The future of travel
e’re not sure whether futurists in 1958 predicted the breakup
of the Soviet Union, but we’re pretty sure they missed that
Crystal Cruises would offer flights in a Russian MIG as a
shore excursion, that Space Adventures would send American tourists to the MIR space station and that Moscow luxury hotels would openly compete for a proudly capitalist
What will be reported in the pages of Travel Weekly over the
next 50 years? We asked four futurists and trendspotters specializing in technology, marketing, tourism and intelligence to
clue us in.
Across the paraverse
Technology guru Scott Klososky maintains that predicting the futur e is
easier than it sounds. “All you have to do is look for the most annoyin g
things — that’s where advancements are going to take place. And that’s
why I think the airline industry is going to be radically different.
“Customer service can’t continue to be as bad as it is,” he said. “And
we’re going to get faster, better planes.”
Klososky has some thoughts on travel distribution, both on- and
offline. “Anything that can be commoditized and sold over the Internet will be. But more and more, people are figuring out that owning
things doesn’t make them as happy as having great experiences. There
will be nobody more high-value than people who can broker satisfying
That’s good news for travel agents, but only if they keep up with technology: “Google is rumored to be coming out with a ‘paraverse’ — a
parallel universe that will blend Google Earth and virtual worlds like
Second Life (in which users navigate among graphic representations
that can replicate real-world structures or imaginary places).
“For instance, in the paraverse you can ‘fly’ to Athens and look at
realistic presentations of actual hotels. You’ll walk in, be greeted by an
avatar (a human-looking, animated graphic), check out the lobby, loo k
at the rooms. You’ll be in virtual space, but it’ll be a pretty good representation of real space. This’ll happen in five years; if Google doesn’t
do it, someone will. In the future, it’ll be considered crude to take a
trip and not have checked it out in advance.”
Technology will become so prevalent in our lives, Klososky said, that people will be
willing to pay to get away from it. “There’s no question there’ll be ‘no technology allowed’
experiences. Do you really want to hear people talking on a cell phone when you’re on
safari? There’ll be no-technology hotels, just as there are no-smoking hotels.”
Tummy tucks and stay-aways
Marian Salzman is a marketing trendspotter who believes today’s economic uncertainty
will “reshape the yin and yang of travel,” particularly as it relates to luxury travel. “The
‘masstige’ (mass prestige) dimension of travel is going to go away. Those who were able to
indulge themselves in luxury travel but who can’t really afford a complete luxury lifestyle
are going to retreat,” she said.
But don’t think this spells the end of luxury travel for those who can afford it. “Luxury
is going to get even more luxurious. I don’t think we’ve seen the full definition of what
five- or six-stars can be,” she said.
But she believes luxury will have a split personality: “We’re going to see an Arab version
on one end, and California on the other. The Arab will be very boring, service-oriented,
traditional. All the accoutrements of Claridge’s with the over-the-topness of Jumeirah,
plus-plus. Nothing will be too good for those prepared to pay more than $2,000 a night.”
On the other hand, those indulging in California-style luxury will be looking for a “very
green, very organic, very ‘localvore’ (locally grown food) environment. The problem is
that, for those who are not politically correct, it will feel like Berkeley when what you want
is Santa Monica.”
Salzman also sees the development of “stay-aways,” in part a response to home-officing.
“As children, we had sleepovers; as adults we’ll have stay-aways. These will be quarterly
indulgences where we take ourselves out of environments where we have so much responsibility. It may not be far away, it may not be a weekend, and it won’t be an add-on
to a business trip. It may be just a Thursday night, because it’s easier to get a sitter on
As far as destinations go, Salzman predicts we’ll see “pushback” against Arab countries.
“I think we’re moving to a them-and-us view of destinations. There’ll be greater interest
in domestic travel, more Caribbean, more Mexico, more rustic travel, though it will be
L.L. Bean-style rustic travel.”
Trips further afield may be related to medical tourism. “Turnkey hospital spas are going
to be a big trend. Now it’s very hush-hush. The English middle class is going to India for
hip replacements, but there’ll be a big, burgeoning business among the wealthy for tummy
tucks and, for god’s sake, penis extensions.”
The death of tourism as we know it?
Tourism professor Ian Yeoman is no Dr. Doom; most of his predictions for the industry
are positive. But he does see some dangers ahead.
“In 2030, some countries won’t be here in terms of travel and tourism, due to climate
change. No one will be having a beach holiday in the Maldives, and skiing in the French
Alps will be out of the question. Crete will probably be a desert by 2030. There’ll be
more forest fires and flash floods. You may see the reintroduction of strong malarial
strains into Europe,” he said.
Other regions will be affected by global warming, as well. “Florida will have higher
tides and bigger storm surges, and Caribbean countries with limited natural resources
that depend on tourism will have high exposure to natural hazards.”
He also made some “wild card” predictions about potential problems: “The extreme
example is that, by 2030, we might ban world travel because it’s bad for the environment, or we’re scared to travel, or we can’t afford to travel. There could be an outright
assault on pleasure, with society regulating what you can and can’t do, eat or drink.
There could be a ban on bungee jumping, sky diving and whitewater raft-i ng because they’re too dangerous or operators can’t afford the insurance.
O verregulation could cause the death of tourism as we know it.”
Nonetheless, Yeoman notes, “when the telephone was invented, people said it was the end of business travel. People travel today for the
s ame reason they traveled 100 years ago: to meet people, relax and
have a good time.”
Marvin Cetron is willing to go out on a limb. The most experienced
a nd credentialed of the futurists interviewed, he’s an intelligence oracle
for the CIA and departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
“ In 50 years, you’re going to have teleportation. Mr. Spock stuff.
Work is being done now; atoms are being teleported, right now. It
may be the way we get to distant planets.”
With this kind of talk, predictions about aviation become almost
down-to-earth. “You’ll only have two or three major airlines in the
U.S. in three years or so. They’ll buy each other out. I only expect
to see seven or eight major airlines in the whole world.
“ There’ll be hotels on the moon by 2020. It’s going to be expensive;
i t’ll be for dilettantes. But there’ll be a hell of a lot of dilettantes.”
As for terrorism and security lines, expect them to be around for a
while. “We’re talking at least a generation, 20 or 30 years. Change will
c ome from moderates in the Muslim community. If that doesn’t hap-
pen, we’re going to have a lot of trouble.”
At the end of our conversation, Cetron said he’d email an article he wrote for Professional Pilot magazine that explains teleportation.
It turns out that, apparently, although the teleportation of humans is theoretically
possible, the “you” who is sent would be reduced to a pile of disorganized atoms in the
process and the “you” who arrives at the other end will not really be you, but a copy of
It will be, in other words, a trip to die for. — Arnie Weissmann
Scott Klososky is a writer, consultant, lecturer, entrepreneur and technology trendspotter living in Oklahoma City. He is at work on a book
called Velocity Leadership. www.klososky.com
Marian Salzman is a partner in the public relations firm Porter Novelli, a
speaker and author of “Next Now” and other trendspotting books. It was
she who popularized the term “metrosexual.” www.mariansalzman.com
Ian Yeoman is an associate professor of tourism management at Victoria
University in Wellington, New Zealand, and the only futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. His most recent book is Tomorrow’s Tourist. www.
Marvin Cetron, president of Forecasting International, has authored three
dozen books, advised the governments of every president from John Kennedy through Bill Clinton and has consulted to more than 150 corporations.