Is there a sustainable future for tourism?
We’re living in a time in which travel is something like the wild west of old. Destinations are emerging at the snap of an Instagram post, and emerging markets are launching new airlines almost daily. There’s no place where the market is expanding at a more fever pitch than China, and as the world’s largest population looks to spread their wings, they’re changing the tourism landscape forever.
According to a study by Euromonitor International, Chinese tourists will take 259,000,000 trips annually by the year 2030. In 2018, the country accounts for 97.5 million annual travelers abroad. The United States presently holds the top spot with 115 million annual trips, but that number is not expected to rise at a rate anywhere near China’s growth. The South China Morning Post cites rising household income as a driving factor in appetite. Intriguingly, Germany is the world’s third largest in the annual trips department. China issued 113 million passports in the last year alone.
Cities around the world are struggling to cope with increasing demand amidst limited space and infrastructure. As mainland Chinese airlines emerge, more point to point flights will open up the globe and competition will bring prices down. That’s generally a big positive for travelers hoping to avoid connections and score great flight deals. Cities however are faltering at present tourism levels, and with Chinese numbers expected to more than double, many of the most iconic cities will struggle to cope. The Philippines was forced to close down an island due to over tourism, as was Thailand. Hotspots such as Jeju Island, the Cinque Terre, Reykjavik, Venice and Barcelona are also aiming to curb access from tourists, until proper infrastructure can support the boom.
Tourism boards are faced with a challenging daily question. Take the easy money from mass tourism markets and risk saturating an incredible destination with crowds; or alternatively, limit access,attracting sustained future tourism by maintaining exclusivity, or at least the experience as its currently imagined and enjoyed. Infrastructure, planning and government responses to the new world of tourism are fascinating to watch and this space will become very complicated as cities and beaches remain the same size, but traveling populations more than double. It’s hard to turn down billions of dollars.