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Get out and get away! Open up to new experiences and make way for adventure! In honor of National Tourism Day, take some time to celebrate and show appreciation for the freedom and ability to take excursions and trips whether near to home or across the world. 

History of National Tourism Day

The modern form of tourism got its start in Europe back in the 17th century. Prior to that time, the main reasons for travel were often related to either trade and business or for religious pilgrimage purposes. Prior to the industrial revolution, travel was slow and difficult, often taking months to complete a journey that could be completed in just a few days now.

By the 17th century, young European nobles began to take educational trips to learn more about other countries and cultures, often called the “Grand Tour”. With the advancement of train travel and steamer ships, travel became more and more accessible. 

National Tourism Day was established to encourage and celebrate the benefits of travel. It was in 1983 that US President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation that urged Americans to observe National Travel & Tourism Week for a week in early May. From there, National Tourism Day evolved and started its celebration on May 7.

National Tourism Day is not the same as World Tourism Day, that takes place in September, but it is closely related.  

National Tourism Day Timeline


Nobles make the ‘Grand Tour’

Young Europeans would travel as an educational and cultural experience, often through Germany, Italy, France and Greece. [1]


First travel agency is born

Cox & Kings starts as the first company to organize travel. [2]


First tourism by sea

The cruise steamship Great Western makes its debut as an entertaining trip by sea.[3]


Thomas Cook & Son opens for business

Originally focusing on one-day train excursions, the brand eventually grows to be a leader in the travel business. [4]


Mass tourism begins

The cost of travel decreases, making it possible for more people to engage in tourism with niche interests such as sports, health and more. [5]

How to Celebrate National Tourism Day

Celebrate and enjoy the annual tradition of National Tourism Day by implementing some of these fun and interesting ideas:

Plan a Trip

Because National Tourism Day takes place in the month of May, it’s a great time to take a last minute look at those plans for summer vacation. Whether it’s a nearby road trip or a flight to the other side of the world, this day is a perfect one to plan out the details of an upcoming trip. Make itinerary plans for each day, create a list of restaurants to visit, study up on local things to see and more!

Or, for those who are more apt to plan ahead, perhaps this would be a great time to start planning (and saving!) for a huge vacation next year. Perhaps that big trip abroad or a week on a cruise ship is something you’ve been dreaming about. Get started doing some online research or contact a travel agency to choose from exciting destinations and dream about some tourism for the future.

Give the Gift of Travel

Those who have a partner or special friend who is interested in travel may want to use National Tourism Day as an opportunity to give the gift of travel. Book a weekend away to a new place, schedule a city break, or buy airline tickets that will take you away to amazing destinations. Or, give a smaller gift such as a small bank to save for travel funds, a passport holder, or a new piece of luggage to pack up and use sometime on a future flight or cruise.

Learn the Benefits of Travel & Tourism

In honor of National Tourism Day, it’s a great idea to learn a little bit more about the reasons that travel and tourism are a beneficial part of life. Consider some of these advantages and benefits:

  • View the World in a More Positive Way

    Those who travel and experience different cultures through tourism may find that they are more open minded and have a more positive attitude due to their broader perspective.

  • Real-Life Education

    Travel and tourism is often associated with learning. Whether visiting a museum just a few towns over or experiencing nature as a hiker or bird-watcher, travel is all about learning.

  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety

    Getting out of the daily grind of work can be a stress reliever. Add in fresh air, sunshine and exercise (like walking or hiking) and tourism can be a great anxiety reducer.

  • Appreciate Nature

    A variety of tourism trips and travel can help people get connected with nature. Visiting a national park, mountains, ocean or another natural wonder can bring a strong sense of oneness with the world.

Check Out Discounts or Reduced Prices

Some museums and tourist agencies may be offering different discounts or deals in honor of National Tourism Day. In fact, a variety of different organizations might be offering discounts such as reduced fares from cab companies, price cuts for segue tours or even free admission at museums. Some cities may get on board with the day by offering historical tours to promote their city, or giving access to public transportation for free on the day.

Enjoy Tourism at Home

Although it might seem strange, many people are missing a great deal of tourism that is right under their own noses – in their own cities! National Tourism Day might be a great time to plan a staycation that allows for visiting the places that you have been planning to go to “someday”.

Take this opportunity to spend a whole week seeing the various things in the local area that others come from out of town to see. Check out that local art museum. Enjoy access to that botanical garden. Or, even better, arrange to take a segue tour or walking tour of your own downtown to learn more about the history and highlights of the city.

Spread the Word about Tourism

Those who work in the tourism and travel industry may want to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate this day and create some excitement! Use National Tourism Day as a marketing opportunity to spread the word and drum up business for a travel agency or local shop.

Perhaps consider offering a discount coupon or online code, pass out flyers, sponsor events or build an online campaign to promote travel and create a buzz. Folks who own rental properties, such as Airbnb may also want to consider offering deals or discounts on their property rental in celebration of the day. 

National Tourism Day FAQs

Can tourism be sustainable?

When well-planned, tourism can conserve biodiversity, protect nature and culture, and generate sustainable livelihoods. [1]

When did tourism start?

Beyond ancient religious pilgrimages, tourism got its start around the 17th century in Europe.[2]

Does tourism increase the GDP?

Yes, tourism is an important part of the gross domestic product of the US and many other nations. [3]

Has tourism recovered?

After tourism came to a screeching halt in 2020, the recovery was at 65% by the end of 2022 and expected to continue growing. [4]

How does tourism affect local communities?

Responsible tourism can create jobs, preserve culture & heritage, fuel innovation and promote creativity & entrepreneurism. [5]

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