Alan Machin's Blog - February 2009
[Some postings have been made close to, but not on, the dates shown, but the dates are being kept for the sake of ease of indexing later]
26.02.08 - recalled from an earlier entry of June 2005
"You're studying tourism? Must be an easy course."
Did you get that comment when you came to Leeds for your diploma or degree? Was that what you thought, as well? If you thought so at the start, you didnt think so at the end. You found it hard work, stressful and challenging. And real, valuable experience.
The LeedsMet course, like others in tourism around the UK, covers a very wide range of subjects and skills. To name a few in no particular order of priority, these include tourism sectors, tourism operations, tourism geography, planning and development, tourist attractions; management and organisation, IT, finance and accounting, marketing, human resource management, public sector policies, issues of the environment, sustainability, the law, cultural and social dynamics, visitor interpretation and urban renewal. Which probably leaves out several more. Given that even in a degree course of three academic years and one spent in industry the range means they can only be taught to undergraduate, it's still a very demanding curriculum. Each of them have theories, research data, case studies, interpretations and debates.
And the list doesn't include skills development in writing reports and essays, working in groups and giving presentations, including some to actual industrial clients.
The implied accusation that you were taking a second-rate course misses out on another important fact: it was a management course and not a tourism studies course. The management training you received gave you the ability to work not only in a wide spectrum of tourism jobs at management level but in non-tourism employment as well. The people seen in these photos now work for tour operators, local government tourism departments, tourist attractions, transport operations and tourism consultancies. They also work in the media, computer services, government departments, education, social services, law firms and others. Some run their own businesses. Surveys show repeatedly one of the highest rates of success finding management-level employment amongst any university alumni groups.
We seem to suffer from an ambivalency towards tourism that can be a touch like hypocrisy. There is a lot to criticise about tourism problems in terms of economics, environmental pressures, cultural erosion, sometimes human exploitation. But can anyone name a broad human activity or an industry where problems like these dont exist? We have to accept that while we are right to attack the problems that tourism contains, we are usually amongst the most frequent jet-setters and consumers of international tourism with all that that implies about adding to the situation. Which is why tourism management courses build the examination of these issues into their courses, and people who complete them are often the best informed about such concerns. Not always, not necessarily enough, but thanks to the teaching the received, much more aware than most.
If tourism is to be examined, dissected, evaluated and it needs to be then it has to be done as objectively as possible. Not through polemic and propaganda on either side but through well-informed analysis based on a clear perspective.
We have to stop calling tourism the worlds biggest industry its much more than that, its a human activity that as often as not runs its course without the buying of commercial packages: visiting friends and relatives, nipping up to the city to shop or look at an exhibition contributes to tourism activity but might only require the purchase of a few tickets or gallons of fuel. People will still eat their three meals a day or whatever: they might or might not go out for a pizza or a curry.
We need to realise that much of what is truly tourism not part of a leisure industry. Most city hotels earn most of their money providing services for industry overnight stays, conferences, business lunches. They are busiest mid-week and can charge full rate. This is part of tourism, but its business tourism.
We need to realise that leisure isnt sinful. Too many people seem to give the impression that it is, that business travel is alright but leisure travel is not. They seem to think that pleasure, especially anything remotely sensual like sunbathing, eating and drinking, lazing around and shopping for consumer goods is somewhere on the road to perdition.
OK, many people cant afford to be tourists, or are housebound through illness or infirmity. Its perfectly true that there are people in the world starving or trapped by war, crime, terrorism and antisocial attitudes. All those problems need solving, but it doesnt mean that other people must stop eating, drinking, and enjoying entertainment, including travel and tourism. It would do most of us good to cut down on these activities from time to time maybe all the time but there are reasons aplenty for continuing to take part in them. Contributing to an economic system is one. Being psychologically and socially well-adjusted is another. And a third is gaining an understanding of the world, its places, people and problems. Tourism can help do those things. It has the potential it is by no means automatic to show us the world in a way that all the media, the mass media, education and even the stories told us by our nearest and dearest cannot. Tourism is the only activity which allows us to find out about the world for ourselves, by going places. We need to know our very own horizons and to keep pushing them back, not losing them.
Tourism As Education: Voluntourism
I think it's an ugly word but as one that is creeping in to use and presumably being googled around the globe, I will use it here.
Educational excursions and adventure tourism are activities with long histories, and so in fact does voluntourism ... no, it's an ugly word and I will use 'volunteering tourism' instead, though even that is a a clunky phrase.
It's nothing new. After World War II for example groups of people went from Halifax, West yorkshire, to Aachen in Germany in order to help rebuild the city and its services. This was the later 1940s. I don't at this stage know why Aachen was chosen. The work led to the twinning of the town of Halifax with the city of Aachen, unusual because of the difference in size which later twinning actions avoided.
