The rise of the tourist

Along with the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, tourism has become one of the world’s dominant drivers of global, national, and local economic growth.  At last tally, “the industry” – an aggregate of airlines, hotels and a slew of service businesses ranging from tour guides to street food vendors – employs a staggeringly high 200+ million people worldwide, or nearly 11% of the world’s workforce.

As previously reported, this same industry is on a path that will serve 1 billion souls in 2012 (or 1/7 of the world’s population).  And, rest assured, that number won’t be the pinnacle in terms of unique travelers.  Instead, 1 billion should be thought of as a beacon, a milestone to mark our progress on a long march towards a culture of global travels and tourism.

Photorights - Copenhagen by Valkarie

Photo credit / "Copenhagen" by Valkarie

In other words, 1 billion tourists in 2012 and, perhaps, 2 billion in 2020.  Is there anything wrong with the proposition of an increasingly saturated tourist landscape, aside from personal inconveniences and the potential loss of the unspoiled destination?    More to the point, should anyone deny someone else the joy, the thrill, and the trials of travel?

Citizens of BRIC nations and other, smaller economic power-houses, whose respective GDP’s continue to trend upwards, have travel aspirations that rival their rising economic status.  These brave new 21st century travelers are simply partaking in the same “pleasures” that the developed world has had access to for decades, if not centuries.   So, no, I would argue, there is nothing wrong with an increase in travelers or tourists or whatever way you want to divide and subdivide or categorize and classify.

The rise of the tourist is, in part, due to the rise of the tourism industry; it’s big business and there’s big profits to be had.  With an expanding market (i.e. the population boom), there’s more clientèle and, shock (!), they’re going to keep doing their thing.

We must keep doing ours.  Travel slow.  Travel independently.  Travel with purpose.  Travel with a conscious.  Travel with style.  Travel in whatever ways make sense to you.   And, don’t forget to spread the gospel.

Again, 1 billion tourists are just the beginning.  Previously marginalized populations will continue to find the world more accessible via Visa and Vayama.  We’re already seeing waves of new travels from every corner of the globe, not just those where past economic performance has paved the way.

Let this marinate a bit and check back next week where we’ll look more into why the numbers aren’t what’s important, but rather how people travel is.

Posted by | Comments (6)  | February 27, 2012
Category: General, Travel News

6 Responses to “The rise of the tourist”

  1. Chris Carruth Says:

    @DEK – I’m intrigued by the idea of a tourist zone and wonder if that isn’t something that is, more or less, naturally occurring in high traffic destinations. Hotels/hostels are already somewhat concentrated in several areas. On the politicization of travel, I think we’re seeing that through fees and bureaucratic restrictions already and to a lesser degree travel restrictions. Sarah’s comment about the Inca Trail is a example of travel restrictions, although motivated by environmental and cultural heritage concerns.

    @Sarah – I like your stance – we can’t go back, so the issue turns into how best to deal with the situation we have. I’m still working on embracing “the more, the merrier”, but I am working on it 🙂

    @Rolf – Excellent link!

  2. Americans of Generation Y: Are we the "Go-Nowhere Generation?" | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] these trends are much more complicated than gradual increases in tourism as discussed last week by Chris and Marco. Generation Y, is that you? Photo from CNNWe know we can expect at least one billion […]