1948: The tourism trade pays for bacon

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Nathan Morley continues his journey through the history of the tourism Industry.

By the end of 1946, billboards plastered to the walls at Victoria Station advertised: “Direct routes to Paris and all parts of the Continent via Dover-Calais, Dover – Ostend, Folkestone – Boulogne” and “Newhaven-Dieppe.”

The war had been over for barely a year, but the appetite for travel was insatiable.

By 1948, Brits were being offered the  opportunity for ‘many interesting holiday ideas’ such as luxury coach tours of Italy, France and Switzerland.

Fourways Travel, an outfit operating from Oxford Street – was advertising 15-days in Austria from £30 in their ‘Suitcase Book of Holiday Suggestions’, which also included ‘air-tours’ to Portugal.

The expansion in civil aviation was big business across the continent; in Scandinavia,  airlines  expressed optimism about the future of aviation and tourism.

They were so keen to drum up business from the UK, that in June six Scottish journalists made a five-day tour of Denmark, Sweden and Norway on the invitation of SAS – the Scandinavian Airlines System.

This fact finding trip took them thousands of miles by plane, bus and car, as they closely observed what air travel meant in matters of customs, immigration and airline procedure.

At the end of 1948, the Travel Association predicted the UK would receive 660,000 visitors from overseas the following year, and that they would spend around £47-60 million pounds.

Around a third of the visitors were predicted to be American and Canadian – making a big contribution to vital dollar needs.

Harold Wilson, who was then the President of the Board of Trade, said that the rate of increase in Britain’s earnings from tourism was likely to be bigger than that of any other export by 1952.

“Our total receipts from tourism for the year should £35,000,000 or more. Enough to pay for our imports of bacon, of which something like £15 million would have been in dollars,” he said in October, adding that by 1952 total earnings from tourism should be somewhere near £65 million a year.

However, there were many unhappy people within the tourism industry. One serious restriction on hotel business was the curtailment of pleasure motoring and its effect on the hotels and guesthouses in Britain.

With petrol rationing, countryside hotels had reported a drop in trade in comparison to the pre-war years.

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