Policymakers have been slow to realize that the tourism industry is a major player in the global economy, representing a $7.6 trillion global market annually. For developed and developing countries alike, tourism can be a key component of economic development plans. And in this age of unemployment and underemployment, tourism is the rare industry that always creates jobs, albeit often poorly paid. How did tourism rise to such heights?

Elizabeth Becker is the author of “Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism.” She has been the international economics correspondent for The New York Times, the senior foreign editor of National Public Radio and a war correspondent in Cambodia for The Washington Post.