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Who are the future visitors and how will they (want to) travel?
31st July 2023
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I’ve had really great conversations recently with people in the UK which have led to a crystalising of ideas around how future visitors are likely to want to travel and what the future visitor business landscape might look like. The only certainty is that on the key milestones for decarbonisation – 2030, 2037, 2040, 2050 – these will be different from today.

Looking to other places, it’s clear that sustainability generally is a more mainstream and up-front part of visitor marketing, whether this be for specific destinations (such as Seefeld or Werfenweng) or complementary services by mainstream transport operators (such as Austria’s luggage service by OBB). This isn’t being done for charitable reasons.

It’s when we consider future visitors that things get really interesting. Whilst the main purpose of focussing on decarbonisation is for environmental outcomes, once we start looking at likely future visitor markets, a hard-nosed economic case to rethink how visitors get to and around our destinations becomes an imperative. I start to dig into this here by looking across tourism and transport futures thinking together.

From a UK perspective, this makes me look with some concern at what an increasing number of destinations in other countries are doing; they are not only comfortable with asking people to leave their cars behind, they are marketing destinations as car-irrelevant. This speaks to the future visitor markets as much as existing ones.

All this makes me reflect on the rapid decline of many UK seaside resorts in the latter half of last century as their core visitors left in droves for warmer climes as the package holiday industry boomed. Are we currently in a similar denial? I’m not suggesting that national parks and other rural areas will see a similar scale of impact, but it would be refreshing to hear how places are actively preparing for car-irrelevant future generations of visitors.

If we designed future visitor access and mobility systems using these charts as some of the starting points, what would they look like and what would be our priorities to get there from where we are?

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