During the 1960s Voluntary Service Overseas grew under the leadership of Alec Dixon, sending graduates and others to work in the countries of the less-developed world. Nowadays there are many organisations vying to send volunteers abroad and the 'voluntourism' label has been sewn to a whole new branch of the tourism industry.
In and about 1967 the Lower Swansea Valley was beginning to emerge from the copper-blighted landscape of the industrial revolution, thanks to one of the earliest UK regeneration projects - I'm not sure if it was the very earliest as it had its origins in 1959 and completed its first stages by the mid 1960s.
the group of young people above travelled from Denmark to stay in a school in St Thomas on the east side of the valley. They carried out much useful work clearing rubble and digging out old foundations. What they did occupied a relatively small area within the large area of the valley's dereliction, but it was one of a number of voluntary schemes which added to larger industrial-scale clearances, ultimately transforming the landscape. The local organisation owed much to students and staff at University College, Swansea and their efforts. It was the same college that Robin Huws Jones who had inspired the Lower Swansea Valley Project in 1959, had worked for. He had noticed, incidentally, that tourists arriving by train crossed the grim industrial wasteland of the valley when they were going to the sandy beaches of Gower on holiday. Now, volunteer tourists were arriving to help do something about it. Nowadays a modern hotel, sports facilities, the attraction of Plantasia and some first-class landscaping greet the modern tourist coming by train or car.
Tourism As Education: Adventure Tourism
A strong growth area in postwar Britain has been in the use of adventure tourism by schools. The Outward Bound movement started during the war with Kurt Hahn at the forefront, anxious to improve the physical health of boys and their team-working skills. Centres grew around the country over the next decades devoted to hiking, climbing and especially water-based activities. Other centres with this kind of adventurous pursuit as a focus included some run by local authorities such as Derbyshire led by Jack Longland. The commercial potential was quickly identified. PGL Holidays was the best-known company in this area, working from its first base next to Llangorse Lake in Brecon, Wales, but later spreading out in Britain and abroad.
The schoolboys above came from two schools and were using the Staffordshire Youth Camp at Teddesley Park. A lake and a small climbing wall were the physical facilities, plus sleeping and dining tents. Part of the five-day stay had to be spent away from the camp, carrying tents and cooking equipment for use over two nights. Camping places had to be found, usually by asking a farmer for permission to stay. A triangular route was followed therefore and this had to be followed entirely on foot - no hitchhiking. At this time I was what was called then a student teacher working in a school as a kind of apprentice under the guidance of its headmaster and staff before going off to university. That early 1960s scheme, left over from the days when teachers were often trained solely within the walls of a suitable school, came to an end soon aftwards. For me it was an extremely valuable experience socially and professionally as it was led by practice in a mixed environment, but it was a scheme requiring little theory to be learnt and depended on how the teaching staff reacted to having fresh from secondary school teaching with them.
As a way of getting to know the children I was teaching - a mixed school but the camp took only segregated groups - the camping week was invaluable. It demonstrated all of the advantages of relating to each other out of the formal classroom. The children benefitted between themselves in the same way. Those with aptitudes which did not show up while sat at desks listening and answering questions from the teacher were able to shine. One particularly difficult boy became an enthusiastic helper and leader in this setting, pleasant and friendly. I learnt a great deal from Gordon Coates, my colleague leading our party, as I did from the other teachers in the school. There was little doubt that the boys returned at the end of their stay with increased knowledge and much more confident of themselves.
Tourism As Education: Geological societies
Reference has already been made to the excursions of early nineteenth century geology professors in England and Scotland. These were earlier than the equivalents in geography in these countries. In yesterday's posting I said that the local Geological Association in North Staffordshire had an influence on at least one school (and I'm fairly sure there would have been several) in organising their own outings. The photo shows a group examining a quarry, location unknown to me now, for, I would guess, fossils. It might have been in Wales, the Yorkshire Dales or the Midlands. These might not have been thought of as tourism but excursions only, of which there were hundreds around the country run by different societies. But of course now they would be considered to have been tourist ventures using several features of the industry from transport to food and beverage services. Some would have included a museum or two and geographical visits perhaps historic houses and monuments or preserved transport projects. Successful excursions might have led to residential visits, especially in field centres and hostels.
