Travel has come a long way in the last century.
It goes without saying that the landscape of tourism 30, 40, or 50 years from now will be different from that of today. In what ways will our norms and expectations change?
Here’s a look at 6 predictions for the future of travel.
1. Virtual tourism
As technology advances, it becomes easier to virtually experience the essence of a place. For example, sites like WHTour aim to preserve UNESCO heritage sites in 3D photography, and then allow web surfers to interact with these images in 360 degrees, “as if you were really there.”
Online communities like Second Life are being used to recreate destinations virtually. While it’s unlikely technology will ever actually replace physical travel, but it can bring access to the world ever closer to us.
2. Changing traveler demographics
As this New York Times article from 2006 suggests, countries such as China have growing economies and a burgeoning middle class with disposable income for activities like international travel.
As demographics of large tourist populations change, popular destinations will begin to cater to their needs. Will aspiring tour guides flock to learn Chinese? It’s a possibility in the world of future travel.
3. New York, Paris, Pyongyang?
Travel can certainly be an economic boon to a country, bringing in much needed economic revenue. In the future, countries currently viewed as closed to the world may begin to open up using tourism as a vehicle.
An example of this can be seen in Libya right now, although as USA Today suggests, it has a ways to go. Even North Korea allows small (albeit tightly controlled) groups of foreign tourists in to visit.
As the political and economic landscape of the world changes, people may begin to travel to places previously considered to be “off limits,” with this increased openness benefiting both host and visitor.
4. Extinct sites
Just as travel in the future can open up opportunities, it can also reduce possibilities as well. Over-visitation of popular sites can wreak havoc on the environment and infrastructure.
From “sinking” Venice to the impact of mass tourism on Machu Picchu or the Galapagos Islands, finding ways of mediating the negative effects of travel (such as introducing stricter quotas) is one potential (though undesirable) outcome of travel in the future.
5. Mentality changes
Of course, if the current energy situation heralds a new trend, we may have to re-think our assumptions about travel. Just as the “staycation” became a buzzword this summer, we may need to consider the moral and behavioral impacts of leisure travel.
6. The final frontier?
One of the more “futuristic” predictions, space travel could one day become a feasible option for people besides the mega-rich.
As described in a recent New York Times story, both the Russian space program and the private company of Virgin Galactic are sinking their teeth into this emerging niche market.
The degree to which this takes off, both figuratively and literally, has yet to be seen, but perhaps sometime within our lifetimes it won’t be unheard of to receive a postcard from the moon.
Someone 50 years ago would be shocked to imagine a future where one could travel from London to Paris by train, or fly across Europe for the price of a guidebook.
Similarly, changes occurring in the future of travel in the next century, whether good or bad, will undoubtedly surprise us as well.
What predictions do you have for the future of travel? Share in the comments!