Author: Jorge Alberto Escobar de la Cuesta
Hospitality is a fascinating world, both for those who experience it as users, and for those of us who live around this industry, which, more than a profession, is a true passion. I want to invite you on a journey through time, so that we can learn about the history of this wonderful world, for which we have to go a little further and start at the beginning: the history of travel and tourism.
I. TRAVELERS AND TOURISTS
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see”. G.K. Chesterton
There is no doubt that there is a symbiotic relationship between the hotel industry and the human action of moving from one place to another, however, the most common is to consider the hotel activity related to tourism.
But aren’t travel and tourism the same thing?
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO https://www.unwto.org/es/glosario-terminos-turisticos) has the following definitions:
TRAVEL: Any displacement of a person to a place outside their usual place of residence from the moment of their departure until their return. Therefore, it refers to a round trip. The trips made by visitors are tourist trips.
TOURISM: is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon that involves the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal, professional or business reasons. These people are called travelers (who can be either tourists or excursionists; residents or non-residents) and tourism encompasses their activities, some of which involve tourism expenditure.
Reading the above, we see that the UNWTO has managed to make a real gibberish between the two. People who do tourism are called “travelers”, but tourist trips are made by “visitors”. What a confusion!
To untangle this knot, let’s look at the definitions that the UNWTO determines for “travelers” and “visitors”
TRAVELER: any person who moves between two different geographical locations for any reason and duration.
VISITOR: person who travels to a main destination other than their usual environment, for a duration of less than one year, for any main purpose (leisure, business or other personal reason) other than to be employed by an entity resident in the country or place visited. A visitor (internal, receiving or sending) is classified as a tourist (or overnight visitor), or as a same-day visitor (or excursionist) otherwise.
This clarifies the picture: Every tourist is a traveler and visitor, but not every traveler is a tourist. Who is not a tourist? Those who travel to a destination for more than a year or those who are going to work for a company in the place visited, regardless of its duration.
The previous statement separates the protagonist of this story, the hotel industry, from tourism industry to the extent that when we refer to “hotels” we go beyond that activity. A hotel, more than an accommodation establishment: it is a business or entertainment center and an important gear within the economic, social and cultural activity of the place where it is located.
But to know the origin and history of this industry, we inevitably have to take a journey through the evolution of travelers.
II. HISTORY OF TRAVELS
We cannot simply make a historical account of the hotel industry without delving into the history of humanity itself. Although human beings have always had the primary need for sleep, the way to satisfy it has evolved along with homo sapiens. This is how, to the fact of finding a place to lie down to regain strength, other needs were added, such as the security of being safe, protection from inclement weather or seeking comfort. In turn, with the passage of time and to the extent that the communities ceased to be nomadic and began to settle in permanent places, the need for exchange between communities arose and, therefore, the emergence of trade, first with barter of products and then, as the transactions became more complex, the first value measurement instruments began to appear, which we later know as “currency”.
Beginning with the Neolithic period, the movements of humans evolved from permanent migrations in search of food and shelter to movements with defined purposes and of a temporary nature: When someone moved, as a general rule, they returned again to the starting point, at unless on the way he was attacked or eaten by a beast, which was, by the way, a very real possibility. It is in this period of history in which we can then locate the birth of the concept of “travel” as such.
Although at first providing shelter to travelers was a norm of social behavior, the increase in commercial exchange between communities brought the logical consequence of exploiting the advantage offered by being able to satisfy the need for rest and shelter with other basic needs such as food or drink water in one place. In fact, the word “hospitality” and the word “guest” have their origins in a very primitive Latin expression: “hostis”, which meant “equality by compensation”. A hostis compensates the donation with a consideration.
This is how it emerged at crossroads or next to the same precarious establishments that offered their “hostis” a place to sleep and a shelter for their horses, not necessarily independent of each other and of course, basic food for both. These places, by the way, were not the best examples of cleanliness and quality of service.
Well, I hope that with this introduction we are more immersed in the subject, it is time to take a more detailed journey through history to delve into the evolution of travel through the different stages of our civilization. In the next 3 articles we are going to travel through time from ancient times to the present day.
See you next week…
Read Part 2