Observations and Recommendations

Observations and Recommendations

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8395-0.ch006


The future of tourism and communication technology are intertwined. As Toffler observed with other revolutionary change, an inter-relationship will be difficult to predict but rewards will be substantial to those who are ahead of the curve. Two critical forces will continue to collide: increased democratization of tourism and increased focus on sustainable use of resources. The growth in incomes and the expansion of low-cost air service make China, India, and a few other developing countries the most rapidly growing tourism markets. This is particularly the case in parts of the Islamic world, resulting in rapidly expanding numbers of Muslims who seek to undertake the Haj. As detailed in a case study, this has resulted in demolition of much of ancient Mecca to make way for tourist hotels, a case where it appears the Saudi government is more interested in offsetting declining oil revenues with tourism revenues than with preservation of a unique tourism asset. Elsewhere the threat of over-tourism is evident in many places. In Europe, this is most evident in Venice where as tourism has expanded, the prices charged for overnight accommodations have shot up, forcing long-term residents to move out of the city and to endure commutes to their places of work back in the city. Local government has a choice – see the asset degrade or limit tourism. The market is well suited to limit tourism, but if the government imposes fees, say a day pass to enter the city, is this an equitable option (i.e., potentially making the city available only to wealthy visitors)? The nation of Bhutan has already imposed a high fee for visitors as a method to maintain the nation's happiness index. The future of tourism is uncertain as is the impact that technology change and concern regarding sustainability.
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The most common way to predict the future is to chart developments from the past to the present and extend them straight line into the future, a futile exercise destined to lead to wrong decisions (Toffler, 1980). This type of forecasting misses many of the key elements of the technology revolutions impacting travel and tourism today. It was revolutionary changes that produced the Boeing 747, Sabre reservation system, the Internet, the worldwide web, desktop computers, and mobile technologies. No one predicted these major innovations, let alone the impacts these innovations had collectively. We cast no illusions; we are not prepared to predict the revolutions for the near term, let alone the distant future. Conducting this study has prepared us to forward observations on the key issues that will likely shape the future of tourism and how these changes will interact with the current technological revolution in tourism. Three interrelated issues seem particularly worthy of mention: democratization of tourism, sustainability, and over-tourism.

Democratization of Tourism

Democratization of tourism is the increased accessibility of travel to an expanding share of a population. Increased accessibility is a function of higher incomes and/or decreased consumer costs of travel. Presently, the world is seeing an ongoing democratization of tourism due to both rising incomes and decreasing travel costs, most notably in large portions of the developing world, especially in the People’s Republic of China and India. Of course, democratization of tourism is nothing new. Steam powered ships expanded the affordability of travel over sail power. The completion of the transcontinental railroads in the U.S. and Canada, opened new regions to broader populations of tourists. Globally, this trend was repeated with the introduction of jet travel and, repeated again with the introduction of Boeing 747, the first wide body jet. More recently, the Internet and worldwide web lowered costs and increased the accessibility of information, thereby making low cost air carriers feasible, and travel and tourism more accessible to millions if not billions of travelers.

In wide areas of the developing world, most notably China and India, both domestic and international tourism is much more accessible than at any time in the past. A rapid increase in Chinese tourism often is cited as the principal factor behind the rapid expansion of international tourism.

Improvements in airline efficiency have reduced airfares by nearly 40 percent in some markets. These reductions are explained by the introduction of new aircraft technology, improved information systems, and the rise of low-cost carriers. While non-fuel airline expenses declined approximately 40 percent between 2000 and 2014, airport costs escalated by more than 30 percent (Fernandes, 2017). Fernandes (2017) makes an important observation, no-frills airlines need access to no-frills terminals. A decrease in airport costs would yield substantial further democratization of tourism. Fernandes (2017) forwards London as a case in point, with six airports operated by six different authorities, airlines have developed long-term partnerships resulting in savings to travelers.

Blanca Zayas, Associate Director of Communications for TripAdvisor Spain and Brazil argues the most important contribution TripAdvisor has made to the tourism industry, is its democratization of the tourism sector. Instead of relying on a travel agent with limited options and a substantial commission, a prospective tourist can review recommendations of prior travelers and find offerings more in tune with their needs (Fuggle, 2017).

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