The Democracy of Travel

Kemmons Wilson was an only child born in Arkansas. After his father died when he was nine months old, Kemmons and his mother moved to Tennessee. He had the responsibility of helping his mother. He quit school when he was in his teens because his mother had lost her job during the Great Depression.

Kemmons was a very successful salesman and managed an ice cream store, a cigar store, and a sandwich shop. He was frugal and soon had enough money to buy a movie theatre that had closed. After reviving his first movie theatre, he either acquired or built other theatres. He became quite wealthy.

When Kemmons decided to take his family on a trip to Washington DC, he was upset at the quality of the lodging available to them outside of major cities. This gave him the idea of creating a series of motor hotels (motels) along major highways. The name Holiday Inn was a joke by his architect, but Kemmons liked it and that became the name for a series of motels that Kemmons was to build. The inspiration for the name Holiday Inn came from the movie of the same name, made famous for the song White Christmas.

The Holiday Inns were an upgrade from lodging available to most citizens with respect to cleanliness and overall quality. The fact that they were more reasonably priced than more expensive hotels made traveling something that more citizens could enjoy. In 12 years, there were 500 Holiday Inn facilities. Holiday Inns went global and became a billion-dollar organization within 20 years. Being very religious Kemmons made sure that all Holiday Inns had a Bible in every room.

While Kemmons has received a number of honors, little attention has been given to how he opened up America and parts of the world for citizens to travel. He took the uncertainty out of travel and made it an experience available for anyone interested in seeing other places.

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“With age, comes wisdom. With travel, comes understanding.”– Sandra Lake (Author)

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