Making New Friends and Generating Profits: People-to-People, Transworld Airlines, and International Friendship Tours

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM
Stevens C-5 (Hilton Chicago)
Victoria M. Grieve, Utah State University
President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the People-to-People Program in 1956 as an “independent” operation to encourage direct communication “between the peoples of the world in the belief that they, more than their governments, can reach true understanding.” The program included dozens of activities, from children’s pen pal clubs to sports and hobby groups. The airline industries were quick to understand the potential profits in a program of international goodwill. TransWorld Airlines (TWA) launched their own program of “package tours for good will ambassadors” in 1956. The tours were planned and executed “in the spirit of the People-to-People program,” and included special-interest tours in education, art, religion, and agriculture. Intended for community groups, the tours were advertised as a way for “American travelers to meet and understand their counterparts overseas.”

However, TWA’s Friendship Tours were one-sided affairs, and with tourism limited to Europe, “the Old World.” Based on preliminary research, it seems that TWA did not offer Friendship Tours in the developing world. In other words, American tourism did not challenge Americans’ perspectives, and likely reaffirmed their existing regional, national, and ideological loyalties during the Cold War era. This paper will explore how the tourism industry interacted with federal efforts to shape American travel abroad during the Cold War, particularly through international goodwill efforts like the People to People program.

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