Travel and Culture Around the World
Travel and Tourism is the single greatest generator of wealth and jobs on Earth.
Governments from Alaska to Auckland and Zanzibar to Zurich have recognised the enormous positive impact a multi-layered, multi-dimensional tourism strategy can have on both visitor numbers, but also bottom line GDP.
Countries from even the lesser developed nations appreciate that you can't leave visitor numbers to chance. Sophisticated marketing drives are being employed to attract 'the tourist dollar'. One of the more unorthodox examples being the banner sponsorship of the advertising hoardings at Old Trafford, home to Manchester United Football Club, of Air Asia, who operate low cost, short haul flights solely in South East Asia. In spite of the massive wastage in this strategy, Air Asia are so far delighted with the exposure they are receiving, and with record profits their 'out-of-the-box' thinking is certainly paying off.
The past 5 years have been uniquely challenging to the travel and tourism industry. From the massive hit to US traffic post-9/11 and further terrorist acts in Madrid, Bali and London, to SARS, which had such a negative effect of the booming economies and markets of Asia, and also the general economic 'turbulence', affecting many countries and which many governments have attributed less than positive visitor numbers to.
However, during this same period, many parts of the world have actually seen their tourism industry boom. This has coincided with a discernable change in attitude and more interestingly demands from travellers. Today's tourists are increasingly less interested in finding a warm beach and sit next to the sea for a fortnight twice a year. Now, they expect adventure, excitement and most importantly an 'experience'.
This shift in expectations has naturally seen the growth of niche markets such as Eco-Tourism and Adventure-Tourism. 10 years ago, even the thought of a mountain bike ride through a rainforest and camping under the stars, sounded too much like hard work to most people. Nowadays, almost everyone has either been on a thrill-seeking travel ride of some description, or knows somebody that has. Whether it be climbing a mountain range, deep-sea diving, or going on a highland trek, or something even more exhilarating…the modern traveller is no longer emotionally satisfied by seeing the insides of a couple of churches.
Furthermore, those beach holidays are having to improve their services to cope with this challenge. Therefore, we have witnessed the slow demise of the typical Beach Hotel (high-rise, standardised appearance, sun-loungers, big pool, etc) and the rise of Beach Resorts (chalet-huts, spa treatments, pampering etc). In every field of travel and tourism, standards are improving and it's the consumer who is benefiting from the wider range of holidays available and an improvement in the quality of service they receive. In turn this raising of the bar makes more people interested in experiencing these wonderful, new types of holidays.
Therefore, in many ways, the global challenges that have arisen over the past five years have helped to act as catalyst for these new demands. Markets have emerged and developed rapidly. Many countries, regions and cities have seized the initiative and been able to reap the rewards of promoting themselves as unique destinations for beach holidays, diving, eco-tourism, exploration and many other forms of getaway.
Although, with all these different types of travel it is easy to ignore the world's fastest growing travel sector: Business Travel. Given the growth of large multi-national companies and the number of regional head-quarters, the fact that this sector is growing by almost 6% each year (in real terms) is perhaps unsurprising, but nonetheless crucial for governments who wish to attract companies to base their new offices in their countries and also for carriers who are looking to cater to the business traveller, with their unique needs.
The key regions for growth over the past 5 years are interestingly countries that are only just beginning to discover 'the travel bug'. Countries such as India and China and regions such as The Middle East and South East Asia, which were left behind by the European and American travel boom in the 1980's are catching up fast and are recognizing the need for strategical campaigns to bring in visitors, in order to drive consumption, investment and exports. Other countries expected to develop strongly over the next decade are the former Eastern Block European countries such as Montenegro, Croatia and the Czech Republic; smaller South East Asian countries e.g. Vietnam and Laos; and also some African nations such as Sudan.
China in particular is going through enormous expansion. As the country begins to embrace the outside world, travellers are taking the opportunity to visit a part of the globe, previously denied to them. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 will surely see this explosion continue to unprecedented levels. Dubai is another interesting case study. A city which has embraced tourism to its very core and is reaping enormous economic success as a result.
However, they all have some way to go to catch the number one Travel destination in the world: The US. The United States will boast in income of $6.5 trillion in this sector in 2006. A healthy growth rate of 4.2% year-on-year (from World Travel and Tourism Council. www.wttc.org)
But the US isn't the only country benefiting from Tourism. 10.3% of the world economy is directly or indirectly attributable to this extraordinary industry, which employs 234.3 million people and 2.5 million more each year.
The development of 24hr news media and the internet has also fuelled the growth of the travel sectors. With the world becoming smaller, thanks to the availability and affordability of long-distance journeys, more news stories from around the world affect us. A global consciousness has grown with the breaking down of the financial, logistical and psychological barriers of travelling and relocation.
The world may be getting smaller, but that's good news for governments and very good news for those who want to spread their wings.