“Transport has always been the lifeblood of the travel industry - and what better time to celebrate this vital relationship than in the year that marks the centenary of the death of one of the world’s great authors and travel visionaries,” says World Tourism Organization (WTO) Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in his message for World Tourism Day 2005.
World Tourism Day is celebrated worldwide each year on 27 September, commemorating the adoption of the WTO Statutes in 1970. The main purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community regarding the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. The WTO Secretary-General issues a message each year to mark the occasion.
“Most of Jules Verne’s fantasies have yet to come to fruition. But by the time he died in 1905 his words had fired the imagination of avid readers and potential travellers right around the globe,” Mr Frangialli wrote in this year’s message.
“In Verne’s day, international travel was still, in many cases, an adventure. Today, while ever more people go on holiday or travel to do business, play sports, attend meetings, visit friends and relatives, or simply in search of excitement, we have come to expect, as far as transport is concerned, standards of efficiency, comfort, and safety that to a large extent determine the quality of our final experience.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the two transport inventions that are now recognized as the main instigators of modern tourism - the car and the airplane - both made their appearance on the world stage shortly before Verne’s death. Passenger transport has come a long way since the first economical air services began 70 years ago - through early jet airliners to the Boeing 747 Jumbo, to Concorde and soon the arrival of the biggest airliner ever, the double-decker Airbus A380.
Higher disposable incomes also mean that far more people can afford to travel. In 1950 it was twenty million, last year 760 million, and by 2020 it is expected that the number of international travellers will exceed 1.6 billion a year.
How much further can we go? What are the final frontiers in this quest for travel? Will humankind only be satisfied when journeys into space become readily available and affordable?
“Exploits that were once no more than the brainchild of science-fiction writers such as Jules Verne are growing ever nearer reality with the advances in transport that have and will continue to be made. But through all this it is important that we do not forget the fundamental objectives of travel,” according to the Secretary-General.