Tourism As Education: School Societies
Sometime around 1961. This school group came from Leek in Staffordshire and the boys' high school. A thriving Geographical society, mentioned in earlier postings, was encouraged by teachers to organise meetings, talks and excursions. This one was to North Wales and a spectacular slate quarry in Snowdonia. The itinerary often matched that of visits by the North Staffs Geological and Geographical Associations, so the importance of these in spreading ideas through the education system could be seen clearly - note the posting earlier about Sir Halford Mackinder. But it only worked well because of the willingness of teachers to give up a Saturday in the cause of educating their classes. For the boys, collecting minerals, fossils and rock specimens of all kinds was a treasure-hunting pastime, though the sixth-formers studying geology would use plenty of the knowledge gained in their A-level exams. And people got to know each other in less formal settings.
Tourism As Education: Visiting Workplaces
The group of schoolboys with a teacher, a sixth-form excursion organiser and their coach driver were photographed around 1960/61 on a visit to the Wedgwoods factory in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent. This was an official school visit - and in the style of the times school uniform, including school caps, had to be worn - although it was organised by members of one of the school's societies. It was a Geographical Society, although it also arranged geological excursions (see an earlier posting this month) and a good few film showings.
The visit took in the factory itself, seeing workers shaping, casting, firing and decorating fine china. Later on the company would open a separate visitor centre with exhibitions and film show along with demonstration areas with public relations staff. While these gave the visitor a more rounded picture of the craft of making Wedgwood ware, it took away the experience of visiting a labour-intensive, working factory. The opening of the visitor centre became necessary both to give visitors a better set of facilities and to remove the inevitable interruption to the work flow when many skilled operatives were being paid piece rates - pay based on their output quantity.
On these occasion though the schoolboys saw the factory itself. This was a very different place from the huddled workshops and bottle ovens of earlier days, at least for Wedgwood. Their factory had been moved to a parkland setting in Barlaston just before the war, a place clear of the notorious dirty, smokey atmosphere that was the Stoke of those earlier days.
It is far less likely today that school children can make excursions to the range of workplaces that were being visited in the immediate postwar years. Many have gone for ever. Others had to cease taking visitors for health and safety reasons - steel works and food factories being some of them. That was partly why Cadbury's, which had been promoting itself for day visits ever since the end of the nineteenth century, also opened a dedicated visitor centre in more recent years. I remember visits to locomotive works, a shoe factory, Liverpool and Manchester Docks, all at the height of their industrial activity. In the booming years of tourism from the 1970s onwards I led special-interest weekends which went to glass works, a steel works, a kipper-smoking factory and some of their museum-set preserved versions - coal mines, steam railways, rope-making works, a small shipyard and a toy factory. With more recent university students it was possible to visit Manchester Airport, Dutch clog-making workshop, another coalmine, the Wensleydale Creamery making cheese and its close neighbour, the ropeworks in Hawes.
In the USA there is a wider spectrum of factories and workshops open to the public including car-making plants, jelly-bean factories and newspaper offices. Over there it is still recognised as an important public relations exercise on behalf of the companies who are anxious to build sales and an image of being a good employer.
Culture, cash and customer confidence
Those working in tourism and third-world development know all too well the problems of poverty and the potential for making some more money out of visitors who are well off. An example was told me this week by one of our Leeds Met tourism students who had been carrying out research on tourism and the allevation of poverty. She had been doing this in a Caribbean country, but it could have happened in places around the globe.
The research was being done on one of the islands where it was difficult to go anywhere except by walking - or taking a bus. She needed to make a journey so waited for the bus to appear. By the way, she is a white European. When the bus arrived the local people let her board first and she asked the driver the cost of the ticket to where she was going. "Twenty dollars" was the reply. She knew the fare should have been a lot less and suspected the worst - exploiutation of someone who, by appearance, was obviously a tourist. She asked the people behind what the price should be. "Eight dollars" said several of them. "Here's the right fare - eight dollars" she told the driver. With bad grace he gave her a ticket.
Then he announced to everyone else in the queue - all going to the same place - that he would charge them ten dollars or they wouldn't go at all. They had to pay.
The student told me that it brought home to her that in order to build successful tourism in poverty-stricken countries, there were many things that had to be changed if people were going to visit not only some safe, enclosed resort, but also the communities out there that really needed the money.
Tourism As Education - Field Studies Council
17.02.09 - originally posted 07.12.06
During the last world war, Francis Butler was a schools inspector of sciences for the former London County Council. He also had the task of maintaining the welfare of children from the capital evacuated to the area between Cambridge and Newmarket. Visiting the fen country, Butler realised he was in a very unfamiliar world of marshes, drainage dykes and farmland. He then saw that if he was finding it difficult to appreciate his surroundings, the children moved out from the bombing of the capital were in a worse situation. Most of them could not understand the ways of the farmer, and they certainly had little knowledge of the natural scene around them.
