Elite travel in the year 2020

The Australian Financial Review recently dedicated an issue to musings about the future, calling on various pundits, futurists, and consultants to predict life in the year 2020. I served as a panelist for “The Road Less Traveled” (posted in the previous entry) — a story that predicts the state of “elite” travel in the year 2020. Lonely Planet global travel editor Don George and Geographic Expeditions president Jim Sano also weighed in.

One of my more potentially controversial predictions was that Iraq will be a mass tourism draw in the year 2020. This might sound a tad optimistic, but I made the prediction on the basis of Iraq’s appeal as a historical and cultural destination. What becomes of the security situation in Iraq, of course, is too soon to tell.

The full text of my 2020 “elite” travel prediction is as follows:

“I think that one only need to look at the past to judge the direction elite travel is heading. In the past, elite travelers have distinguished themselves by either spending more money, spending more time, or by taking more risks than mass tourists. Of these three categories, money is the easiest to predict, since wealthy travelers will always be able to buy a kind of exclusivity that is not available to the masses. This could mean heli-skiing in Antarctica, or cruising on the newest and most expensive ships and yachts, or it could mean flitting off to exclusive resorts in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean or the South Pacific — or even the coast of Africa or the Indian Ocean Rim or the high Andes (or wherever).

“Another factor that influences elite travel is danger, and this is a constantly fluctuating factor. Cambodia, for example, used to be an edgy destination for elite adventure travelers, though now it has given over to mass tourism. Afghanistan was a major way-station of the hippie trail, but it was off-limits for years, and is just now re-emerging as an edgy destination. Iraq is an example of a place that will soon transition from “off-limits” to “edgy” — though I’d wager that by 2020 it will be a mass tourism destination. Colombia is another place that may well safe for mass tourists in 2020. Of course, by that year, a completely different region of the world could be dangerous — and that is what will attract this phylum of travelers.

“The final category of elite travel is those who have a wealth of time with which to travel — and, as I say in my book Vagabonding, one need not be rich to do this. If you have six months to six years in which to travel, the prejudices of travel-fashion need not dictate your destination. This is because anyone who has gone vagabonding knows that a little time and patience in your travels allows you to get away from the madding crowd by simple serendipity and location-based intelligence. The Champs-Elysees of Paris might resemble a strip mall, but a one-month sojourn a few neighborhoods over, in the 11th arrondisement, will give you a perspective on Paris that most tourists would miss. Similarly, Phuket, Thailand might be morphing into a tourist theme-park, but a slow wander up the Andaman Sea or Gulf of Thailand coast will reveal beach communities that retain their Thai character. And, while Everest base-camp will continue to attract more and more rubberneckers, the true vagabonder only need travel to a different part of Nepal or Tibet to have amazing mountains all to themselves. As Walt Whitman said, “those pocketless of a dime can purchase the pick of the earth” — and this is still true, especially for those who are willing to invest time instead of money in their effort to see the best the world has to offer.”

Posted by | Comments Off on Elite travel in the year 2020  | May 20, 2005
Category: General

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