Tourism in the United Kingdom

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The Tower of London (older tourist attraction) with the Shard (newer tourist attraction) in the background.

Tourism undertook a drastic change in Britain during the 18th century and even more when compared to modern day tourism. The Tower of London is a good example of this. Sitting along the banks of the Thames River and at the base of the Tower Bridge, it is a historic castle that has served as a tourism attraction since the 18th century. It is said that when in control of this castle, one had control over the country of Britain. Several exhibits were the reason for this. The first being the Line of Kings which showcases armor suits on top of wooden horses, as if the person were really on the horses. The second attraction within the Tower of London is a giant dragon made of various weapons. This is said to represent the strength of the British military. This site of tourism provided exhibits displaying artifacts and the history of the country.

Flash forward as the 18th century progresses and traveling to the Highlands of Scotland becomes a popular tourism attraction in Britain. The scenery provided spectacular sites including the rolling hills, lakes such as Loch Katrine, and the animals such as hairy coos and sheep. While the landscape does house years of history, one can see that tourism has shifted from exhibits of artifacts to the beautiful landscape.

The Highlands of Scotland.

The Highlands of Scotland.

What caused this change in tourism? What made people want to see the beauty of the country rather than exhibits showcasing artifacts from history?

Drawing from readings and discussions from class, I believe that the development of the print market is the number one reason for this change in tourism throughout the country. At the beginning of the century, the print market was almost nonexistent. People were not aware of what other parts of the country looked like, let alone other parts of the world. An example of a reading that exemplifies this lack of a print market is, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, published in 1771. The travelers were not prepared for the types of people they would encounter in their adventures across Scotland because there were not articles and news stories showcasing these different cultures. But then they run into Lismahago. He is a lieutenant with a horribly scarred face from war and says the oddest things to the travelers. They have no idea how to react and feel uncomfortable.

However, as time progresses in the 18th century and works of literature such as Journal of a Tour in Scotland are published in the print market in 1819, society starts to get a sense of different areas around the world. He describes the Highlands as, “the most beautiful spot in the whole Island of Great Britain.” The appreciation and knowledge of other areas begins to rapidly grow.

Back then, there was no daily news flashing images of places around the world or Twitter where iconic pictures get retweeted for everyone to see. But now that is a huge part of society. As early as elementary school, students start seeing images and associating things such as Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, phone booths, and double decker buses with the city of London. While Scotland is a much less published place, I still had the preconceived images of castles scattered everywhere across the country before ever leaving the classroom.

Before leaving to study abroad, Professor Kyoko had us students draw a map of the United Kingdom with items we associated. For England, I drew the Royals, other famous entertainers, and iconic locations such as Big Ben and the London Eye. For Scotland, I drew the Lochness Monster (which is associated with a lake), mountains, and castles. You can see just from this that England is known more for its pop culture and history whereas Scotland is thought of for its beautiful landscape.

This compares to the thoughts of those living in the 18th century as well. As I mentioned before, London’s tourists came for exhibits in the Tower of London and those visiting Scotland wanted to sightsee in the Highlands. The only difference now being the modern print market. As a modern day tourist, one knows what the city they are traveling to looks like before ever leaving one’s home. I knew before traveling to London that I would see Big Ben, the London Eye, Abbey Road, Westminster, and Buckingham Palace. And I knew that Scotland would be home to beautiful hills and herds of hairy coos and the architect lining the streets would be breathtaking. So I guess this leaves the question: Were people in the 18th century more satisfied tourists because their lack of knowledge left more room to be impressed? Or are modern day tourists more satisfied because they are seeing sites they have only been able to see through media their whole lives?

I think it is almost more satisfying to finally see things that you have only ever heard and seen pictures of your whole life. For me, I would hate traveling somewhere I knew nothing about and had no way of researching more on the place. I cannot imagine traveling through the Highlands of Scotland having never seen a picture of the landscape and maybe only ever hearing about it through word of mouth. The print market has improved tourism by leaps and bounds, and for the better. I now know what places all over the entire world look like and have the background information when choosing which places interest me to visit.

Studying abroad was one of the greatest opportunities of my life and has opened my eyes to so many things. The power of the print market included. If you are ever presented with the same opportunity… take it 🙂

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