Travelling Forbidden Zones: The holiday destinations of the future

As the tourism industry starts to feel the effects of climate change, we explore the changing nature of future holiday destinations and our fascination with forbidden zones

According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the next two decades will see the tourism industry grow at a rate of 43 million international tourist arrivals each year. This means that there will be around 1.8 billion people travelling the world in 2030, compared with 940 million in 2010, which breaks down to 5 million people crossing international borders and four times as many travelling domestically.

Described as a global phenomenon by UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, who says tourism has seen “extraordinary growth” over the last six decades, the tourist industry has always managed to thrive despite the many obstacles and challenges that threaten to hinder its advance.

“In spite of the multiple changes and shocks – from man-made crises to natural disasters and economic crises from which the world is still recovering – tourism, although vulnerable, has always bounced back, proving its resilience and capacity to rebound,” he says.

As the number of travellers increases along with climate change, and resorts open up and close down, a shift in the locations that people wish to visit is inevitable. But what changes are we likely to see occurring over the next few decades, and why?

Reversal of European tourist flows

In terms of mass tourism, climate change expert David Viner – who was behind one of the first reports to link climate change and tourism, titled Climate Change and Its Impacts on Tourism and written for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1999 – believes that the biggest change will come from the flows of tourists between Northern Europe and Southern Europe.

shutterstock_154671683_2

Brighton, UK. Destinations in Northern Europe are becoming more popular.

“The main drivers of tourism are the big flows of people from Northern Europe to Southern Europe who are looking for sun, sea, sand and security,” says David. “If you take away the sun as a push factor, it can really alter how people’s perceptions of these resorts change.”

In order to assess what regions would be become more or less attractive in the future as a result of climate change, David explains that a tourism comfort index was created for the study, which was constructed using a suite of climate variables, including mean and maximum temperature, humidity, rainfall, sunshine hours and wind. Four maps were created comparing the period of 1961 to 1990, the 2020s, the 2050s and the 2080s.

They showed a clear departure from the warm and attractive climate we recognise in Southern Europe today during the 2020s in destinations such as Portugal and Spain, and which starts to impact Southern France and Italy during the 2050s. What emerged was a climate reversal, where Northern Europe becomes warmer and more appealing during the 2020s and 2050s. The result is that the north of France and English resorts – think Normandy, Southend-on-Sea and Brighton – become as attractive, climate-wise, as the French Riviera and Italy’s Amalfi coast.

David says that the European heatwave during the summer of 2003 proved that when Northern Europe was hotter than Southern Europe, those areas became popular holiday destinations. It was the hottest on record since 1540, particularly in France (with over 14,000 heat-related deaths reported), Portugal, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

“This was also especially true of the Costas in Spain, which were too hot and too uncomfortable,” says Viner. “At the same time in Northern Europe they had ideal tourism conditions and people did not have to leave home. We know now that in the future, some places in Northern Europe will become increasingly attractive holiday destinations.”

Increase in travel from China

While Europe will welcome the most number of tourists in 2030 – as per the UNWTO’s Tourism Towards 2030 forecast, which predicts 744 million – Asia and the Pacific region are not far behind with 535 million, and the Americas with 248 million.

shutterstock_155784854_3“This is due mostly to intraregional travel (travel by Asians within Asia) fostered by investment in infrastructure, development of transport and accessibility, including visa facilitation, strong economic growth and regional integration,” says Sandra Carvao, UNWTO chief of communications and publications. “This growth is also supported naturally by the exponential increase in travel from China. In 2013, Chinese tourists spent $129bn on travel abroad.”

A recent SkyScanner study states that the explosion of Chinese travel will be one of the drivers behind travellers seeking new destinations off the beaten track or in forbidden zones due to the impact of Chinese tourists in classic destinations such as Paris, Rome and New York.

“Asian tourists want to come to Europe and America because this is their Disneyland,” says travel futurologist Ian Yeoman. “Europe is clean and green compared to the polluted cities of Asia,” he continues, describing Europe as their “social capital”.

Forbidden zones as social capital

Social capital, he explains, is how we talk about destinations, people telling others “I have been there”, which is driven by people seeking new experiences and sampling new regions. The Skyscanner report predicts that this social capital will push the Traveller of the Millennium to forbidden zones, described as “the countries and regions once rendered inaccessible by conflict or political problems” in a bid to “boast that he was among the first”. But Yeoman says that this is only possible if safety is improved. In the future he believes that Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran could open up, but only if they are safe.

shutterstock_203083117_4

Herat, Afghanistan

“If you have peace in Iran, it will become a huge cultural destination, but tourists will not travel to a forbidden zone if there is turmoil, as safety is a basic need,” he says. “However, post-conflict you will see previously dangerous countries opening up. Vietnam was once a killing zone for Americans, today it is competing with Thailand for new markets.”