With help from a local doctor and natural history enthusiast, Eric Ennion, Butler met academics in Cambridge and on 10 September 1943 a meeting was held at the British Museum (Natural History) which inaugurated the Field Studies Council. Funding was slowly obtained from various sources, and properties owned by the National Trust were leased from them, such as Flatford Mill in Suffolk (of John Constable fame), Juniper Hall in Surrey and Malham Tarn in Yorkshire. Preston Montford, a Queen Anne property near Shrewsbury, was added, as was the Victorian Dale Fort, clinging to cliffs at the entrance to Milford Haven. Since the struggles of the early post-war years of rationing and economic depression, the Council has added to its list and now runs 17 centres in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Council's work is mainly in geology, geography, biology and zoology - but it happens to be an important provider of educational tourism through its range of work.
My photo shows a group of sixth formers from around the UK with whom I was taking part in a geology field week at Dale Fort, Pembrokeshire, in March 1961.
More information at: www.field-studies-council.org
Tourist Traces - The Cyclists' Touring Club
16.02.09 - first posted on 18.12.06
This sign is a museum piece - literally. it is preserved in the Ulster Folk Museum near Belfast. The Cyclists' Touring Club began life in Harrogate, UK, in 1878 as the Bicycle Touring Club, taking on its present title five years later. Within a few years of its inception the Club was issuing route guides to members and joining with the National cyclist's Union to place 'Danger' signs on steep hills.
It was in 1887 that they began placing this kind of sign on hotels and pubs that were recommended as friendly and of good quality for touring cyclists. Different designs were adopted. Many of them still exist, although the CTC web site reports a continuing number of losses. They are reminders of the importance of cycle touring, especially in the days before motor cars became common on the roads - which was very recent compared with the history of the CTC.
Out Of School
The efforts of those leaders into the field discussed below had a big effect on Uk teachers in the mid-twentieth century. I was dipping back into the cyber-attic of schooldays and came across these frames. I don't call them photographs, even though they are really. That would call to mind nice, large prints from some simple Kodak camera as used around 1960. They are, in fact, frame captures from standard 8mm movie film shot between 1959 and 1961 on a very basic Kodak Brownie cine camera. The film, nearly fifty years old, still exists in its metal container, though some of the glued splices are coming apart. A few years back it was transferred onto VHS videotape and more recently from there to computer DVD disc. That's why the picture quality is very poor, grainy and unevenly exposed.
The film was shot by my friend Michael Fisher, during excursions from our boys' school in Leek, North Staffordshire. Our geography teachers were well-versed in current ideas about outdoor education. In the first frame can be made out J C Parrack, known as Jack, leading a group up towards a quarry in North Wales - don't ask me which - to collect fossils or mineral specimens. In the style of the times school uniform was often worn, but otherwise these were occasions a little less formal than those which took place in the classroom. Packed lunches (bacon and egg butties were my favourite and quite cheap in those days, but always prepared at home, not shop-bought) taken picnic-style on some rocky outcrop were much more exciting. Another teacher, Jack Chapman, often came along as well, encouraging our early efforts at fieldwork which were often far more effective than the chalk-and-talk learning we underwent indoors.
The next four were all shot at Ecton close to the Staffordshire-Derbyshire border. This beautiful spot was once a scene of copper mining and in 1960/61 there were open waste heaps that could be combed for specimens of malachite, as well as iron pyrites and (if I remember correctly) galena - an ore of lead. The hillsides were steep so that there were glorious views to be had. But especially thrilling were the open entrances to some of the miles of shafts and tunnels honeycombing the great hill behind this tiny hamlet. Two pictures, one taken from inside, show some of the boys looking inside, past some ineffective bars across the entrance. The last photo shows some of the specimens nestling in cardboard trays, labelled with their descriptions and sources. The drawer was one of several in a specimen cabinet. What happened to it, and to the other specialist equipment that we were lucky to have - a proper barograph and an anemometer to record air pressure and wind speed (we operated a professional-level Stephenson Screen with the correct thermometers, and a rain gauge, that Jack Parrack managed and recorded the measurements carefully over several decades) - as well as slide and 16mm film projectors, maps and globes. A few years ago our class from 1959 organised a reunion attended by about 24 of the original 34 boys: a tour of the school was part, and it was sad to see the old room had become a rather nondescript classroom. The windows in the middle of the outside wall, however, still look on to a small balcony which is still there. It was itself an important part of the educational theory of the day ... but more of that later.
If any of the people who took part in those excursions, usually organised through the school Geographical Society, comes across this posting, I would love to hear from them. There is a link for contact on the home page.
Leaders Into The Field: Patrick Geddes
Sir Patrick Geddes (1854 1932) received his knighthood shortly before he died. It was in recognition of his wide-ranging work in a number of fields from education to town planning.
