Travel as we know it could be on the brink of extinction by 2040, warns report

Belgium, Slovenia and Poland touted as most popular future holiday destinations due to climate change

Helen Coffey
Thursday 05 October 2023 10:40 BST

Related video: The Hottest Travel Destination Prediction for 2024

Travel as we know it could be extinct by the year 2040 due to climate change, a new report has warned.

Predictions for the future include holidaymakers “chasing the shade” and swapping traditional summer destinations like Greece and Mallorca for Belgium, Slovenia and Poland as temperatures continue to rise.

Produced by Intrepid, the world’s largest B-Corp-certified travel company, in partnership with foresight agency The Future Laboratory, the Sustainable Future for Travel report outlines what holidays could look like by 2040 if action isn’t taken now.

The report forecasts that, unless things change, low-lying destinations currently popular with tourists, such as the Maldives and Jakarta, will be nearly fully submerged by 2050. The rising mercury could also put an end to visits to see Santa Claus in Lapland, as snow becomes thinner on the ground, while ski seasons would continue to shorten.

“One of the problems with tourism at the moment is that it is the opposite of regenerative,” said Darrell Wade, co-founder and chairman of Intrepid Travel. “It’s extractive – and this cannot continue for much longer.”

The report envisages a world in which virtual holidays become mainstream and carbon passports restrict movement, unless the travel industry makes significant changes now.

The Future Laboratory’s Martin Raymond said: “A new era is dawning for the travel and tourism industry. Transient and transformative travel experiences will revolutionise the notion of leaving no trace. We will see hotels will be at the forefront of this extraordinary change.

“In the next decade we will see more now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t travel experiences popping-up across the world.”

Highlighting how travel could change for the better, the report outlines five key trends it predicts will shape the future of holidays:

Regulation on ‘tourism leakage’

“By 2040, governments will be required to implement regulations on travel businesses to ensure that the majority of money spent by tourists in a destination stays in the local economy,” reads the report. “This will pave the way for a more equitable and mutually beneficial relationship between travellers and the communities they visit, elevating the quality of life of the locals.”

Real-time carbon footprint tracking

The Sustainable Future for Travel analysis predicts that carbon tracking will become “even more individualised thanks to AI”. It says: “Travellers will log daily emissions and track travel metrics in real-time to reduce their footprint to meet individual carbon goals.”

Accommodation that leaves no trace

A new generation of pop-up accommodation options combining sustainability and local craftmanship plus locally sourced materials to ensure a minimal footprint is the future when it comes to where we’ll stay on holiday, claims the report.

Overland transport and slow travel

“Train travel will be integral to this regenerative approach and by 2040, travellers will have the option to choose between high-speed innovations and slower modes, depending on their preferences, footprint and time constraints,” reads the report. It forecasts that luxury, spaceship-style sleeper pods will provide comfort on hyper fast train journeys to “help reduce our reliance on air travel”.

People-led, not product-led, trips

In future, people will book holidays and travel experiences based on the social experience, rather than the hotel or destination, predicts the research. “People-led travel is about the people you meet in destination and the deep human connections you form,” it explains.

Mr Wade added: “The direct, catastrophic impact of climate change has for too long been viewed as something distant in the future. But this is no longer an impending event; it's happening now. Tourism must evolve and become regenerative, as the current model is unsustainable.

“We must recognise that the future needs to be different from business as usual, and that the climate crisis is not a competitive advantage. The clock is ticking for our planet and the future of the travel and tourism industry.

“There is limited time left and immediate collective action and innovation is needed to decarbonise travel together and truly achieve the immense potential for sustainable development within our industry.”

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