Leisure Tourism

Leisure and TourismAtlantic City casinos replace homes, 2011.The extension of railroads and the growth of a middle class after the Civil War helped make tourism, once the exclusive provenance of the wealthy, available to average Americans. Improved travel and more leisure time led to the creation of middle-class seaside resorts at Atlantic City and Coney Island, health spas at Saratoga Springs and White Sulphur Springs, and resorts capitalizing on scenic beauty, such as Niagara Falls. Out west, Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks became popular as the conquest of Native Americans opened up these areas.

The economies of resort towns often rested upon low-wage labor and exclusionary policies, including Jim Crow segregation legislation and anti-Semitic policies. Drawn to Atlantic City by available service jobs, African-Americans came to represent 95% of the hotel workforce by 1905, but could not stay in most hotels, swim on the beach or go on the rides on the boardwalk. A different kind of exclusion developed at Saratoga Springs, where the fancy Grand Union Hotel refused to admit wealthy German-Jewish banker Joseph Seligman in 1877; Austin Corbin followed by banning Jews from his two hotels at Coney Island's tony Manhattan Beach. Until recently, gay and lesbian tourists often remained closeted or were limited to more tolerant resort cities like Key West, Florida and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Gay and lesbian tourism is now more accepted and the industry specifically caters to the LGBT market.

Today, amusement parks such as Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida, modeled after Coney Island, have become the models for family entertainment around the world. Indeed, Orlando is the most visited city in America, greeting 50 million tourists in 2010. Atlantic City, in contrast, sank into decline in the 1960s and turned to gambling in the late 1970s to revive the city's economic fortunes with mixed results. Although casino hotels glitter along the boardwalk, low-wage casino jobs have not greatly reduced Atlantic City's high unemploy­ment and poverty. With the Great Recession, even tourism is feeling the pinch, as families trying to put food on the table are less likely to visit national parks, seaside resorts or gambling casinos.

Leisure and TourismDomestic partners Erin Flannery and Tara Jean Hickman vacation in Kailua, HI, 2009.