Geddes was born in Ballater, Scotland in 1854 and after schooling moved to study at the Royal College of Mines in London. Shortly after that he was lecturing in zoology at Edinburgh University, then in botany in University College, Dundee, followed by sociology at the University of Bombay in India. Much of his work related ideas of spatial planning town planning to sociology, with the view that developing better townscapes helped to determine improvements in social structures. Geddes carried out extensive consultancy and also practical projects. He worked on plans for urban development in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Bombay and Madras.
However in the UK he is best known for projects in Edinburghs Old Town, on the one hand getting University halls of residence established to help regenerate run-down areas, and on the other creating his Outlook Tower close to the Castle. This was a building intended to act both as a survey-point where people could look out over the city, and as a museum which took visitors in stages from studying local history through that of Scotland to the wider context of world history. The device which acted as the means by which people viewed the city was a version of the old camera obscura combined with the principles of a pinhole camera. It consists of a mirror and lens system at the pinnacle of the Outlook Tower which projects a bright, clear image using daylight down onto a circular and convex, white-painted table around which visitors stand. A guide gives a description of the 360-degree panorama which can be obtained by using a control handle to swing the lens around and tilt it. Everything in view buildings, trees, vehicles, people moving around can be seen, and, of course, in natural colour, so the speaker can pick out whatever seems significant at the time. As the device is rotated the image has to rotate with it, meaning that the audience will see some views at an angle or even upside down unless they move round with it. The museum exhibits are today different from those envisaged by Patrick Geddes a mixture of optical displays from holograms to fibre optics and more, but the Camera Obscura is still at work (with a better lens system than in Geddes day) and very popular, and visitors can still stand near the top of the tower and use telescopes to pick out distant detail.
Sir Patrick Geddes was a man who produced extensive theories and the relationships between people and places. These are less influential today, and indeed had a mixed reception on publication since they were quite complex and perhaps their relevance was not always appreciated fully. But Geddes had a strong influence on other urban theorists and planners. In connection with the general public his monument is the Outlook Tower, that great means of tempting people to view their surroundings and then to go out and explore it for themselves.
On Living In An Old Country
Oxford University Press has announced that it will publish a revised edition of Patrick Wright's classic book "On Living In An Old Country" at the end of February.
Patrick Wright's book was originally a work of the early 1980s, the 'Thatcher Years'. The idea of 'heritage' had been coming in to prominence for a decade and more as conservation and preservation projects were launched with increasing rapidity, many as serious efforts to keep alive elements of the historic landscape and to save artefacts from destruction by putting them into an increasing collection of museums. Wright analysed what was happening with sensitivity and sharp reflection. During the 1980s more books began to appear, including Robert Hewison's polemical "The Heritage Industry" which sparked a media frenzy in which it became open season for writers to earn a few bob by joining in sweeping criticisms of anything related to 'heritage' whether it was a matter of commercial exploitation or genuine conservation. Hewison's book, a one-sided blast at everything in sight, dropped quickly out of print and arguably had far less influence on the field of conservation and commerce than did that of Patrick Wright. The new edition of "On Living In An Old Country" includes material reflecting on the 'heritage industry' debate, which was after all really started by the first edition.
The paperback has an ISBN of 978-0-19-954195-9 and will cost £9.99, a very accessible price which does not look like - well, a commercial attempt to exploit heritage matters but a useful study for students of tourism management besides many other subjects.
Leaders Into The Field: Sir Halford Mackinder
Sir Halford Mackinder was one of the most important early individuals who established the study of geography in the United Kingdom. Besides helping to found the University of Reading in 1892 and the School of Geography at Oxford in 1899 he was one of the people who created the Geographical Association in 1893 which has ever since been a driving force behind the teaching of geography in schools.
Mackinder was born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in 1861 and was educated there before going to Epsom College and later Christ Church, Oxford. After a time as Reader in Geography at Oxford he took up the position of Director of the London School of Economics between 1903 and 1908. After 1908 Mackinder lectured part time, developing an interest campaigning for imperial unity and, in 1910, getting elected as MP for Glasgow Camlachie, a position he held for twelve years. In 1920 he was knighted for services as an MP.
He wrote several important books, such as the first major study of the geomorphology of Britain, namely Britain and the British Seas (1902). The next was a book which introduced influential ideas on geopolitics: The Geographical Pivot of History (1904) which formulated the Heartland Theory. This saw an importance for Eastern Europe on a global scale: Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World. His Heartland referred to Eurasia and his World Island Western Europe and Asia via the Middle East as an inner crescent and the Americas, Africa and Australia an outer crescent. This theory had the effect of causing people to consider what we now know as geopolitics, which examined the outcomes of movements such as trade, wars, empire building and international relations in general. This went beyond mere descriptions of physical and economic geography, which had dominated much earlier studies, and in to what we might now think of as globalisation.
