The world in our hands? (Dreamstime)
Interview Words : Graeme Green | 23 April

The Future Of Travel: where will we be going and what will be doing in 10 years’ time?

Where will we be travelling in 10 years time? Svalbard, Syria or Space? What will be doing? How will tech, drones and VR change travel? We asked 5 top industry experts for their predictions


Will drones open up new wildernesses? 

Peter Kerkar (CEO, Cox & Kings - www.coxandkings.co.uk)


Huli tribesman in Papua New Guinea (Dreamstime)

In 10 years’ time, accessible wilderness may include areas that are currently barely touched by tourism: remoter parts of Siberia, the Arctic Circle, the Sahara, Patagonia, Papua New Guinea and the Amazon will all feature in dinner party one-upmanship.

The major issue stunting development of wilderness areas now is accessibility, but I can see this becoming dramatically changed by the increased sophistication of drones. 

10 years may be too soon to start transporting travellers by pilot-less drones into wilderness areas, although this will happen in due course, but the delivery of supplies to build and sustain remote camps and lodges should mean that it is more viable to bring low-volume tourism into some of the world’s remotest corners.

One upside of this trend should be wildlife conservation. It is probable that without tourism wild tigers would be virtually extinct today. High value, low intensity tourism gives a financial incentive to protect endangered species and provide alternative incomes for people who might otherwise encroach on their habitats.

The mini space race between the likes of Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Eric Anderson should finally have borne fruit in 10 years’ time. I see the significance of these space planes as being less about people having a brief experience of weightlessness, seeing the Earth from space, or even colonising other moons and planets, and more to do with speeding up international travel. 

A flight from London to Sydney via space would revolutionise long haul travel. The long-weekend or brief business trip to Auckland or Melbourne could become viable. With several different projects working in this field, we seem to be on the brink of major breakthroughs.

Combining GPS with voice recognition and the enormous memory capacity of modern phones, I expect travellers will soon be able to go to any major city in the world and access a spoken Auto-Guide via their mobile phone, so that when they are walking down the street they can ask “How old is that building?” or “Tell me about the history of this street”, and hear the answers in their headphones.

The development that may make one of the greatest impacts on tourism is the autopilot car. In 10 years, these will be commonplace. Airports will run fleets of electric vehicles pre-programmed to take people to their hotel, office or home. Car hire, now generally limited to destinations where the road craft is relatively ‘predictable’, should become viable even in places like my home country of India.

People often hark back to the ‘Golden Age of Travel’, normally associated with the 1930s, an era of great ocean liners, flying boats, the Orient Express and Nile river boats. While some people are eyeing up the era of the space plane, others will be looking to go retro. 

In the era of constant connectivity and apps for every eventuality, I expect the raw thrill of travelling ‘unconnected’ and incommunicado will become a significant, if niche, trend. Retirees, who recall taking gap years before the advent of the mobile phone, will rejoice in locking all devices away and heading off with a compass, folded map and a few nagging doubts, as their baffled children and grandchildren look on aghast.

 

Could tourists be back in Syria and Yemen?

Jonny Bealby (MD/Founder, Wild Frontiers - www.wildfrontierstravel.com)


Map of the Middle East (Dreamstime)

The cliché is that those that can afford it will be heading off to space for their summer getaway. Here on Planet Earth, personal drones will follow our every move, relaying footage live on social media. Fly-drive holidays will be a thing of the past because computers will do the driving for us, and Virtual Reality will mean many won’t even bother to travel as they can experience paradise in their own backyard.

The reality, I suspect, will be rather different. Technology will play an ever-increasing role in travel and how we choose our holidays. Google Places, showing real live data on how busy a site, restaurant or bar is, will be widely used. Systems like Amazon’s Alexa will help us find our dream holiday by simple voice recognition. Virtual Reality will help us decide if a hotel or experience really is for us. But there will never be any substitute for experiencing the real thing

Once you’ve got on that plane (I’m assuming teleporting ourselves around the globe or universe will still be a few years off), we’ll still be looking for the same things: to escape the world in which we spend most of our time and find a different one in which we can relax, learn, challenge ourselves and have fun.

I doubt we’ll see much change in the traditional European holiday scene, except that Brits will have to join a different queue at immigration. But as far as adventure travel goes, the trend that started some 10 years ago will still be prevalent: ever-more inquisitive travellers heading further off the beaten path.

As a reaction to the huge increase in tourist numbers to mainstream sites, the demands for locations further afield will become greater than ever. In search of this, people will be willing to take more risks. We’re already seeing a rise in travel to locations that offer unspoilt wilderness and a chance to escape connectivity in places like Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and more still heading to places that to many would seem beyond the pale, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and Venezuela.

Sadly, with these increases in tourist numbers, it is inevitable that we’ll see fragile environments, like the Antarctic and Arctic, and iconic sites, like the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat, limiting tourist numbers. They’ll have to.

It would be a brave man who would claim to know the future as far as geopolitics and world security is concerned, but I sincerely hope that countries whose tourist industry were thriving 10 years ago but today have been snuffed out or severely blighted by war and terrorism – Syria, Libya, Mali and Yemen – will have made a comeback. They’re all fascinating destinations. 

  

Will Virtual Reality make tourists bolder?

Pete Burrell (MD, Exodus Travels - www.exodus.co.uk)


Exploring the world via Virtual Reality (Dreamstime)

Over the next decade, I believe we’ll all take more responsibility for the impact of our travels. Increasingly, customers will expect their travel companies to measure and manage the impact their trip has, both in terms of energy consumption and the way the holiday affects the host community. 

‘Labelling’ of holiday packages will become more regulated, like food labelling, so customers can really see what they’re getting and how it affects the world.

Travellers will be looking to understand the culture of the place they are visiting and experience ‘real travel’. Local homestays, ‘taster classes’ in things like cookery and crafts, and a move away from huge faceless hotels owned by multinationals will ensure the tourist pound or dollar goes back into the community, as well as giving travellers richer experiences.

Another antithesis to the ‘fly and flop’ will be an increase in various sports and challenges in people’s leisure time. Parkrun Tourism already exists. People increasingly want to summit mountains, cycle around islands, or do yoga on the beach while they’re away. That desire to use holidays to stretch both body and mind will become the norm. 

The increase in camaraderie and participation in Parkruns, Tough Mudders, and Race For Life that we’ve seen in the UK over the last 10 years will have a big impact on travel abroad over the next 10.

Plane layouts will become more flexible, so friends and families can sit around a table, like on a train, to eat, play games and chat. I think people who want to sleep but not to pay for what a flatbed currently costs will be able to use a bunk.

VR headsets will give people a much better taste of what they’re signing up to before the book a trip. Customers will become more comfortable with more exotic destinations, as they watch drone footage and 360 video of it before they go. 

When they arrive, their ‘translation earpieces’ will enable them to understand the locals easily, which will breakdown that fundamental language barrier and encourage cultural understanding and sharing. The future of travel looks bright to me.

   

Is travel going to become a giant Pokémon game?

Clive Stacey (MD/Co-Founder, Discover The World - www.discover-the-world.co.uk)


Giant walrus in Svalbard (Dreamstime)

The number of tourists exploring the world, most of which will be influenced by social media, could increase alarmingly if left unchecked, which will have a big impact on the Earth’s most celebrated travel icons and places of natural beauty, slowly being destroyed by travellers ‘collecting’ experiences, as if it is some sort of huge Pokémon game.

But, as they realise this, I predict they will be more willing to explore further afield, getting well off the tourist trail to discover those ‘hidden’ travel experiences that are less affected by mass tourism.

Technology will also no doubt increase in sophistication, as will the ability to make travel arrangements without the need of human interaction. Because of this, it’s likely that the relative cost of travel will continue to drop, which will fuel expansion. Then, of course, there is the thorny question of how we are to limit greenhouse gases, which could limit the amount of travel permitted.

In 10 years’ time, I’d expect South America to have been arising star, particularly Chile, and Russia too if it can get its act together. Antarctica, Svalbard and Greenland should all see an increase too, but hopefully in a very controlled way.

    

Will travellers move faster and pack more in?

Robin Ball (Director, Bamboo Travel - www.bambootravel.co.uk)


High speed train in China (Dreamstime)

Predictions are always tricky. Travel is affected by world events probably more than any other industry and in these unpredictable times, with so much conflict in the world and the dust yet to settle on Trump and Brexit, who knows what the future holds? One minute a destination can be booming, only to be wiped off the tourist map in moments as a reaction to an unpredicted event.

One trend that I can’t see changing, as it has been growing continuously for around 20 years now, is the desire to be active on holiday, rather than to fly and flop on a sunbed for a fortnight, as was the norm when tourism first went mass market in the 1970s. People want to try to pack in as much as we can for the duration of the holiday. 

It isn’t just activities that are increasingly popular. People are also demanding to see as much of the country as possible and even want to visit two or even three countries on the same trip.

We expect Asia to continue to grow in popularity, with its perception as a safe area compared with other parts of the world.

One big change will be an increase in high-speed train travel, with China leading the revolution that shifts leisure travellers from using domestic and regional flights to trains. Seating in the Business Class carriages is already on a par with a premium cabin on a leading airline. Plans to expand this high-speed network from China westwards will make travelling along the Silk Road routes to Central Asia more popular.

The biggest advantage of this is that people will be able to cover much greater distances and enjoy a multitude of experiences on the same holiday, plus, of course, even at high speed, you see a lot more of the countryside from a train than you do from the seat of an aircraft.

Finding new destinations for people to discover is also becoming increasingly challenging as the world grows ever smaller. In Asia, we anticipate Timor-Leste, one of the lesser-known destinations, is set to become more popular. The capital, Dili, is 90 minutes from Bali. This is a destination in the making, with great beaches, colonial architecture, lush mountain scenery, and it's a paradise for divers and snorkelers.

 

Main image: The world in our hands? (Dreamstime)