an anti-alcohol rally.

The food is included. And running the show is one Thomas Cook, whose enterprise made him the founding father of modern-day tourism.

Cook got a share of the fare from Midland Counties Railway.

During the next three summers, the deeply religious cabinet maker organised excursions for Sunday school children, including accommodation.

Sensing he was on to something he would go on to expand his trips nationwide and across Europe, Africa, Asia and America.

Now, two days before the 175th anniversary of his historic first outing, the travel industry is reflecting on what he achieved - and the possibility of turbulent times ahead, post-Brexit.

Currency rates have taken a hit and experts fear UK travellers could face more costs and border control delays.

But then Cook himself did not have the easiest of rides as he launched package travel for the masses.

AGENCY

It was after a run-in with UK railway bosses jealous of his success that the Baptist preacher looked further afield.

In the 1860s he set his sights on France and Switzerland, taking 2,000 people there in his first season.

Then came "inclusive independent travel" to Italy, Egypt and the US.

Travellers went on their own but his agency charged for and organised travel, food and hotels.

Cook, from Market Harborough, Leics - one of the UK's most landlocked towns - first visited Switzerland on a 21-day information-gathering trip in June 1863. More than 60 pioneering tourists accompanied him.

Among them was a young Jemima Morrell, who kept a diary. Of the Hotel de l'Ours in Kandersteg, she wrote: "A pretty landlady came to meet us. The landlord spoke good English. We ordered dinner and awaited its arrival until a fish had been caught in the stream for our consumption."

Cook next struck deals for circular train journeys in France and Switzerland. The Thomas Cook website recalls: "His friendship with hoteliers enabled him to develop two important travel systems.

"One was the hotel coupon, launched in 1868, which travellers could use to pay for accommodation and meals. The other was his circular note, first issued in 1874 and a forerunner of the travellers cheque, enabling tourists to obtain local currency in exchange for a paper note issued by Thomas Cook."

But it wasn't all plain sailing and critics described him as the "Napoleon of Excursions".

Charles Lever, writing in Blackwood's Magazine, said Cook swamped Europe with "everything that is lowbred, vulgar and ridiculous". But he soldiered on and formed a partnership with son John in 1872.

Their London agency Thomas Cook & Son offered a 212-day world tour for PS220 - PS22,400 today. …

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