At a more prosaic level Sir Halford Mackinders work in the Geographical Association and through its journal and local branches was instrumental in tempting teachers and pupils to study the world outside the classroom and gradually to make their way in to it, exploring the reality of what they found there.
Tourism As Education: Different Modes
A note about definitions connected with the kinds of tourism discussed on these pages:
Educational tourism is related to formal teaching anywhere from the nature walks used by primary school through to adult education. It is structured according to educational theories about teaching, learning and assessment. While it might be activated through self-contained residential of one-day courses, this kind of pursuit is usually related to some longer programme of study in the traditional classroom. The kind of outdoor observation linked to a teacher presentation and some activity like drawing and note-taking is basically descriptive and whole-class based. At higher levels the formal lecture used in colleges and universities might be very similar to those familiar to the students in their own institution, just being delivered, as by Dirk van Tieghem in the second photo, during a tourism management visit to Bruges. Picture 3 illustrates something more heuristic as opposed to the didacticism of the lecture: similar students in Malta carrying out interviews with local people in tourism about their attitudes and aspirations. This kind of work is individually, or possibly group, run with every project being tailored to the needs and plans of the student or group of students.
The three variations described above are within formal teaching frameworks. The next two are not they are within a different framework, that of tourism. Informal, leisure-orientated even if related (as most forms of tourism are) to special-interest tourism. The group boarding a Gray Line tour bus in New York will hear a commentary as they are driven around the city. Whether they are paying much attention or not doesnt matter. They might be taking everything in, using cameras and later visiting heritage centres, museums and galleries or they might just be wanting a quick view of a spectacular city. Even if they fall into the latter case, the tourists will go away with an impression, some kind of knowledge and something that has been added to their store of experience. They are generally passive while sat on the bus. In the last case, the family spending time at the Museum of Rural Life in Maidstone, Kent, are encountering at first hand a farm set out as it would have been years ago. They use all five senses to experience it, including those of smell and touch. They might read a guide book and an interpretive panel or listen to a guide but they also can interact with the farm, opening and closing gates and doors, crossing grass, muddy farmyards or bare soil as well as touching animals and interacting with each other. This is not educational tourism, structured and tested, but tourism as education with a relatively high chance of learning informally through the kinetic experience of interacting, doing and responding to the things around them.
Leaders Into The Field: Burton Holmes
Burton Holmes (1870 1958) was one of the photographers and film-makers responsible for establishing the film genre of the travelogue, a name that he coined.
Holmes was the son of a wealthy Chicago banker and grandson of a successful builder and importer of French wines and foods. At the age of 13 he bought his first camera. Loving the new hobby he set up his own darkroom and joined the citys camera club. At the age of sixteen he left school and made a trip to Europe with his grandmother, returning with photos of their travels which he showed around his friends and acquaintances. In this he was following in the footsteps of other wealthy Americans on a European Grand Tour.
At the age of 22 Holmes made a trip to Japan. During that journey he met John L Stoddard who was a famous traveller/lecturer in America. Stoddard took on Burton Holmes as a junior associate. When, the following year Holmess father lost his money in the financial panic of 1893 it became necessary for his son to earn his keep. Holmes started to give lectures using photographs taken in Japan and, with his family connections attracting a good audience, he made a satisfactory amount from admission tickets. He worked with Stoddard until the latter retired, leaving Holmes to deliver lectures that had been booked with Stoddard over the winter of 1896-97. The young lecturer made lantern slides from the photos he had taken and carefully coloured them. The audiences were impressed, his business grew and he began to travel by steamship and land transport across the globe, ultimately making no fewer than six circumnavigations. He could deliver six performances a week, often in different cities and venues such as Chicagos Orchestra Hall and New Yorks Carnegie Hall, lecturing in formal evening dress and showing his slides. From a very early date he began to introduce film clips: later on the films he started to make replaced the use of slides. During the summer he travelled, accompanied by cameramen like Oscar Depue and H T Cowling.
By the time of his retirement from lecturing in 1951 he had given over 8,000 lectures. With his photographs and lectures edited into books under the title The Burton Holmes Travelogues and selling many thousands of copies, he raised the consciousness of his audiences to the countries of the world. His dignified, authoritative appearance and immaculate dress ensured that his performances were treated with respect. The company he set up continued after his death in 1958 up until the mid-1980s. While he was not the first to make travel films he was the man who labelled them as travelogues and built the idea of delivering lectures using the films as illustration into an important American form. In recent years another American, John Holod, has continued to work in the Burton Holmes tradition, filing in the summer and lecturing in the winter, though in his case living in a mobile home as he does so. Burton Holmes inspired many others to travel and to return with their own films travelogues.
