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Tourism refers to the act of traveling for vacational purposes as well as the supply of tour related services to tourists. From the time tourism was conceived, the industry has grown so rapidly that in 2005, there was a record high of 806 million international tourists. Each year, the figure increases by about 4% and there are no signs that it will wane. It goes without saying that the worldwide tourism industry rakes in a lot of revenue for both the private and public sectors.

Since olden times, affluent folks had been making journeys to other parts of the world to see famous buildings such the Sistine Chapel, learn foreign cultures or languages. The beginnings of European tourism can be traced to the medieval pilgrimage when the pilgrims often refer to their journeys as "holidays" which was really "holy day". Back then, they practiced the custom of souvenir collection and getting credit from outstation banks. In the seventeenth century, the nobles made it a custom to send their sons on long tours of Europe to expand their views of the world. They called this the Grand Tour and it�s somewhat like the modern backpacking experience. There was also health tourism where folks traveled to natural spas where the mineral-rich waters were acclaimed for their healing powers to cure such illnesses as gout, skin problems or even bronchitis. One such place was Bath in England.

The first group tour was organized by one Thomas Cook on 5 July, 1841. With the help of the railway company, he transported 570 people from Leicester to an assembly in Loughborough. Cook's group tour included entertainment, return train tickets and food. Later, he would go on to pioneer a host of packaged tours for the working class and make a fortune for himself. When the railroad system in Europe expanded to cover more cities in the 19th century, tourism flourished like wild flowers. Folks can now travel to further destinations and explore the continent according to their fancies.

After World War II, air travel became available for the masses and it sparked a revolution. Blessed with higher spending powers and education, the tourists of those times were more adventurous with a taste for the extraordinary. Spurred by the novels of Jack Kerouac, a generation of young Americans took to the road and backpacked their way all over the country. In the sixties, they traveled the world, going as far as Bangkok, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Melbourne and many other places previously not visited by their more conservative ancestors. Today, there are many budget hostels catering to the backpackers. Even the Easterners are getting into the mix. The budget hostels are like a microcosm of the world where all continents are represented by these international backpackers.

Tour planners are also getting more creative. You will be spoiled for choice. There is ancestry tourism, dark tourism, disaster tourism, ecotourism, extreme tourism, inclusive tourism, hobby tourism, and others. Want to go to the moon for a tour? It's coming soon. Are you ready?