Sunday, 28 December 2008

Local travel: future trends

Geographical magazine coined all sorts of new buzzwords for their December “future of tourism” issue. Most include the prefix “geo” as a subtle reminder of where you heard it first.

First up is the “geotourist”. According to the term’s inventor, Jonathan Tourtellot of National Geographic Traveler, this is someone who “gets off a cruise ship and discovers an interesting town, then decides to come back and explore it another time”.

Tourists who like places and aren’t satisfied with a couple of hours docking in a cruise port? This didn’t strike me as anything new, but, reading on, the underlying point gets more interesting.

Geotourists are those who look beyond just ticking places off a list and want to build connections with the destinations and their people. Their aim is to "sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place: the environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and well-being of its residents”.

Sustainable, or conscious, tourism may not be a brand new concept, but here's hoping Geographical are right and it will continue to spread. After all, something's got to give.
Tourtellot points out there could be seven billion tourists rooming our planet in next decade and “if four billion people decide to see the Mona Lisa, it would take 309 years, even with groups of 25 viewing it for one minute, 24 hours a day”.

So what else does the future hold? According to Geographical, travel by 2020 will also be “geo-local”. Basically, this means holidaymakers will travel closer to home. "We'll begin to travel more within our own countries and continents, and less frequently beyond them. A British family might head to Cornwall to stay in a locally run Cornish cottage, shop for Cornish crafts and enjoy a cream tea.”

Perhaps. Although, as the economic crisis takes hold, I’d say people aren’t going to wait until 2020 until they start holidaying closer to home.

So, it's buzzword number three that is arguably the most innovative of the lot: hyper-local sourcing. "
By 2020, we'll also see the majority of hotels getting their produce, employees, materials, services and the like from sources within their immediate vicinity," they say. They also predict a new type of hotel - 'the ten-kilometre hotel' - for which all food and materials will have been sourced from within a ten-kilometre radius. Hotels will offer energy and water for guests on a metered system, and there will be discounts for visitors who keep their consumption below average.

For me, "geotourism" and "geo local" travel are already in full swing, but I'll be interested to see if the "hyper local" prediction comes true. I can see the potential. My first, and only, such experience was when
received a discount for arriving by public transport at a tree-climbing centre on the Isle of Wight.

The hotel or excursion bill of the future ('s mock-up is pictured), which offers discounts rather than just piling on unexpected extras would certainly make a welcome change.