Tourism as a social and cultural phenomenon since the nineteenth century has not only been a recreational practice or the opportunity to see unseen places, but also a tool for the realization of political interests. The 2024 conference, held on 15-16 May in Vilnius, will further explore the intricate relationship between tourism, leisure and nationalism.
Due to industrialization and the development of railroad networks in Europe in the nineteenth century, travel became faster and more frequent. Travel became cheaper and more comfortable and allowed a much larger segment of the population to participate in leisure activities.
Between the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, European tourism grew into a key component of private leisure, without which many people could not imagine their daily lives. Tourism allowed people to enjoy their free time whilst simultaneously improving their acquaintance with their hometown, their surrounding country, their homeland, and places they only knew about from stories and books. Travel became an activity that encouraged further education and recreation. Moreover, getting to know the unknown made it possible to appreciate everyday details better and the value of each day. Spending the “right” amount of time on a short or long trip gave a possibility to better appreciate everyday rituals and could inspire visits to exotic lands. The “foreign gaze” made local populations experience their homeland as it must look to visiting tourists.
In addition, tourism in the last two centuries made it necessary to find the best way to create self-representations for countries, which could show their national exclusivity and importance; and it nationalized rusticity and local colour. Tourism stimulated national self-positioning both externally and domestically, encouraging and constantly offering to get to know one’s own country first and to spend holidays in it.
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