He says that a country such as Egypt will always have terrorism activity because it is “the nature of Islam states with a hedonistic product”. “There will always be bombs, but we travel in between those bombs as they are managed,” he explains, adding that Lebanon was once the Paris of the Middle East, but it is no longer now because of civil war and Islam. Despite this he believes that Lebanon could be what it used to be in the future, as although the Syria conflict blights its current growth the country realises the potential of tourism. “It is a country of Christianity and Islam, which have worked together in the past,” he says.

Carvao says that looking for new destinations is a natural trend. “Today tourism touches almost any destination in the world and this is a natural trend if we consider that in 2013 there were 1,087 million tourists crossing borders up from a mere 25 million in 1950,” she says. “Tourists thus become increasingly interested in discovering new destinations that for one reason or another have been closed – this has been the case in Central and Eastern Europe or in destinations such as Vietnam, Cambodia or Myanmar.”

Emerging economy destinations

Emerging economy destinations have been increasing in popularity and will continue to become more and more sought after by travellers.

The WTO’s Tourism Towards 2030 report reveals that international tourist arrivals in the emerging economy destinations of Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Eastern Mediterranean Europe, the Middle East and Africa will grow at double the rate (+4.4% a year) of that in advanced economy destinations (+2.2% a year).

shutterstock_219556405_5

Okavango delta, Botswana

“Emerging economies have been showing an extraordinary growth in terms of international tourism in recent decades, and international tourist arrivals grew from 255 million in 2000 to 505 million in 2013,” says Carvao. “Reasons behind this include strong economic growth, an emerging middle class, technological developments and declines in the cost of travelling. Besides, there is a clear support in many emerging economies to the tourism sector as a driver of economic growth and development.”

Botswana and Angola are also likely to open up in the future, believes Yeoman. “Botswana is a relatively wealthy African country with great natural assets and a governance structure – and it is safe,” he says. “Angola is an emerging economy of Africa, rich in oil and resources, where China is investing in infrastructure (new hotels and airports) to allow future tourists.”

Cuba takes off

Viner predicts that tourism is going to take off “in a big way” in Cuba, as it has access to the American market, probably to the detriment of some of the other islands, due to its location. Yeoman agrees, believing that Cuba will become the top tourism destination in the Caribbean due to an influx of American tourists and large economic development.

But what about the negative effects of climate change in the Caribbean; won’t that affect its appeal? The UNWTO’s Davos to Copenhagen report says that the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Africa are the tourism regions thought to be the most at risk as we head into the future.

“The impact of climate change on tourism is one of the most pressing challenges faced at a global level,” says Carvao, adding that extreme weather patterns can disrupt tourist demand. “All these face rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions leading to natural disasters or to extreme changes in weather, which jeopardise the development of the tourism sector, as it erodes natural resources.”

However, Viner doesn’t believe that the overall suitability of the Caribbean to tourism will be affected by climate change. “There might be a localised risk from sea level rise and beach erosion, but there is no evidence that hurricanes will become more frequent, just perhaps more intense,” he says. “Hurricanes are infrequent and these resorts quickly recover so the viability of the resorts won’t change.”

The ultimate forbidden zone

As the tourism industry continues its growth, what changes and trends could be sparked off as a result of new destinations opening up?

Yeoman says that an expectation of better service will start to prevail, and we will see the end of the “once in a lifetime” concept, as we’re living longer and seeing places several times.issue8readfree

He also believes that space tourism will become the “ultimate weekend stay”. Currently the most forbidden zone of them all, the opening up of this destination could perhaps provide the Traveller of the Millennium with the most valuable social capital experience possible.

Only 6% of space enthusiasts would like to live in the first low-Earth orbit settlements

A new survey has found that only 6% of respondents would be happy to live in a proposed Equatorial Low Earth Orbit (ELEO) settlement, where humans live in a small cruise ship-like space station at a similar orbit to the ISS.

Four conditions were set for respondents to assess and while at least 30% said they agree with at least one of them, the number shrank significantly when it came to those who could accept all the conditions.

These were that the settlement itself would require permanent residence, would be no bigger than a large cruise ship, would contain no more than 500 people and would require residents to be willing to devote at least 75% of their wealth to move in.

