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The Independent Travel
The package holiday was invented by a Fascist dictator

Not quite. The person generally credited with the first public excursion was Thomas Cook, who in 1841 advertised a railway trip to a Temperance picnic. This missionary, on holiday with a bunch of signed-up non-drinkers, would have been horrified at what became of his idea. Modern holiday- makers might be alarmed at the targets of some later Cook's tours: public executions.

It wasn't until 1950 that the modern airfare and accommodation package was invented by Vladimir Raitz, who took 300 holidaymakers to Corsica - and lost money, setting a pattern for too many tour operators since.

This was the start of Britain's 20-million-holidays-a-year business. But what bump-started the idea in Spain was General Franco's realisation that tourism was the path to riches. Shunned by the rest of Europe, the Fascist dictator hit on the idea that was to keep Spain in foreign exchange for years to come.

The writer is producer of 'Sangri-La: the History of Package Holidays', presented by Dennis Waterman, Radio 2 on Tuesday 29 July at 9.30pm.

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