What will travelling be like in 2053?

British Airways' inflight magazine was first published 40 years ago. Travel was very different then, but where will it be in four decades' time?

To celebrate 40 years since High Life first appeared, the magazine's editor, Kerry Smith, convened a "travel think tank" at London's Café Royal. The aim: to forecast the future of travel 40 years from now. Besides Ms Smith (KS), the illustrious assembly comprised travel writer Colin Thubron (CT); Herbert Ypma (HY), founder of Hip Hotels; the writer Sara Wheeler (SW), who explores the Earth's extremes; the adventurer and entertainer Charley Boorman (CB); John Simpson (JS), the BBC's World Affairs Editor and High Life columnist; Justin Marozzi (JM), travel writer, historian and journalist; and the explorer and television presenter Benedict Allen (BA). The event was chaired by Simon Calder.

Who will be travelling in 40 years' time?

CB: We in the West who think that the motor of tourism is us – it won't be. It will be China, it will be India. We will be the touristed-about nation rather than the tourists. The gaze of the world will be turning back on us.

JM: In the last 10 years the volume of Chinese tourism has gone up five-fold. By 2020, people say that Chinese tourists will represent more than 10 per cent of the global market. And that's in a country where foreign travel has been off the agenda for God knows how long.

HY: One-third of all the visitors to the Maldives are Chinese.

KS: Everyone will share their experiences. We're all journalists and photographers now. Everybody has a Twitter feed to tell their own story.

 

Are there still "undiscovered" destinations?

CB: Papua New Guinea. I travelled there recently; on the north shore there must be 500 miles of white sand beaches with the jungle dropping over it.

JM: The place I've just got back from, Kyrgyzstan. Visa on arrival, couldn't be simpler, no problems with security whatsoever, fabulous landscapes, mountains including unclimbed peaks, rivers, horseback riding, amazing amounts of delicious foods. People need to go out there.

CT: It doesn't sound the greatest invitation in the world but Russia has some great rivers, such as the Yenisei. It's very tough and it's very poor. And in Asiatic Russia there are virtually no roads at all due to permafrost.

SW: I took my kids to China last summer for six weeks. The beaten track? We never even saw it. Nobody spoke a word of English. We stayed with tribespeople in Yunnan, and did some fantastic trekking. I was also in Libya not so long ago – it was unbelievably wonderful.

JS: It's still a very big world. There are over 200 countries and really most people only go to about 20 of them. There's an awful lot of Asia and Africa that people don't go to. If you want to head off the beaten track you can do it.

BA: There are still places in the world where no one has ever gone. In Venezuela, in the Gran Sabana area, there are still gullies and caves that are unexplored and tepuis that have not been summited. You've got to be a specialist to get in there, but I think it's very important that young people still believe that you can go to places and see things that people haven't seen.

 

Will we still visit cities?

JM: There are some wonderful cities which remain wonderful, like Cairo. To strike a blow for some continuity in tourism, think about the pyramids on the edge of the city, 5,000 years old. When Herodotus visited them 2,500 years ago they were as old to him as he is to us now.

HY: You could go to Paris and have an extraordinarily exotic experience, even though it's incredibly accessible and easy. That's the key for me: I look for authenticity whether it's an urban experience or an escape.

CT: In a way cities are the new anthropology, aren't they? Anthropology is converging with sociology because it's the megacity that is the object of examination and extraordinariness.

JS: But will you be able to tell which one you are in?

CT: Cultures are so impermeable; they're so resilient. You don't think you're in a Western city if you're in Shanghai or Singapore. The culture is as strong and identifiable it ever was.

 

Will space tourism happen?

JS: There's nowhere to go. You can't stop off anywhere to get out and look around.

CB: There'll be a hotel on the moon before you know it.

JS: I'm sure we will start recolonising our own planet before we go off and colonise space simply because there's so incredibly much of it here.

CT: There will always be those who will want to test themselves, to have another sort of experience. We're all looking for variety. That's why we travel; nobody travels to find what they already have on their doorstep.

 

What advice would you offer to the traveller in 2053?

HY: Travel with a purpose is a lot more rewarding than just travel.

CT: What matters is the impulse, the desire, and if you've got that, you just go. My good friend Norman Lewis was still going at the age of 90.

BA: I want my children to go out there and know deserts and jungles or the Arctic and strip away the veneer of everything and be what they are.

KS: Travel in the 21st century is about tuning in to all that's happening in the world; not switching off and sipping a piña colada.

BA: What we love about travel is losing our identity. I certainly find myself becoming a different person when I'm unleashed off in the desert.

CT: We imagine that destinations are always the same, but they're changing just as much as we are; every generation has to experience them for itself.

SW: All I want is for my kids not to do anything I did.

CB: The only problem with travel is that it's addictive.

The original version of this article appears in the April issue of 'High Life' magazine (bit.ly/BAHL40), which is available on all British Airways flights. Listen to discussion in full: bit.ly/Travel2053

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own