The example settlement used in the survey is Kalpana Two, pictured, a conceptual cylindrical space habitat visualised by Brian Versteeg. Measuring 110 m x 110m it would rotate to provide simulated gravity on the “ground” and zero-gravity near the cylinder’s core where occupants can ‘fly’, and would be capable of housing 500 – 1,000 people

The study, conducted by researchers from San Jose State University (SJSU) and the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) sought to assess the desirability of such a settlement. Previous similar studies had suggested early space settlements would need to be significantly smaller than believed, and located far closer to Earth.

The research was conducted via an Internet survey made available to the public between 8 January 2016 and 17 June 2016. The survey, using Qualtrics software, received 1,075 responses and was distributed via an email list, social media and spac- related organisations. It should therefore be noted that the respondents are not representative of the general population: 95% actually identified as space enthusiasts.

“95% of respondents were self-described space enthusiasts and 81% were male. 70% were from North America and 20% from Europe,” the study authors Al Globus, from SJSU, and Tom Marotta, from AST, wrote in the research paper.

“This is not surprising as the authors made no attempt to select a random sample of any particular group, but rather to simply distribute the survey as widely as we could.”

Kalpana Two, the conceptual space station the survey was based on. Images courtesy of Brian Versteeg

The paper itself is rather enthusiastic about the 6% figure, pointing out that while it is a low percentage of those who responded, if considering it 6% of those who globally identify as “space enthusiasts” there are likely more than enough to fill these early settlements.  The authors also acknowledge that such a number is not all that surprising given the demands of the move.

However, while the enthusiasm and optimism is laudable, it’s worth noting that those principally willing to give up the most were small in number and tended to fall on the wealthier spectrum. So while the possibility of the project exists, it seems that, as with all commercial space projects so far, it would principally have to cater to the rich.

Moreover, when responding to the main attraction of life in space, “the most common remark was simply that it was ‘in space’ not any particular characteristic of living in space”. There seems in the responses to be a certain enthusiasm that may not hold up in the actual moment of decision.

The fact that people like the idea of living in space is no surprise; the survey however does little to assuage the realities of the situation. Enthusiasm is promising, however the main result of this survey seems to be that blind optimism is only truly backed up by vast amounts of money.

Life expectancy to break the 90-year barrier by 2030

New research has revealed that the average life expectancy is set to increase in many countries by 2030 and, in South Korea specifically, will improve so much as to exceed an average of 90 years. The study analysed long-term data on mortality and longevity trends to predict how life expectancy will change from now until 2030.

The study was led by scientists from Imperial College London in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Looking at 35 industrialised nations, the team highlighted South Korea as a peak for life expectancy; predicting expectancy from birth, they estimate that a baby girl born in South Korea in 2030 will expect to live 90.8 years, while men are expected to live to be 84.1 years.

Scientists once thought an average life expectancy of over 90 was impossible, according to Professor Majid Ezzati, lead researcher from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London:

“We repeatedly hear that improvements in human longevity are about to come to an end. Many people used to believe that 90 years is the upper limit for life expectancy, but this research suggests we will break the 90-year barrier,” he said.

“I don’t believe we’re anywhere near the upper limit of life expectancy -if there even is one.”

South Korea leads in life expectancy. Image courtesy of jedydjah. Featured image courtesy of Carey and Kacey Jordan

Ezzati explained that the high expectancy for South Korean lives was likely due to a number of factors including good nutrition in childhood, low blood pressure, low levels of smoking, good access to healthcare, and uptake of new medical knowledge and technologies. It is likely that, by 2030, South Korea will have the highest life expectancy in the world.

Elsewhere, French women and Swiss men are predicted to lead expectancies in Europe, with 88.6 years and nearly 84 years respectively. The UK is expected to average 85.3 years for women (21st in the table of countries studied) and 82.5 years for men (14th in the table).

The study included both high-income countries and emerging economies. Among the high-income countries, the US was found to have the lowest predicted life expectancy at birth. Averaging similar to Croatia and Mexico, the researchers suggested this was due to a number of factors including a lack of universal healthcare, as well as the highest child and maternal mortality rate, homicide rate and obesity among high-income countries.

A lack of universal healthcare is one of the reasons the US trails behind in life expectancy. Image courtesy of HSeverson

Notably, the research also suggests that the life expectancy gap between men and women is closing and that a large factor in increasing expectancy is due in no small part to older sections of the population living longer than before.

Such increased longevity is not without issue, however, as countries may not be prepared to support an ageing population.

“The fact that we will continue to live longer means we need to think about strengthening the health and social care systems to support an ageing population with multiple health needs,” added Ezzati.

“This is the opposite of what is being done in the era of austerity. We also need to think about whether current pension systems will support us, or if we need to consider working into later life.”