tl:dr – If you work in travel and tourism, and are younger than 50, these issues are going to affect you sooner or later. You’re going to want to be proactive, not reactive, if you want any hope of your business/destination surviving and maintaining a career in this industry until retirement.
“If you’re younger than sixty, you have a good chance of witnessing the radical destabilization of life on earth—massive crop failures, apocalyptic fires, imploding economies, epic flooding, hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions made uninhabitable by extreme heat or permanent drought. If you’re under thirty, you’re all but guaranteed to witness it.” From the New Yorker article “What If We Stopped Pretending the Climate Apocalypse Can Be Stopped?”
I’ll happily admit that I could be wrong about any or all of this. Honestly, if the past three years has taught me anything, it’s that I have no goddamn clue about human nature and human nature is the only thing that can save us. One thing has become painfully clear: approximately 90 percent of all humans are idiots, with a large sub-section also being assholes. I shall henceforth call them “idiotholes.”
My arguments below are based on extrapolations from existing predictions about when and how the actions of idiotholes will cause the planet and our quality of life to degrade. They also assume that, eventually, a tipping point of increasing hardship and a belated sense of self-preservation will finally prevail over denial, laziness and unbridled greed. But we all know how much stubborn agony the average uncle idiothole can endure before admitting fault, so buckle up. I give it a 50-50 chance the horde will choose chaos over survival.
Now that we’re on the same page, it seems to me there will be a number of factors that affect tourism simultaneously in the next 30-odd years.
- Worsening economy, financial security and spending power
- Actual climate/weather ramifications
- Transportation limitations
The climate crisis will start affecting formerly robust industries, leading to people losing jobs and business closures. New jobs will replace some of these lost jobs, of course, but most of them won’t pay as well. Even so, competition for these jobs will get more and more fierce as the years drag on and everyone realizes that being kind of fucked is preferable to being extravagantly fucked. Things like employment incentives, perks, bonuses and even onsite safety will be affected as belts tighten.
As I’ve argued previously, insurance companies will stop covering (or charge ruinous sums for) the most common and destructive weather-related events for each respective region. When one’s home or property are inevitably affected by one of these uninsured weather events, repairs will have to be paid for out-of-pocket. Since most people can’t afford extra four- and five-digit hits to their budgets, recovering from these weather events will wipe out whatever disposable income and savings people may have – and then some.
When that happens, the first sacrifices people will make are going to be leisure spending, i.e. traveling vacations. Minutes later, the tourism and hospitality sectors will join the global economic free-fall, with plummeting revenue and job losses.
Climate and weather ramifications
As the climate crisis progresses, weather patterns will be more unpredictable and severe weather events more common. Even if I’m wrong about the economy and the state of transportation 25 years from now, weather alone is going to change the way people consider travel and tourism.
While some measures can be taken, at great cost, to forestall climate crisis effects on one’s destination, eventually any hope of slowing down or stopping the degradation of the key elements that drive tourism will be exhausted.
The entire concept of high season will cease to exist in some places, like my own Minnesota when it can reach almost 70 degrees in the dead of winter, dip into the low-60s for weeks in August and experience significant snowfall in April and October. All of those freak, once a decade events happened in 2019, incidentally.
Tourism enticements like coral reefs, forests, lakes and savannah, including the tourist-bait unusual or exotic fauna it supports, will fade fast and eventually disappear.
Winter sports destinations will have shorter and more unpredictable seasons as global temperatures rise. Only a few destinations will have the necessary geography and resources to move their infrastructure to higher elevations in a bid to salvage their industry.
Rising and more acidic seas and the increased risk of hurricanes and typhoons will make traveling to islands and coastal regions a gamble. Many beaches will either be submerged, eroded or just too disgusting to be considered a leisure option.
Wild fires will be a year-round phenomenon, which, in addition to being a prohibitively terrifying vacation deal-breaker, will make leisure-souring power outages commonplace.
The declining availability of clean water in some areas will end tourism all together.
Eventually, you can totally kiss eco-tourism goodbye.
While they are already feverishly working to diminish the effects, wine, coffee, chocolate, avocados and other beloved food and beverages that drive tourism will diminish and perhaps even disappear in our lifetimes.
Civil disorder and decreased personal safety will be byproducts of the climate crisis virtually everywhere to some degree and those who can still afford to travel aren’t going to pay good money to immerse themselves in that.
And this just in, some of the most important cities in Southeast Asia and South Asia, including Shanghai, Bangkok, Mumbai and pretty much all of south Vietnam will be completely under water by 2050.
“Emissions reductions from improvements in fuel efficiency and technological fixes are expected to be offset by growth in tourism. Strong policy measures are likely to be necessary, especially to change passenger transport behaviour, where a ‘large price signal is needed’. Changes in lifestyle are therefore likely to be an important component of any effort to drive emissions reductions from tourism. Such changes might include, for example, a reduction in the demand for long-haul tourism in favour of holidaying more locally.” – From “Climate Change: Implications for Tourism” by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and the Cambridge Judge Business School
Sooner or later (read, later), the world is going to have no choice but to address the gargantuan effect transportation has on climate change. Despite being laugh-cry beyond the point-of-no-return, desperate governments will eventually start limiting fossil fuel transportation options in the next decade (or two, if we’re really stupid) either by placing strict limits on carbon emissions for each player in each sector and/or by pricing most people and businesses out of flying, cruising and even ground transport for those still clinging to gas-driven vehicles in 20 years. The United States’ Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 will almost certainly be repealed, while other countries will likely impose heavy regulations of their own.
Under these measures, it won’t take long for many airlines to either fail or be absorbed by the few surviving players, creating near or total monopolies in some regions, followed by even more price increases in an attempt to salvage profits from the reduced passenger and freight load.
Ground public transportation, meaning buses and trains (where available), will be the only option for most people. Since buses and trains are particularly slow in the U.S., and with the miserly vacation allotments in this country being what they are, even people who can afford to take vacations won’t be able to travel far due to prohibitively long in-transit times.
The One Percenters will be the only group still vacationing as we now know it, because they’ll be the last people with enough cash to do so. But there aren’t many one percenters to go around, so competition for their attention will be fierce. The luxury sector will become even more exclusive than it already is and most destinations won’t be able to stay competitive.
Meanwhile, places like Siberia and Greenland will finally have their tourism heyday as the planet warms, however limited and short-lived.