Once popular summer destinations “made in” by cheap flights
The advent of cheap commercial flights has changed the world. Not only did they open up brand new exotic destinations for a week-long getaway like the Canary Islands for Spaniards, southern Spain for Brits and the Caribbean for Americans, but they also effectively ‘did’ the old destinations. After commercial flights became a popular way to get to new and more remote places, those old places had to reinvent themselves or die.
Before the advent of cheap flights, traditional getaways were much closer to home – you had to be able to catch a train or drive there and get back on time. For the English, there were “exotic” resorts on the cold Irish Sea island of the Isle of Man between England and Ireland. For New Yorkers, there were the Catskills.
The Abandoned Catskills
Today, the Catskills are full of old, abandoned resorts. Many of them were casinos and hotels for wealthy New Yorkers who drove or took the train for a break in the Big Apple. Today many of them are collapsing and many more are being demolished.
At its peak, the Catskills had as many as 500 resorts that hosted approximately 150,000 guests annually. It was primarily a popular vacation spot for New York Jewish families. It was popular from the 1920s through the 1960s, but even by the late 1950s things had started to decline, and by the 1970s most had closed and disappeared.
- Number of stations: 500 at its peak
As fewer people traveled to the Catskills, more train lines were canceled, reducing their connectivity to New York, which also led to more people not getting there. Some big hotel-casinos managed to hang on well into the 1980s – like Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel which finally closed in 1986.
The Catskill Game Farm
Other spooky tails from Catskill’s past include the abandoned Catskill Game Farm which finally closed in 2006.
- Open: 1933
- Firm: 2006
- Animals: Once had over 2,000 animals
- Species: Had 150 species
A new chapter in the site’s history begins in 2012 with the purchase and redevelopment of the property. The former giraffe barn was converted into a hotel and opened to guests in 2019.
Isle of Man – Irish Sea
Like today, many English people wanted to go on a beach holiday to an exotic location. But before the flights, there is no question of visiting the sunny beaches of Spain or the charming blue Greek islands.
But one place they could visit was the scenic Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. The island is unusual in that it is a British Crown dependency – one step away from being a fully independent country. It’s not actually part of the UK.
- Status: British Crown dependency (one step away from being a fully independent country)
- Local: The Irish Sea
- Achieved: By ferry from England (there are also flights today)
Coming here, Brits could reach it with a simple ferry ride and feel like they are in a completely exotic place (it looks a lot like England). If one looks at images from the past of the beautiful seafront capital of Douglas, one will see countless hundreds and thousands of Britons sunbathing on its rather chilly beach.
But those days are over, and for the island’s economy to survive, it had to adapt. Today it is home to the famous TT races (when people from all over the world flock to the island to watch motorbike races) and it is a tax haven with offshore banks. It is important in insurance and online gambling. No one goes there to sunbathe on the beach!
City of Salton – Salton Sea
In California, perhaps the biggest booming vacation destination story has been that of Salton City. True, it was serious environmental issues that caused the once-booming shiny new resort town of Salton City to be inhabited by ghosts.
- Planned city: 40,000 residents with 12,000 residential lots
- Actual population: 978 in 2000 (5,611 in 2020)
- See: The infrastructure for 40,000 people who never came
To visit it today is a journey into the apocalypse and a place that could not be reinvented. The Salton Sea was once a place for swimmers and boaters only, but today it is toxic, shrunken, a major health issue, nearly all fish have died and birds have moved away.