Future of Tourism
The tourism industry is changing rapidly, driven by macro drivers that are reshaping travellers and the desired travel experience. Understanding these trends and impacts will help industry professionals identify and target new visitors and help define the best sustainable product development strategies that bring local economic benefit and protect local ecosystems from overtourism.
THE FUTURE OF TOURISM – THE MAINE WOODS (Parts 1 & 2)
The Future of Tourism – The Maine Woods foresight reports were commissioned by the Maine Woods Consortium, a network of non-profits organisations, businesses and state agencies dedicated to advancing a ‘triple bottom line’ approach to enhancing human and environmental well-being in the Maine Woods region.
The Future of Tourism: The Maine Woods – Part 1 (Emerging Trends) and Part 2 (Potential Scenarios), are valuable resources for industry and community leaders as they consider future tourism development. Part 1 takes an in-depth look at global and local macro trends that are impacting the tourism industry both in the Maine Woods and elsewhere. Part 2 identifies nine High Potential Rural Destination Areas (HPRDA) areas in the Maine Woods as potential for destination focused development and explores the various scenarios that may play out depending on local decision making for the region. These two reports are intended to help stimulate discussion about how best to build a sustainable tourism industry using destination development to help drive local economic benefit and protect the overall region from overtourism.
Future iQ predicts that once the impacts of Covid-19 have subsided, the global tourism industry will once again become the economic driver of many communities and regions that it once was. This pause in travel and visitation provides a unique opportunity for industry leaders to explore and plan for innovative sustainable destination management policies that build communities and protect the very resources that visitors and locals value so much.
EMERGING RECREATION TRENDS
An analysis of tourism industry trends highlights the need to be adaptable and responsive to the evolution of travel markets and travellers. With effort and organisation, regions can leverage their assets to attract new visitors, provide substantial economic benefits and protect local environments and ecosystems.
Future iQ Predictions
Demographic and societal shifts will require the tourism industry to develop infrastructure, products, programming and services to resonate with diverse groups: millennials, elders, multi-generational travel, increasing wealth, growing global middle class.
- A growing middle class and increased travellers from Asia will require a shift in types of services and experiences at tourism destinations, as well as the ability to adapt to meet the needs and interests of visitors from new and diverse markets.
- An overarching trend in tourism is the pursuit of authentic experiences, including adventure, learning skills, rejuvenation, and fulfillment. Visitors are interested in the sense of place, meeting people, and experiencing local culture, food, history and nature.
- The growing ‘Sharing Economy’ in the areas of accommodation, transportation, dining and travel planning provides an opportunity for regional leaders to re-think how tourists experience their area and how community stakeholders may benefit.
- Hiking and walking activities will continue to increase in popularity as it is appealing to all generations and focuses on connection to nature. Covid-19 has shown a dramatic increase in people hiking and walking outdoors as that is one of the only social activities that permits physical distancing at the same time.
The emerging macro trends represent both ‘headwinds’ and ‘tailwinds’ for the future of tourism. As the world becomes more urbanised, destinations that offer rich outdoor experiences are likely to be sought after locations.
ACCELERATING IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY
Technological innovations are being implemented globally at all scales, thereby changing the face of industries and society in a rapid and profound way. Technology is reshaping the global tourism industry, from how people communicate, to how they travel and recreate. Importantly, technology will change how visitors are served, transported, entertained and kept safe in a post-COVID world.
Future iQ Predictions
Tourists of all ages are embracing technology for researching, booking, reviewing, navigating and sharing travel experiences. Venues and hotels are also relying on touchless technologies, IoT and robots to provide safety and convenience for visitors. Engaging with the increasingly technology connected tourist will be critical for tourism destination development.
- Actively and effectively engaging social media and online review sites will be essential to capture the attention of modern travelers, from tech savvy baby boomers to constantly connected millennials.
- Emerging technologies will provide visitors with easy ways to access outdoor activities and virtual visitation, create curated packages, access rental equipment, guides and transportation, and simplify ways to find and book online.
- Mobile tourism (all services connected by phone) will become the norm.
- Virtual reality will be increasingly used to market destinations and lodging, educate and allow people to visit without actually going to a location. This will provide access to many more visitors, whether in-person or virtual, and opens the door to innovative presentation of destinations.
- In highly travelled areas, we will see technology solutions such as advance alerts and the ability to ‘electronically ring fence’ key areas, similar to current apps that can manage traffic congestion and reroute drivers.
Authenticity is the emerging critical element for travellers of all ages supported by the popularity of ‘second tier’ cities and less densely populated destinations. This is giving rise to a shift to alternative areas and sites that may be less famous but offer unspoiled, authentic experiences.
EMERGENCE OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM MODELS
Adopting a sustainable tourism destination development approach is the only way out of the ‘growth paradox’ – where the tourism industry grows because of the intrinsic appeal of a region but is then ultimately degraded and overwhelmed by that tourism, destroying its intrinsic appeal. This is often called ‘loved to death’.
Future iQ Predictions
Becoming a premier destination requires balancing fiscal, social and environmental considerations. Creating products for destination development that incorporate principles of sustainability will generate high value visitation while at the same time protecting the environment and social infrastructure necessary to local quality of life.
- Destinations will achieve sustainable tourism growth by concentrating efforts on those products and markets with a socially equitable approach, including development and promotion of a diverse range of rural, nature-based recreation, adventure and local cultural experiences.
- Overtourism is becoming a recognised phenomenon across Europe and parts of the U.S. Dealing with these challenges will require collaborative regionally based solutions that involve connecting infrastructure and instituting bold policy alignment.
- In order to properly manage highly sensitive ecological areas, it will be important to identify and develop areas that can absorb the traffic impacts of tourists. These areas will have greater resilience or are better suited to use.
- By embracing messaging about sustainable tourism and stewardship, destinations will appeal more to visitors who may prove to be more empathetic to local values and become partners in the management.