已有 1470 次阅读 2010-8-7 03:20

The world is at the dawn of a new Golden Age of travel — an age of voyaging on a truly global mass scale. As the 21st century unfurls, people of every class and from every country will be wandering to every part of this planet.

  Mass travel first began in the early 1950s when Americans — with their strong currency, their newly acquired G.I. Bill educations and their World War II exposure to faraway places — took advantage of newly routine transatlantic flights and lifted off by the millions to see the world on five sturdy greenbacks a day. In succeeding years, West Europeans and then the Japanese followed until travel mushroomed to become the world’s largest industry. Today 212 million people around the globe are employed in travel and tourism, a business that earns $ 3.4 trillion annually. Last year the number of international air passengers stood at 339.6 million, with 100 million more expected by 1998.

  All that is impressive, but it is merely prelude. A decade from now, the global industry is expected to employ 338 million people and have revenues of $ 7.2 trillion. The doubling of revenue alone represents a travel explosion on much broader regions of the globe, not merely the privileged centers of North America, Europe and Japan that have dominated the industry in the late 20th century.

  While the breadth and scope of 21st century travel promises to be unique, it will also be an echo of the past. In many ways, the near future harks back to travel’s first Golden Age in the 19th century. Three things enhance the similarity: the sweep of technological change; the tearing down of political barriers; and the rapid decline in costs that made the impulse to see the world a practical urge.

  In the 19th century, the steamship and the railroad fostered the first rapid expansion of travel for a new purpose: leisure curiosity. Before then, most people customarily traveled for trade, as refugees or to make war. In the era of the Industrial Revolution, newly wealthy sightseers armed with Baedekers began roaming afield. The literature of the 19th century is rich with great travel writing. Witness America’s Mark Twain (Innocents Abroad), France’s Alexanre Dumas (The Banks of the Rhine) and China’s Liu E (Travel’s of Old Ts’an). But the new travelers could not have made their journeys without a dramatic decline on the cost of their undertaking — or without the Congress of Vienna, which laid the basis for a stable peace in which to admire the scenery.

  For a century the world as an expanding place — until World War I and its aftermath reversed the process with the ideological closing of borders. Governments, worried about letting in revolutionaries or letting out their own people, began to close off frontiers — until they were shattered once again by the catastrophe of World War II. And when that struggle ended, the cold war began. For the first time in nearly a century, huge areas of Europe and Asia became off-limits to outsiders.
  Travel’s new flowering is made possible by the end of such restrictions. However unevenly the process may have developed, the entire world, with a few minor exceptions, is now open to travelers, and is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.

  The new age of travel is also sturdily democratic. When Lord Byron visited the glories of Greece (then an Ottoman dependency), he brought five servants with him. One of the great spurs to 21st century travel will be not the classical curriculum of an educated èlite but such developments as the introduction in China of the five-day workweek.

  Thanks to new technology, travelers will do more of their own tour planning. Major companies such as American Express and Carlson have already established outputs on the Internet, and would-be travelers surfing the Net can check out who and what is playing at La Scala in August and the weather forecast for Angkor Wat in September. Other online services allow travelers to tap into the same computers used by travel agents and make reservations without a middle-man.

  Electronic technology also promises to bring another major innovation to the industry: stationary “travel” through the gadgetry of virtual reality. For many users, this will be the way to plan and even partly experience a trip. Within five years, virtual reality “tours” of the Himalayas or Venice will be widespread.

  Golden Ages are times of prosperity and achievement, but they are also eras of renewed values. The impending travel boom is liable to be the same. Though the world at large is growing ever smaller, venturing into it will continue to provide the human animal with the kind of excitement and exaltation that the American writer Henry Adams experienced when he first saw the cathedral at Chartres, of that the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore had when he visited the Taj Mahal. What has changed is that the cultivation and enrichment of such experiences will be more available to more people than ever before.











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