Future of tourism. Vision of the tourist industry in 2020
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Sustainable tourism opinions

Commentators from tour operators to research centres give their opinions on sustainable tourism...
Despite the current economic climate, we don't expect the desire to travel to dwindle, we expect it to grow and grow. We have no doubt that our passenger numbers will increase - it's an inevitable result of the pressure the airlines will come under. In shipping, fuel efficiency never used to be as much of a consideration as it is today - with fuel prices as they are, efficiency has become critical. This will fundamentally shape the way we will travel in terms of modes of transport, and the type of vehicles used within each mode. So, for example, no-one in their right mind is going to order fast ferries for the future.
Brian Rees, head of press and PR, P&O European Ferries
Young people are living more structured lives than ever before, and as we move towards 2020, the days of carefree, spontaneous travel will disappear in favour of more organised, planned and researched trips. Students and young travellers will continue to be trailblazers, craving adventure and experiences they can share, but they will also be very aware of how their travel will contribute to the rest of their lives. Working abroad, voluntary and conservation projects, and learning something new will all be high on the travel agenda.
John Constable, managing director, STA Travel
The world economic turmoil, if it continues for any significant amount of time, will cause discretionary travellers to re-evaluate their plans. The international tourism industry experienced a move in favour of more intra-regional tourism flows when terrorism first shook the industry. The economic turmoil and high energy prices will further consolidate this trend as less wealthy tourists are confronted with more expensive travel costs. In the short term, emerging tourist markets from the faster growing economies, such as China and India, are unlikely to generate sufficient tourists to fill the gap caused by the stalling Western markets. Thus, there will be a redistribution of tourist flows and expenditure, and the creation of new products to meet the needs of new tourists, but tourism is likely to continue to be regarded as the world's largest and most resilient industry.
Professor John Fletcher, economist and founder of the International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research, Bournemouth University
The next 15 years will be intriguing as high fuel costs are likely to see a return to the holiday habits of the 1960s and '70s, when customers took one long summer break abroad rather than the two more commonly taken at present. Climate change is also likely to see a change in seasonal visitor patterns, with the Mediterranean peaking in late winter/early spring and Northern European destinations in the summer. The skiing season will be severely truncated, with many lower resorts forced to recast themselves as summer destinations - a return to their original attraction for UK visitors during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Justin Fleming, president, ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents)
More people will holiday at home if the substantial under-investment in UK tourism and infrastructure is reversed. Currently, there is little incentive for families to holiday in the UK as facilities tend to fall short of expectations, and holidaying in the UK is still costly. I believe short-haul destinations in Europe will continue to be the first choice due to the combination of good weather and affordability. To cope with the effects of the credit crunch, travellers will want to make the most of their holiday experiences with less impulse travel and more organised, planned trips. As travel companies become more affected by a lack of credit, people will move back towards the traditional travel agent or tour operator, in order to ensure a secure booking. But the industry will need to adopt a more flexible approach to the way in which they put packages together - one size no longer fits all.
Mike Atherton, managing director, Mantic Point, travel industry technology suppliers
The main issues for the next decades will be oil depletion and avoiding dangerous climate change. Both will lead to strong increases in the cost of energy, which will reduce the demand for air and car transport in favour of coach and train. This will substantially reduce travel speeds and thus travel distances, but overall, the numbers of nights and trips won't be affected. Tourist markets will simply shift from air and long-haul international to non-air, short-haul and domestic. Airlines and tour operators specialising in long-haul trips will run into trouble, while railways, coach companies and tour operators anticipating these trends will be the winners.
Associate professor Paul Peeters, Center for Sustainable Tourism and Transport, NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands
Space tourism is not a trend and will not be anything other than a yardstick by which the rich and stupid measure each other.
Tom Hall, travel editor, Lonely Planet
The cost of flying is totally tied to the cost of oil, so if oil is much scarcer and more expensive then flying should be too. This will mean fewer, bigger airlines and strict measures to make planes lighter. It would take a brave or desperate airline to do this, but passengers may be charged according to the combined weight of their bodies and baggage. One of the great challenges is reconciling how tourism can play a part in the economies of developing countries and how we can find alternatives to fuel-guzzling long-haul holidays. There's no answer to this right now, but it may lie in fewer, longer journeys, especially if the concept of a carbon allocation - for example, allowing for one long-haul flight a year - becomes a reality. Sustainable travel begins at home, and the travel industry needs to get a lot better at explaining how travel can be a force for good.
Tom Hall, travel editor, Lonely Planet
More and more destinations will become accessible, making the international tourism market more cluttered and bombarding potential visitors with increasingly sophisticated brands and products. People will have more and more diverse interests, and travel will increasingly be about the experience and participation. Niches are the future. Britain will need to ensure it has its own 'brag factor' to help it compete in this more cluttered tourism environment. Climate change may see Mediterranean destinations being shunned by tourists due to excessive heat, with Britain's resorts taking on the mantle of the place to go for sun and beach holidays. In the countryside, winery tours will become popular as some current crops are replaced in favour of vineyards.
Tom Wright, CEO, Visit Britain
We anticipate an increased demand for active, special-interest travel. The retired are likely to play an ever more dynamic role in society, and this will be reflected in the holidays they choose. Many will opt for a mix of simple breaks to familiar destinations, which they will probably book directly themselves, and organised holidays involving, for example, art, architecture, music, history, geography and the great outdoors, in which the opportunity to make friends and mix with like-minded individuals will be an important attraction.
Hugh Barnes, director of operations, ACE Study Tours
Consumers will expect more from their free time, and will want good value rather than cheap holidays. They will demand more of an experience from their holiday. Rather than simply the chance to lie on a beach for a fortnight, they will want to emulate the raft of TV and media travellers, as they come to realise that they can do the same things on their annual, or bi-annual break.
Paul Bondsfield, PR and sponsorship manager, Explore
In order to survive high fuel costs, the aviation industry has to fill aeroplanes to be as energy- and cost-efficient as possible. Consolidation, route rationalisation, more efficient operational procedures and low-cost competition will tend to moderate prices to enable airlines to fill seats, especially on popular routes.
Francesca Ecsery, general manager, Cheapflights.co.uk
More and more countries are increasingly dependent on tourism to bring in the revenue they need. So it's worrying that so many tourism businesses still haven't woken up to the daunting environmental, social and economic challenges that are about to engulf them. The massive impact that climate change, for instance, will have on tourism destinations and tourism businesses has only just begun to sink in. Add to that rising energy prices, water shortages, declining biodiversity, let alone concerns about wages, human rights and basic entitlements for employees in the tourism industry, and it looks very much like a 'perfect storm' of pressures that will have to be addressed without further delay. All the more reason to look to the industry leaders - companies that are already reducing costs while simultaneously building reputation and market share by putting the practice of sustainable tourism at the heart of their enterprises. This is now a fast-moving, extremely dynamic area: those that get it right will thrive; those that don't will perish and we are just beginning to see the first evidence of that as the impacts of climate change begin to bite.
Jonathon Porritt, co-founder and programme director, Forum for the Future


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