Over the past 149 volumes of these Transactions, fewer than half a dozen papers have focused directly on tourism in Devon. Given its key role in shaping the county’s history, landscape and infrastructure, and its contemporary social and economic character, such a dearth of studies is striking and contrasts with the burgeoning body of scholarly work on Devon tourism aired elsewhere. The aim of this paper is to offer a broad, benchmark review of the origins, historical growth and changing character, as well as the contemporary state and future prospects, of tourism in the county. The analysis demonstrates how the ‘tourist footprint’ has shifted from being scarcely detectable before the eighteenth century, to possessing many of the recognisably ‘modern’ components of the sector by the end of the nineteenth century, and then developing on an unprecedented scale after 1945. A constant theme throughout the discussion is the ability of the sector to adapt, transform and restructure in response to changing conditions. Tourism’s hidden and ‘lightweight’ image belies its contemporary economic, social, cultural and environmental significance in the county. The challenges facing tourism in Devon at the start of the twenty-first century, such as the UK’s changing relationship with Europe and the implications of technological and climate change, suggest that the form and character of tourism in Devon will continue to evolve and transform over the next one hundred and fifty years.

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Report and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and the Arts



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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences