THE current model of tourism is unsustainable, according to a new report commissioned by Intrepid Travel, which puts forward an alarming proposition: “travel as we know hovers on the brink of extinction”. Produced by foresight agency The Future Laboratory after interviewing a range of sustainable travel experts, the paper titled A Sustainable Future for Travel: From Crisis to Transformation presents a bleak picture of what travel could like by 2040 is action is not taken now.
A future, Intrepid posits, where some of the most beloved holiday destinations, including the Maldives, Venice and Amsterdam, disappear off the map by 2050 due to fast-rising sea levels. Where extreme weather events, like severe storms, flooding and wildfires, wreak havoc on travel plans. Where overtourism reach breaking point in locations like Bali, Barcelona, and Machi Picchu. Where the metaverse will be the only means for people to experience their favourite destinations – otherwise referred to as, ‘virtual vacations’, or ‘armchair travel’.
The company’s co-founder and Chairman, Darrell Wade, explained, “one of the problems with tourism at the moment is that it is the opposite of regenerative. It’s extractive – and this cannot continue for much longer”.
“The direct, catastrophic impact of climate change has for too long been viewed as something distant in the future. But this is no longer an impending event; it’s happening now. We must recognise that the future needs to be different from business as usual, and that the climate crisis is not a competitive advantage.”
The report also predicts five key future trends that will help foster a more regenerative approach to travel, including government regulations on travel businesses to ensure that most money spent by tourists in a destination stays in the local economy, creating a path for a more equitable and mutually beneficial relationship between travellers and the communities they visit.
Intrepid also foreshadows the emergence of individual real-time carbon footprint tracking, thanks to AI, which will allow travellers to log daily emissions and track travel metrics in real-time, enabling them to shrink their footprint. The industry will also see the arrival of “pop-up accommodation” – off-grid minimalist escapes, or transient travel experiences, that leave no environmental trace.
The paper suggests that train travel will be a crucial element in making tourism more sustainable, with air travel swapped out for hyper-fast train journeys where possible. In fact, Intrepid is already working on eliminating unnecessary flights from its itineraries, with the goal of sits customers taking around 4,000 fewer flights on trips in 2024 compared to this year.
Additionally, The Future Laboratory report forecasts a “people-led” approach to travel as opposed to “product-led” – in other words, people will book holidays based on the social experience, rather than the hotel or destination.
“The clock is ticking for our planet and the future of the travel and tourism industry. There is limited time left and immediate collective action and innovation is needed to decarbonise travel together and truly achieve the immense potential for sustainable development within our industry,” Wade concluded.