History of Travel Agency

Wealthy people have always traveled to distant part of the world to see great buildings or other works of art, to learn new languages, to experience new culture, or to taste new cuisine. The Travel Agency business does not have a long history. Although one of the largest in the world volume sales, it was a sheer coincidence that brought this business into being. Thomas Cook is considered the “Pioneer of the Travel Agency”. It was with the arrival of scheduled airlines that the face of travel agency business began to change rapidly. Following World War-II, when the travel urge broke loose, a large number of people set themselves up in business as travel agents.

Initially, teachers, clerks and housewives worked out of their homes as part time travel agents, though such an arrangement would be almost impossible today. Until the nineteenth century, discretionary travel was limited to a very small percentage of the people. This changed dramatically as the industrial revolution gave millions of people in North America and Europe some discretionary income.

More importantly, the railroad made travel comparatively cheap and convenient. In response to travel demand, intermediaries, such as, Thomas Cook, Cox and Kings, etc., helped to promote and make travel arrangements easier for mass tourists. This Unit deals with the development in travel agency and tour operation business. This Unit also intends to apprise you with the historical development of travel and tour operation in India.

The British company, Cox & Kings is sometimes said to be the oldest travel agent in the world, but this rests upon services that the original bank (established in 1758) supplied to its wealthy clients. However, the modern travel agent first appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1822, Robert Smart of Bristol, England announced himself as the first steamship agent. He began booking passengers on steamers to various Bristol Channel ports and to Dublin, Ireland.

The first specialist in individual inclusive travel was probably Thomas Bennet 1814-1898, an Englishmen who served as secretary to the British consul general in Oslo, Norway. He frequently arranged individual scenic tours in Norway for visiting British Nobles.

Thomas Cook, in addition to developing the package tour, established a chain of agencies in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, in association with the Midland Railway. These not only sold their own tours to the public, but represented other tour companies. Other British pioneer agencies were Dean and Dawson, the Polytechnic Touring Association and the Co-operative Comprehensive Society

Travel agencies became more commonplace with the development of commercial aviation starting in the 1920s. Originally, the agencies largely catered to middle-class customers, but the post-war boom in mass-market package holidays resulted in travel agencies on the main streets of most British towns, catering to a working class clientele looking for a cheap overseas beach holiday.