‘if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium’: meaning and origin

The phrase if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium was originally the title of a C.B.S. (Columbia Broadcasting System) television documentary first broadcast on Tuesday 26th July 1966—as mentioned by Kay Gardella in News Around the Dials, published in the Daily News (New York City, N.Y.) of Friday 8th July 1966:

CBS-TV takes a look at as busload of American tourists on a 21-day tour of 11 European countries in a July 26 news special entitled, “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium.”

It has been said that the title of this television documentary (and of the subsequent 1969 cinema film) refers to a cartoon by Leonard Dove, published in The New Yorker (New York, N.Y.) of Saturday 22nd June 1957, depicting a young woman near a tour bus and a campanile, frustratedly exclaiming “But if it’s Tuesday, it has to be Siena”. For example, the following is from the column Making It: Gossip of the literary marketplace, by Alice Glaser, published in the Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) of Sunday 6th October 1968:

Writer John Sack, who conceived the C.B.S. television program “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium” says that the title, which came from a New Yorker cartoon, has been bought from C.B.S. by Producer David Wolper for $7,500.

However, the title may refer to an observation occurring in the television documentary, according to its review by George Gent, of The New York Times (New York City, N.Y.), published in The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (Corpus Christi, Texas) of Sunday 31st July 1966:

The program showed 35 typical Americans on a guided tour of 11 European countries during 21 typically information-filled, over-photographed and bone-wearying days. Tourists, observed the urbane Robert Trout, CBS’s resident critic of the raised eyebrow, tend to see only what they have been conditioned to expect. They heard some countries were dirty, and so they found them. Others, they had been told, were clean, and they were happy to learn that they had not been misinformed. They traveled fast and one woman couldn’t remember that she had been in Belgium.
“You’re sure we went to Belgium?” she asked. “Well, it’s Tuesday, so this must be Belgium,” Trout observed.

The phrase if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium soon came to be used derogatorily of any fast package-tour—these are the three earliest occurrences that I have found:

1-: From the interview by Inez Robb of Horace Moros, “who operates a Fifth Avenue travel agency”, published in The Daily Republic (Mitchell, South Dakota) of Monday 14th August 1967:

“What you don’t understand,” Horace said kindly, “is the NOW type of traveler. With the go-now, pay-later plan, the modern traveler has been every place and seen everything. He’s sophisticated. He’s bored. He yawns at the Folies Bergere.
“When I was in Rome last month I stepped into the Coliseum just to see if it was still there. And right next to me is this NOW-type traveler. And what’s he doing? He’s yawning and complaining because the gladiators aren’t what they used to be.
“Every place this kind of traveler goes he’s been there before. You know, ‘today’s Tuesday; this must be Belgium.’”

2-: From Meet Acting Wests (She’s Eve Arden) *, by Frances Swaebly, published in The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida) of Sunday 28th April 1968:

Mr. and Mrs. Brooks West (she’s Eve Arden) […] and their four children are madly in love with Europe, are even scheming to get back as soon as possible.
Of course, the Wests don’t take “If this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium” tours. Last time, they spent the better part of two years, didn’t want to come back then.

(* Eve Arden (Eunice Mary Quedens – 1908-1990) was a U.S. actress; she married the U.S. actor Brooks West (1916-1984) in 1952.)

3-: From the column Jim Becker’s Hawaii, published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii) of Friday 27th September 1968:

After traveling for as many years as I have, I’ve learned to stick in one place pretty much, and absorb its sights. No more of that, “if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium stuff” stuff for me.

As both the television documentary and the cinema film were released in Britain, the phrase has come to be used in the generic sense of any fast package-tour in British English, too. For example, the following is from a report from Bangkok, by Donald Zec, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Thursday 11th September 1969:

Timland awaits me. What is Timland? Why Thailand in Miniature Land. And what is that? By the polished dome of Yul Brinner it is Disneyland, Siamese version.
Timland is designed for those hustling US tourists doing package-tours (“if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”). You can “do” all the Thai bit “and still keep the engine running in the limo.”

The phrase has given rise to the pattern (if) it’s Tuesday, this (or it) must be ——, used of travel anywhere. For example, the following is from How far can you go?, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Wednesday 27th December 1972:

That old joke about the American tourist on a lightning round-the-world trip saying: “Elmer, it’s Tuesday, this must be Europe.”

And the following is from The riches of Franconia, by Patricia Brent, published in the Travel section of The Illustrated London News (London, England) of March 1981:

“If it’s Tuesday, it must be Würzburg!” I wrote on a postcard from Franconia.

Curiously, the pattern is used in the slogan for a fast package-tour in the following advertisement published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Saturday 3rd April 1993:

If it’s Tuesday it must be Rome! Golden Tours’s 14-day coach tour of Europe leaves from London on July 20.
The £699 trip takes in Amsterdam as well as Frankfurt, Cologne, Bopard, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome, Lucerne, Zurich, Donaueschingen and Paris. Call 071 630 7552.

The pattern (if) it’s Tuesday, this (or it) must be —— has been applied to things very different from travel, as in the title of a theatrical review by Charles Spencer, published in The Stage and Television Today (London, England) of Thursday 3rd July 1986:

If it’s Tuesday it must be Sexday

Janine and Jeffrey are a middle-aged couple. She’s a school dinner lady, he’s a traffic warden and they have a cosy little flat in West Hampstead in which they take great pleasure in their Habitat furniture, their Beatles records and the occasional indulgent glass of Cherry B.
In Sean Mathias’ black comedy such humdrum innocence is deceptive however. Janine likes to pick up young men in the local park, bringing them back to the flat for Tuesday afternoons of torrid sex — Jeffrey is an habitue of the north London cottages. He too picks up young men, bringing them back to the flat for Tuesday evenings of equally torrid sex.