Tourism and AlpinismFurther information: Exploration of the High Alps and Tourism in Switzerland#History
The fascination that the Alps exerted on the British has to be related to the general increase in charm and appeal of this mountain range during the eighteenth century. Yet British particularities were involved as well. Traditionally, many Englishmen felt the attraction of the Mediterranean, which was associated with the practice of the Grand Tour, and thus had to cross Europe and the Alps to reach it. From a place of transit, the Alps turned into a tourist destination as the flow of people and means of transport increased. Moreover, with the invention of new sports the Alps became an area of experimental training. The Alps offered many mountain climbers a degree of difficulty that fit their expectations.
The convergence of these phenomena granted to Alpine tourism a central position. It intensified from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards and, in spite of fluctuations, would never lose its importance. Railway companies, travel guides, travelogues and travel agents joined forces to make the Alps a prestigious tourist destination. With Thomas Cook in particular, the Alps appeared, as early as 1861, in the catalog of tourist offers and were instrumental in the establishment of a “truly international industry” of tourism. This industry developed the infrastructure: railway lines, hotels and other services such as casinos, promenades, improvements, and funiculars.
The conquest of the Alps by British tourists was achieved along with their domestication and with the passionate participation of local, regional and national élites, be they political, economical or cultural. Leslie Stephen, in a best-selling book first published in 1871, defined the Alps as “the Playground of Europe.” The book highlights the incredible success of the mountains but it also reflects the tensions that emerged among their visitors. There was a clash between the “real enthusiasts,” sensitive to beauty, and the “flock of ordinary tourists” sticking to their customs and comforts.
During the twentieth century, then, the Alps were involved in the globalisation of tourism, a process that caused the multiplication of its destinations. However, in the British population these mountains retained an undeniable attraction. In fact, the British continued to view winter sports in particular (such as skiing, skating, bobsleigh, curling) as significant grounds for justifying their travel and their perpetuation of a unique culture. The personalities of Gavin de Beer and Arnold Lunn represent this attitude through a prolific interpretation of this mountain range from every possible perspective. Indeed the English have never ceased to love and be attracted to the Alps. This is not likely to end soon, if the advertisements and presentations of the major Alpine resorts that intersperse the Sunday editions of the major newspapers are any indicator.
Famous quotes containing the word tourism:
“In the middle ages people were tourists because of their religion, whereas now they are tourists because tourism is their religion.”
—Robert Runcie (b. 1921)