Future Travellers of Tomorrow: Profile of the Mindful Traveller

It is common knowledge that tourism demand is already large and will continue to grow apace, set to rise to 1.8 billion international arrivals by 2030 in a best case scenario. Travel is already one of the world’s leading industries accounting for 1 in 11 jobs worldwide. Over the past few months, there has been a step-change in the push for sustainable business practices and policies on a global scale, thrust into the limelight with the announcement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

So let us take Maria as an example. Maria is from Santiago, Chile. She’s 55 years of age, divorced with two children. She has a keen passion for wildlife and has always wanted to see the Big 5 in Africa. She supports Unicef and works with a local charity. She’s joined a waiting list to visit Kenya’s Masai Mara, but in the meantime is happy to watch the migration on her Oculus Rift and enjoys holidaying in Chile to reduce her carbon footprint and show her commitment to responsible, sustainable travel.

Difficult choices ahead

For all responsible travellers like Maria, their choice of destination will increasingly be determined by quotas and restrictions as popular and endangered sites suffer from over-capacity. In Peru, the government has already introduced regulations for Machu Picchu so visitors are led by an official guide in small groups, use predetermined routes and time restrictions. Peak tourism is affecting destinations such as Barcelona, where the local government is stepping in to redress the balance between residents and visitors.

For Maria, these locations may be struck off the bucket list, but for others the desire to tick them off will remain a burning desire. That may lead to greater intervention from governments or global bodies to enforce travel bans. In a worst case scenario, there could be no global travel — whether due to legislation, war, or any other apocalyptic events. How do you prepare for that?

Sharing economy — a by-word for local

Maria wants to go “off the beaten track” to get a break from the city and recharge so she heads for the Atacama Desert. She opts for a homestay, but, she’s not going with Airbnb as she considers this to be a highly professional network, and instead opts for a hyper-local platform that she books from her connected, electric self-driving car. Thanks to her ride-sharing app, she takes two passengers that help pay for her fuel.

The sharing economy is thriving in the digital age and there are countless brands offering visitors a chance to stay, ride-share and eat with a local. Despite attempts to curtail the sector by legislators, local governments are coming round to the idea, like Amsterdam and Paris partnering with Airbnb to collect revenues and taxes. We’re already seeing global brands enter the sharing economy by investing in lodging platforms.

Brands such as Uber are trying to provide transport solutions thanks to their real-time demand and supply mapping technology to reduce the number of cars on the road. In the near future, sharing brands will sit alongside traditional business models to provide an integrated travel ecosystem for urban mobility.

Redressing the income gap

The great thing about the sharing economy is that it also helps narrow the gender gap as women are highly engaged with it at a local level and it is flexible so they can supplement their income. However, its informal nature means that job security and protection are lacking.

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We were shocked to see that inequality is expected to grow over the next 15 years, with the difference between men’s and women’s average disposable income expected to increase a further US$5,000, in Asia and the Middle East and Africa. So far, the sharing economy has primarily been urban-based, but there are huge opportunities to develop this business model in rural communities. Offering homestays as an alternative is a huge step for propelling female employment, equality and drives empowerment.

Written by Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel at Euromonitor International.

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