What does the future of tourism have to offer? If you crave experience rather than the beach, where can you go? How can you travel without “fly shame”? And what eclectic choices does the sharing economy offer?
Forget your classic beach holiday. The future of tourism is all about the experience, rejuvenation, adventure, fulfilment.
More people are travelling to distant destinations than ever before. Since the Second World War, the number of tourist visits has increased 56 times, up from just 25 million in 1950 to 1.4 billion in 2018 (Source: United Nations World Tourism Organisation). The destinations have changed too – 68 years ago, two thirds of tourists went to Europe; now that’s just half, with Asia and the Americas becoming more popular.
But the ubiquity of cheap air travel, transparency of digital media, sharing economy and sudden summer heatwaves are altering everything. You have more experiences to choose from than ever before and more information about them – just as what you want to do may be changing fast.
Here are six trends making their mark on the future of tourism:
1. Going green: eco-friendly holidays
From its roots in the 1980s, ecotourism has become a movement that is catching on. It involves visiting fragile, pristine natural areas in a way that is small scale with less impact than mass tourism. Travellers not only seek to avoid damaging the natural environment, but also aim to make sure that their spending benefits the local people. But ecotourism does not equate to austerity. You can find luxury ecotourist resorts across the globe, many surrounded by the most outstanding areas of natural beauty.
Conservationists, on the other hand, use ecotourism as a valuable tool to protect pristine habitats and wildlife. Untouched wildlife populations and unspoiled habitats attract tourists who spend money locally. Seen this way, they can be a valuable assets to local communities.
2. Expanding your skill set: learning something new
Where are the best places in the world to learn a new skill or brush up an old one? The days of functional but austere classrooms are over. You can combine learning with pleasure at a fast-expanding range of courses in lovely places.
Celebrity chefs have made us all aspiring cooks and cookery schools can be found everywhere. Specialist courses teach you about everything from cordon bleu to seafood, based everywhere from Sicilian villas to Scottish castles, with teachers ranging from Michelin-starred chefs to polished amateur enthusiasts.
Language schools are another favourite. But they are not as they were. For instance, you can combine Mandarin with tai chi in China. Or mix Hindi and yoga in Jaipur. For the cooler customers there is Spanish and DJing in Ibiza.
3. Non-flight travel: low-carbon holidays
In Sweden they say flygskam; the Dutch say vliegschaamte; the Germans Flugscham. The words all mean “fly shame”, summarising the guilt that many travellers feel when they take a flight in full knowledge of its carbon footprint. But staying on the ground while travelling does not mean you can’t travel. Instead, you may travel to neighbouring countries by rail or choose a staycation within your own country. The staycation took off in the US during the financial crisis of 2007-2009. Feeling the pinch, Americans cut back on foreign travel, saving their last discretionary dollar.
At a time when you may be modifying the way you live to mitigate climate change, as there are many holidays that do not involve a plane. Growing numbers of Britons, for example, are taking the train for their annual summer odysseys to the south of Europe rather than a cheap flight. And others are electing to holiday even nearer to home.
4. Making an impact: volunteering during your holidays
For many, the gap between holidays and volunteering is shrinking. At the same time, the scope of volunteer holidays is widening. There is a wide range of ways you can make a positive difference – from football coaching Brazil’s favelas, to helping protect coral reefs in Belize, rehabilitating orphaned monkeys in South Africa or volunteering with bears in Romania.
Whether you are interested in teaching, environmental conservation or animal care, there are an increasing number of specialist companies set up to help you make a difference.
5. Intrepid journeys: adventures to remember
Want to do something more exciting? To mix things up in Africa? Travel the Karakorum Highway in northern Pakistan? Camp on the Tibetan plateau? Or track pumas in Patagonia?
If so, then these intrepid adventures are for you. There are organised events like the Mongol Rally, an intercontinental car rally that starts in the United Kingdom and ends in Russia. Then there are marathons like the 165 km Oman Desert Marathon. For the less active, a host of specialist travel companies have sprung up offering to take you to the least explored corners of the world.
Finally, as familiarity with foreign travel grows, and digital technology improves access to maps and local knowledge, adventurers are choosing to organise these journeys themselves.
6. Family gap years: nomadic sabbaticals
With lives getting busier every year, it’s becoming more common for families to take a year out to embark on year-long adventures. Taking the kids out of school, they travel the world together, experiencing the unknown, passing through new cities and countries.
The family gap year is taking off. Children experience an “eventure” where education comes from the wider perspective of travel and adventure. Instagram is awash with pictures of families snorkelling the reefs of Belize, hopping the Greek islands, or working on community projects in Nepal. As companies become more flexible about work, more people freelance and more people run their own businesses, there is increasing freedom.
So before you book your next holidays you may want to consider one of the tourism industry’s emerging trends. You can’t go wrong.