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The industrial age and business travel

Business travel and tourism in Europe grew dramatically between 1750 and 1900, for three main reasons:

  1. The Industrial Revolution, which began in the UK, steadily spread to many other European countries. This movement increased the scale of production of industrial goods which then had to be marketed and transported. This stimulated a growth in business travel and tourism, particularly with the rise of the on-the-road salesperson, the commercial traveller.
  2. Many European countries developed empires in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and these colonies created a demand for business travel. Industrialists needed the raw materials from these countries while their populations also provided a market for the finished goods.
  3. Furthermore, administering the colonies created a demand for business travel for the ‘army’ of colonial administrators from the home country to the colony, and within the colony. The historical development of business travel and tourism.

This period saw the improvement of roads in general in Europe which made business travel easier. However, more importantly, the railway was born. Rail travel was faster than road transport and allowed business travellers to make business trips to more distant cities without it costing too much in terms of time or money. Because of these factors, in Europe at least, the late nineteenth century in particular was a major period of growth for international business travel and tourism.

The early twentieth century As the twentieth century dawned, the next major development in business travel and tourism was taking place in the USA. Meetings have gone on since time immemorial, but the concept of the conference or convention was developed, at this time, in the USA. Trade and scientific associations, together with the political parties, began to organize large-scale gatherings in the late nineteenth century.

This activity gathered pace in the early decades of the twentieth century. Cities soon realized that hosting such events brought great economic benefits and convention bureaux began to appear to market cities as convention destinations. As Rogers (1998) notes, the first was established in Detroit in 1896, followed soon after by Cleveland (1904), Atlantic City (1908), Denver and St Louis (1909) and Louisville and Los Angeles (1910).

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The phenomenon of the convention bureau is now well established around the world. The development of the private car in the first half of the twentieth century further stimulated the growth of domestic business travel, primarily in Europe and North America.

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