Leaders Into The Field: George Eastman
George Eastman was the man who took photography from the darkroom of the dedicated practitioners and sold it to the everyday amateur. As a result the ordinary tourist became able to make his or her own souvenirs of excursions and at the same time record for ever the people and places they had encountered. Since a large proportion of the photos taken included their fellow travellers and even themselves in the picture, Eastmans endeavours also provided a boost for a kind of family history. Albums of photos taken by succeeding generations would literally be developed and kept in home archives.
Eastman was born in New York in 1854 and moved to Rochester, New York six years later. His father died in 1862 so Eastman left high school and began work to help support his family. When he was aged 20 Eastman took up photography, at that time requiring a a glass plate to be coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, using it in a plate camera then going through a developing and printing process before developing the print, washing, fixing and washing it again, a time-consuming process and very awkward.
After three years of experimentation he devised a dry photographic plate that was easier to use, patented it and, in 1880 started a photographic business. Four years later he was able to make the important step of applying a photo-emulsion as a coating on a roll of paper. Now a camera loaded with it could take dozens of photos with great ease. By 1888 he had patented a small wooden camera able to use a long roll of photographic film. Simple to use, small to carry around, it took a hundred circular pictures. On using up the whole roll the camera owner sent the whole thing to Kodak who first replaced the film roll with a new one and returned the camera. Soon afterwards they sent the prints to the owner. This was the Brownie camera: You press the button, we do the rest was Eastmans slogan as used by his Kodak Company, a marketing triumph. Travel photography would be able to reach the masses around the globe.
A Different Approach To Travel Shows
As someone working in the tourism industry and then teaching about it, I have to admit to finding travel supplements in newspapers a very mixed, curate's-egg type of affair. It's good to see some new developements and ideas, but usually they just look like advertising supplements producing income for the paper. the destinations can be predictable - Europe, USA, Australia, a smattering of developing countries. The activities are predictable - beaches, skiing, city breaks - camping, smart hotels, good restaurants, ecotourism, appear over and over again because that's where the business is. Features on countries show the kind of angles that the well-off middle class visitor wants to see - the beautiful, the cultured, the best shopping and the most fashionable activities. The Independent, Guardian and Telegraph and equivalent Sunday papers in Britain all fall into that category.
On TV travel programmes follow the same pattern. No wonder tourism gets itself a name for being about a rich people's playtime activity. Over the years the BBC has produced plenty of shows combining travel with enlightenment about people and places. David Attenborough has been doing it for over fifty years, and I'm glad to say I have been watching him on the box for the whole of that time. "Life on Earth", "The Blue Planet" and so on are both travel and natural history packaged in an entertaining and spectacular way. They followed on in line of succession from the Zoo Quest programmes of the 1950s, even though those would now be thought a bit suspect as they were built around the idea of capturing animals from the wild and hauling them back to zoos in the UK.
Michael Palin with "Around the World in Eighty Days" began another brilliant set of reports in the early 1990s, and they can be linked back to earlier, 1960s popular TV series like those made by Alan Whicker. It was Whicker who found the curious and the comic and presented them in his particular style as a well-dressed reporter wherever he might be on desert, beach or mountain. Michael Palin relied on strongly unifying narratives like getting round the globe using surface transport only within the eighty days, or circumnavigating the edge of vast Pacific Ocean in its entirety, or going from pole to pole or along the Himalayas. His most recent effort in Eastern Europe didn't work as well as it lacked the driving narrative other than of having a wander around looking at bits and pieces of local interest. At times he looked a bit embarrassed. The younger man, Francesco da Mosta, in his three Italian-based travelogues, has looked much more at ease being serious, mystified, impressed or highly emotional at different stages of his travels. Rather older is Dan Cruikshank, whose eccentric delivery has been getting on our screens rather too frequently with history programmes; and Monty Don following the magic 80 number round the world, this time looking at gardens (an incredibly good it was, too). The latest 80 round-the-globe has been featuring an Anglican priest looking at 80 religions.
Now there is a new kid on the block - or rather the trail. Simon Reeve first circled the globe along the Equator and the countries is crosses. Now he is joining some other presenters and reporters in a new series, "Explore", which has a very good edge. At this point the successful round-the-UK series "Coast" needs a mention. Not only wildly successful and in its third series, it has brought the format of multiple presenters including excellent communicators with good, solid knowledge - archaeologists, historians, biologists and so on. Nicholas Crane has appeared in other programmes before and since, striding round the landscape with that silly umbrella stuck in his rucksack (little use in a gale, Nick) and the air of a very irritating geography master - and I'm still not sure what it is about him that makes me think of that. He's good and so are the others, especially Alice Roberts, a doctor, and Neil Oliver, an archaeologist, who have both had their own quite different series since. Now Simon Reeve has arrived - and probably already nipped off again on another trip - enthusiastic, sympathetic, a genial kind of older brother who is probably a hoot in the evenings telling stories from his latest adventures.
