The Formation of Global Tourism from an East-Central European Perspective
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel
This article traces the formation of tourism to non-European regions from the late nineteenth century to the end of the interwar period with a focus on its East-Central European and specifically its Czech perspective. Tourism to Africa and Asia—considered here to be the culmination of “global tourism” in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century—has been generally regarded as part and parcel of the imperial endeavor: empire shaped both the infrastructure and the practice of overseas tourism. By focusing on Czechs as “non-imperial” tourists to non-European regions, this article traces their travel experience as defined by different coordinates: no imperial identity would determine their behavior abroad, and no reasoning of economic nationalism would favor the visit to certain world regions over others.
Following an overview of the globalization of tourism and its interconnectedness with the imperial project, this article focuses on the specifics of Czech tourism to non-European regions. Some specifics have very practical implications, such as the language skills that generally catered rather to a Central European than a global environment, or the average travel budget that was lower than that of travelers from Germany, Great Britain or the United States. Others suggest a Czech identity that was drafted in contrast to the imperial “other” and outside the colonial dichotomy of “rulers” and “ruled.” While Czech travelers profited from a strongly imperial tourist infrastructure, they often professed a general skepticism toward imperial rule.
Keywords: travel; tourism; globalization; East-Central Europe; Czechoslovakia; empire; Africa; Asia