The Technology of Tourism
Just a few years after Boswell and Johnson toured Scotland, two new types of tourists appeared. The first of these was the picturesque tourist. William Gilpin toured Scotland in 1776, and his experiences and recommendations to future picturesque tourists were published in his Observations, relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty, Made in the Year 1776, on Several Parts of Great Britain; particularly the High-Lands of Scotland. The second type of tourer, the English hunting gentleman, also possessed a high amount of economic capital. Again he had his own guide book, A Sporting Tour Through the Northern Parts of England and Great Part of the Highlands of Scotland, published in 1804 (Butler, 1985, p. 375). Nevertheless, 'to the average individual, travel to the Highlands in the first half of the nineteenth century was still expensive, slow, and troublesome' (Butler, p. 377).
Thomas Cook and Mass Tourism
This situation underwent a profound shift in the middle of the century with the expansion of the national railway network, virtually complete by 1863, and it was in Scotland that Thomas Cook devised and consolidated his excursion schemes. In 1863, Cook (1866) recorded how he began his excursions into Scotland in 1846, taking a 'large party of Excursionists' to the Low Country: in 1847 he toured the Western Highlands and Islands, and in the following year the North East of Scotland (Cook, pp. 109-129). Cook's earlier tours followed the established picturesque tours of Scotland that took in Edinburgh, the Trossachs, Loch Lomond, Loch Long, Loch Katrine, and Dunkeld, as well as the Highland Railway and the 'Royal Route' via Balmoral, and steamboat trips from Oban to Staffa and Iona. By 1870, Cook was offering what he significantly referred to as a 'Grand Tour' of the Western Islands, the Caledonian Canal, Inverness, Blair Athol, Killiecranke, Dunkeld, Perth, and Edinburgh. Cook claimed that together, 'These great tours embrace all the great outlines of Scottish Scenery, and with the deviations that may be made from them, are sufficient to constitute a tour of Scotland' (p. 3). He claimed that after twenty six years of these activities; 'I calculate that I have taken by special trains nearly 40,000 visitors to Scotland' (p. 113).
A contemporary article on 'The Excursion Season' (1853, October 29) in
Chamber's Edinburgh Journal described how 'The midland excursions
to the north, under Mr Cook's management, are really very curious and
deserving of attention' (p. 280). How was the guide book Cook published
different from the other travel guide books that began appearing in the
1830s such as George Bradshaw's Railway Guides (1839), John Murray's first
handbook to the Continent (1836), or Karl Baedeker's first guidebook to
Holland and Belgium (1839)?
Cook's Directory was more than a guide to a tourist destination, it was
a guide to a whole system, and this system was directed not at individual
travellers, but at Excursionists, supervised groups ranging from forty
to two hundred travelling together; Cook transformed travel into a cultural
technology. Cook opened up and facilitated the field of subjects who could
operate within it; designed the tour, booked railway carriages, steamers
and hotels, issued tickets, published a guide book for the tour, and accompanied
the excursionists on the tour itself. As James Buzzard (1993) argues,
Cook was responsible for 'the evolution of a co-ordinated, interlocking
system of institutions and conventions extending out into the wide world
to enable and shape tourist experience' (p. 49). Cook and his company
functioned, to use Cook's own term, as 'tour managers', organising the
deployment of a whole range of pre-existing cultural practices and developments
in transportation and communication in the new field of mass tourism.
In Search of Authenticity
Jonathan Culler (1981) argues that the key criteria modern travellers
used to distinguish themselves from tourists is 'authenticity':
Drawing on Culler, Buzzard argues that 'If there is one dominant and recurrent image in the annals of the modern tour, it is surely that of the beaten track, which succinctly designates the space of the 'touristic' as a region in which all experience is predictable and repetitive, all cultures and objects mere 'touristy' self-parodies' (p. 4). Buzzard argues that, partly thanks to Cook, 'the exaggerated perception that the Continental tour was becoming more broadly accessible than ever before gave rise to new formulations about what constituted 'authentic' cultural experience (such as travel is supposed to provide) and new representations aimed at distinguishing authentic from merely repetitive experience' (p. 6).
Between 1800 and 1918, amongst upper and middle 'touring classes' 'anti-tourism evolved into a symbolic economy in which travellers and writers displayed marks of originality and "authenticity" in an attempt to win credit for acculturation' (p. 6). While acculturation was the object of the touring classes, and while the 'authentic cultural experience' of an other way of life was the object of Boswell and Johnson, there is no evidence in the Directory to suggest that either acculturation or authentic culture were the object of the Excursionists in Scotland. While the travellers' aim was to stay off 'the beaten track', the Scottish Excursionists aim was to stay on it.
|Author: Richard Butt||Images are drawn from the SCRAN database.|