The biggest change in the Reeves series is that he, and his recent colleagues, are not tourists in the Whicker-Palin mould but reporters on the social and environmental condition of the bits of planet that they encounter - city slums, political shenanigans, dodgy dealings in drugs or inter-community dogfighting. It's glossy, pacy and colourful enough to attract an audience (and damnit, they're young and photogenic, unlike certain others working in educating folks about the world) but the issues are stark and the conclusions so often are pessimistic. This is still BBC-style - quality; attractive but not sensationalised or over-dramatised. If this is the style of the post-Attenborough/Palin generation, then bring them on.
Not Seen For Years
These views out over part of Halifax illustrate the Desperate Paralysis That Has Gripped The Nation. Well, according to the newspapers who have devoted page after page to the blizzards which struck dear old Britannia and sent her scurrying indoors for a quilted jacket. Schools have been closed, to the desperate disappointment of maths-loving children forced to spend time throwing snowballs and sledging. Roads have been shut, people prevented from getting to work and other important places. London buses were totally stopped yesterday, apparently unable to risk turning the Charing Cross Road into the Cresta Run. Of course all these things were regrettable, but the wave of national despair at the way everything shut down got a bit out of hand. Why weren't we ready? Why can't we deal with it? - were the cries. Then, after hearing that it costs Winnipeg C$30 million annually to clear snow, and that Germans have by law to keep their front pavements clear of snow the millisecond it falls, it began to appear a bit over the top to wallow in national self-anguish. The last time things looked this bad were, in West Yorkshire at least, around 1994 (started snowing at 5pm, took six hours to travel 20 miles - pretty poor by any measure). Before that it was about 1981 in Halifax when,at Easter, the Piece Hall had a marquee containing a car show collapse under the weight of three hours' snowing. And Cheshire didn't have any at all. Will we really be happy investing a few millions sterling each year for something which comes round every decade or so?
Google Under Water
It was ironic that I had chosen the header for this page - a space station graphic - just before learning of Google's latest software service.
Three years into its development and promotion of Google Earth, which was followed by views of space, the company has now launched Google Ocean. It's built in to Google Earth 5 which is downloadable in Beta (user testing) format. From an early look at the system it appeared to be like having a 3D map of the general shape of the oceans and certainly doesn't look like any kind of substitute for taking a submarine or subaqua dive beneath the waves - but then that would be a tall order. It needs investigating further to get to know just what wonders it holds. It was only launched today.
The latest updated Google Earth does show some spectacular detail for some places. I looked at the Mirador del Rio at the northern tip of Lanzarote where the cliffs, coast and general landscape is breathtaking, and the Google views added a new dimension to what I had seen on the ground. Being there is a five-senses, very immediate experience while the computer screen only gives a flat visual. But the 3D effect with changing perspective and ability to step a few kilometres out above the ocean and look back at the sheer cliffs just can't be done when you're on the island - not without one of those microlites anyway.
There is also, under the Layers/Gallery listing a 3D view of ancient Rome. It's a step further on than the plain satellite photos, having tiny yellow representations in 3D of the main buildings of the time. I had rather expected a walk-through graphic as with, say, Chicago. Its more of an extension to the standard view of the modern city. Once that is realised it is a very useful locational feature.
Given that Google Earth only entered the cyber-Solar System three years ago, its going to fun seeing where it is in three years time. As for thirty, well, the sky - and the ocean floor and outer space - is the limit.
Informing Communities: Elephant Seals
Near to San Simeon on the coast of California is a length of beach loved by elephant seals. They come ashore at certain times of the year such as July and August when they moult. These rather forbidding animals lie on the beach, throwing clouds of sand over their backs and occasionally bellowing their opinions to each other. Drivers along the adjacent highway often stop here as there is a good little parking area. A short walk brings them to a slight drop down to the beach. Round their feet and in and out of fencing run ground squirrels, cheeky little grey animals out to steal any kinds of food they can find. Gulls land on the fence posts, eyeing the proceedings with old fashioned disdain. Its best for the elephant seals if they are left in peace and visitors stay on the higher level. And its better for the visitors if they don't tangle with the characters down near the shore line, who can get pretty irritated with those pesky tourists. So interpretation panels have been provided explaining who these animals are, what they are doing and how they should be treated - with care. The public gets its questions answered, the fellers on the beach are left in peace, and everyone goes home a little wiser. Oh, and the ground squirrels probably get a little fatter from anything dropped by the tourists.