If you are about to predict, believe or think of your future and the tomorrow of anything you like, you should deeply think and know about the past. In this post I am going to discuss the future of the travel industry; first by analyzing its past.
My personal motto: “Navigare necesse est, vivere non est necesse,” which roughly translates as, “To sail the seas is a necessity, to live is not” conveys, to my mind, the very spirit of any (future) traveler who will realize (just like me) that they cannot live without the freedom of discovering the world and different cultures. This very sentence by the way was pronounced in 56 B.C. by Gnaeus Pompeius who was quite busy to supply the Romans with bread despite of the stormy weather; the proconsul was ready to start with his ship full of grain towards Rome, ignoring the fact that his sailors were afraid of losing their lives in the stormy sea. Throughout the centuries to come these words served as a motto of the adventurous and it may serve as a motto for us after the pandemic and the financial crisis of 2020.
There are and there have always been many different types and forms of travel. We have been traveling the world to discover, to conquer, to convert, to sell and buy, to see and be seen etc. Tourism however as we know it today is relatively new. Travel in various forms and to well known or distant and challenging destinations is taken for granted in most of the present-day societies of the planet. Our ancestors on the other hand traveled the world they knew or did not know for many different reasons, but it was far from being taken granted. When thinking about a farmer who wanted to sell their products somewhere at a marketplace where others tried to do the same with their own products, we can talk about travel. People started these sorts of excursions literally when civilization was born along with cities, writing, law, armies, and religions. And then there were wanderers, too and there were the crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries and those who discovered new regions especially from the 15th century on. And these guys at least for me (as an image in my head) are closer to today's tourists.
In the middle ages travel was a sine qua non condition of life and our motto could be read as an old sailor's saying that constantly gained power over human souls. Travel was a massive part of the life in medieval societies although those +80% who cultivated the land all over never or very rarely left their villages. Even those centuries when people had no idea about tourism there were some folks who traveled and who had to travel. Just think about the preachers and diplomats, the soldiers (mostly mercenaries) and the fortune hunters, and probably in the first place the merchants, and a few others who kept carrying out their missions serving as links connecting remote corners of the (un)known world.
Until the big boost in the 19th century when European scholars, archaeologists and adventurers discovered Egypt and other archaeological sites everywhere in the Mid-East and beyond we talked about travel. In that century among many other elements of the new industrialized, capitalist and imperialist (not a globalized yet) world, tourism (as a term) as we know it today was born. The real change and modern tourism though came along in the 20th century only. Trade unionists and suffragettes obtained the rights today we take for granted: fewer working hours, better salaries, and more free time. What to do with the free time, the money and bigger freedom? Well, let us go to the beach or to the mountains and build chalets and cabins and summer houses. From this point on tourism becomes the term that describes the movement of the countless millions who travel most of the time for leisure and pleasure. Well, the number is not countless though since we have exact (or close) figures of (international) tourism that started growing after the end of WWII. Between 1950, when there were 3 billion inhabitants on our planet, and today when 7,7 billion of us share the world’s assets, tourism grew from the tiny number of 25 million international tourist arrivals to an unbelievable 1,5 billion. In seven decades! The largest number of visitors arrived in Europe of all the regions after the war was over. If take a quick look of the relative distribution of tourist arrivals by region then you realize that Europe is still a number one destination. In the 1950s two-thirds of tourists arrived in Europe of all tourist arrivals and wanted to leave their footsteps at places where (modern) civilizations were born. Over the following seven decades the relative importance of international arrivals on the old continent declined to half of the entire international visits in the sector we know today: tourism; but it is still far the most visited continent in the world. Or, now it is better and safer to say: has been … because something strange and uncomfortable hit us hard a few months ago. In the second part of this post we discuss the now and the future of tourism and examine what happened to this industry when other terrible events like 9/11 happened.
Stay tuned and healthy and feel free to comment 😊 to be continued …