How a leisure pastime changed a nation —
and the world
A new 4-part series for public broadcasting
This new 4-part documentary series chronicles the rise of tourism, from an elite pastime in the 1800s to the worlds’ biggest service-sector industry in the 21st century. AMERICAN TOURIST will pull back the curtain on leisure travel to reveal the outsized impact it has had on our culture, our planet and virtually everything that defines life in the modern age, for better and for worse.Before the pandemic struck, tourism contributed an astonishing $9 trillion to global GDP and employed one in ten people worldwide. Yet, tourism has never been regulated like an industry by most governments, including our own. Now, with people stuck at home and millions of tourist workers unemployed, there is an urgent debate about the future of tourism. Many are wondering how leisure travel became so central to our economic system and our way of life. The series will challenge assumptions about this take-it-for-granted activity, while encouraging audiences to reimagine its future. Now in production!
Development funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are urgently seeking production funds. For more information, Contact Us. To support this project, please click on DONATE below.
Directed by Sarah Mondale, Produced by Sarah Patton and Sarah Mondale
"Tourism in many ways is about contradictions. We all want to be tourists, and yet we loathe tourists. We need the revenue of tourism and yet that comes with a cost. Flying to ski in the French Alps means that you are simultaneously melting the glaciers that you are skiing on. So we can’t say that tourism is good or tourism is bad, because it is both."
"Tourism we associate as something frivolous, something fun. But really, it's at the core of the most important aspects of our society: So whether it's politics and the way that tourism has been used within foreign policy, whether tourism reflects the inequalities in our society... in terms of who is doing the work of tourism, who gets to be the tourist, who gets to be the one who serves the tourist…All of that is implicit in tourism."
"I actually think tourism is the epitome of the new American Dream. It’s really the embodiment...of American consumer culture… it's buying souvenirs, it's bringing things home...that reflects that place, that you can show off. Tourism allows us to fill our desires. We get to say, I’ve gone there, I’ve seen this, I’ve done that. "
Development funding for AMERICAN TOURIST provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities