Monday, November 15, 2010

The Future of Tourism

David Hunter Tow, Director of the Future Planet Research Centre, forecasts the Tourism Industry of today will be unrecognizable by 2040/50. The industry currently lacks the foresight and planning required to prepare for a radically different human lifestyle. The majority of operators and investors are still in denial, rushing into short term investments, oblivious to the monumental changes ahead, driven by global climate change – both environmental and social.
Like lemmings they follow the next faddish trend and five-year business plan, destined for annihilation over the cliff of the future.

By 2020- the nature of traditional Tourism and Travel will have radically altered in a variety of ways.
There has already been a reduction in overseas business travel through the alternate use of videoconferencing and this trend will accelerate within the general population as more travelers become aware that air transport contributes 3%-4% of global carbon emissions as well as unnecessary costs. It will also have the effect of increasing the popularity of local destinations in many countries, including exploring local wildernesses and heritage sites, as well as the option of numerous exotic city theme parks. Communities in both urban and country areas with common interests will in the future take advantage of local resources to a much greater degree, creating their own discovery and travel themes independently of the larger operators.

Eco-tourism will continue to boom along with high-risk adventure themes such as foot safaris and survival treks. But tourism will also need to become more eco-friendly and socially responsible, with operators offering a choice of carbon offsets such as tree planting and feral species reduction. As part of a standard package, tourists will be required to contribute to reducing the risk of damage to pristine wildernesses and fragile archaeological sites; encouraged to volunteer their time to remediate the environments they visit and becoming more personally involved with the welfare of local indigenous communities.

The larger resort operators will also need to change their mindset and reject their limited view of the role of tourism in the 21st century. At the moment it is a free-rider mentality; exploiting local natural resources instead of adding real value to their preservation and sustainability. Solar panels, water-saving shower heads and drip-fed golf courses do not improve biodiversity or reduce toxic waste runoff.

By 2030- many ecosystems will have degraded or be seriously at risk due to climate change- coral reefs, coastal wetlands, forests, temperate grasslands, mountain glaciers and river systems. At the same time fifteen percent of animal and plant species will have disappeared or be endangered. Tourists will therefore be banned from most national parks and wildernesses, except under strictly controlled conditions and will rush to visit the last great cultural sites and natural remote environments on earth before they disappear or are permanently closed.

The great Tanzanian Serengeti ecosystem reserve- a vast network of swamps, grasslands and woodlands and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, will be already at risk from development of a major bisecting highway with an inevitable increase in traffic infrastructure. Following this disastrous trend, most wild animal species will in the future be viewed solely in zoos and theme parks.

By 2040- the massive investment in resort and tourism infrastructure in the traditional coastal and tropical areas of South East Asia, Indonesia, Northern Australia, Africa, the Gulf States and countries surrounding the Mediterranean and Black Seas will be at risk of obsolescence and irrelevance. Many traditional holiday playgrounds will become no-go areas except in air-conditioned skyscrapers, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees centigrade- lethal to humans and exacerbated by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. The remaining tourism infrastructure and assets will be converted to assist local communities manage the inevitability of encroaching degraded environments.

With over 50 percent of the world’s population living in city areas including many mega-cities, major urban and surrounding environments will become the main tourist hubs of the future as many are today; but also offering not only traditional entertainment and cultural experiences, but previously exclusively outdoor physical activities such as surfing, skiing, fishing and golfing- now in managed controlled environments. Most major sporting venues will also be fully enclosed against chaotic weather, with synthetic surfaces. All but a handful of golf courses will be phased out as an unacceptable use of land and water resources, which could otherwise be used for essential urban horticulture and public recreation space.

With accelerating global warming radically altering the planet’s climate patterns, a massive population shift from the tropics to the more temperate areas of the northern hemisphere will be an inevitable outcome. Areas of Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Greenland, Canada, and Russia as well as portions of Antarctica, New Zealand and Tasmania in the south, will host the new outdoor tourist playgrounds.
However there will remain major limitations on exploitation of the planet’s few remaining vast wilderness areas, such as the Russian Taiga.

By 2050 tourism will have fragmented into myriad primarily urban exotic experiences, often transacted in virtual and augmented realities; simulating extraordinarily realistic and personal immersive experiences, involving all the senses. Gradually such lifestyle scenarios will be indistinguishable from the previous natural realities, allowing unlimited generated options, as well as surreal trips into space and under the oceans, back in time to historic events and forward into future cosmic civilisations.

In thirty years time the global Tourism Industry will bear little relationship to that of today’s dominant eco-exploitative model. To survive and adapt to the harsh climatic and social conditions ahead, the current business mantra, with its reliance on a relatively benign planet offering unlimited and free natural assets of utopian forests, fecund reefs, snow-capped mountains and sublime oceans, will need to be discredited and discarded.
Tomorrow’s tourist landscape will be vastly different. Natural assets will be replaced by a reality for future generations, which is largely artificial, manufactured and virtual, but one which could still be immensely exciting if creatively seized.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what the implications are for our urge to explore our environment, to look over the next hill, to see the next valley? Are we going to become explorers of simulated environments? Will the exploration and the travel to distant regions on Earth and beyond become restricted to researchers, the military, rich eccentrics and alike? Are we going to be happy to experience recorded realities? Or is the danger of death (conscious or unconscious) related to 'outdoor' activities an irreplaceable component of a satisfying experience that people will always strive for?