Thomas Cook was a 19th century English businessman, active in the Temperance Movement, against the use of alcohol.
In order to attend a Temperance Society event in Loughborough in 1841, he organised the journey on a chartered 'special train' for 500 people who paid 1 shilling each.
The successful organisation prompted him to organise more and more frequent trips and Sunday outings, including for school children.
In 1845 Cook organised the first 'long journey' by train from Leicester to Liverpool.
The first complete tour, organised for profit, was the following year to Scotland.
The idea proved to be a great success and Thomas Cook decided to go beyond the borders of the United Kingdom. Grand tours by train started in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and even as far away as Egypt.
Thomas Cook invented 'package tours', the kind we still know today and which developed mass tourism: trips complete with transport by train, plane or ship, accommodation, food and other services.
Travellers were provided with a currency exchange service and a "pocket handbook" to guide them through the services, in short a real travel guide!
In 1865 the first real travel agency was established in Fleet Street, in the heart of London: the "catalogue" of proposals complete with prices and conditions was published periodically in Cook's Excursionist and Tour Advertiser.
His son John Mason Cook also joined the company and personally led the first tour of the United States in 1866.
By 1890 over 20,000 tourists a year were travelling with Thomas Cook & Son!
The company grew exponentially until it became a real colossus in the 21st century.
In Italy, the vocation for tourism arrived at the beginning of the 20th century: ENIT was founded, as well as the Compagnia Italia del Turismo, which promoted the beautiful country abroad.
The first Italian travel agency founded in 1947 was Alpi, which later became Alpitour.
After Thomas Cook, tourism has been enriched by many names, more or less famous: operators and people who, out of passion (...and undoubtedly also for revenue!) have made millions of people dream and travel.
In 2021, the World Tourism Organisation has estimated that there will be over a billion travellers in the world.
Staggering numbers! Tourism, if ethical and sustainable, represents the survival of many countries, the wealth of peoples, knowledge and the union of people.
The rest is another story...