A worker changes the window display of Thomas Cook in Loughborough, the UK. Picture: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES
A worker changes the window display of Thomas Cook in Loughborough, the UK. Picture: REUTERS/DARREN STAPLES

With the latest scientific studies putting airborne emissions from aircraft at 8% of the global total, a reduction in jet travel would seem sensible. Obviously, the powerful and politically well-connected aircraft companies like Boeing and Airbus don’t agree. Nor do governments like ours, which have spent a fortune on new airports to encourage tourism. To many African economies tourism is seen as a silver bullet to compensate for low or nonexistent economic growth.  

The word “tourism” originates from a rite of passage for males of affluent northern European families. They were sent on a “grand tour” of  France, Italy and Greece to learn about real culture and civilisation. Thomas Cook, who initially found a way of making money out of railroading teetotallers to temperance meetings in the 1850s, made such tours of Europe more affordable and convenient through block bookings, discount coupons and even a special currency called travellers cheques.

More recently, Thomas Cook and Son pioneered cheap global tourism with its own aircraft, hotels and  UK high street shops. The fact that this 170-year-old business went into liquidation last month has been attributed to its stodgy business model, which had increasingly lost out to online shoppers.

While valid, perhaps Thomas Cook is also a proverbial canary for the mass tourism industry? Stalling incomes, global insecurities and now flygskam might be redefining  the meaning of “holiday” to exclude jetting off to a sun-kissed paradise destination at the drop of a hat.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay