Global travel demand: short-lived or will the trend sustain?

  • Amid challenge of climate change, there is definitely going to be talk on 'sustainable tourism'
Published August 17, 2023
A view of the Louvre Museum (Paris), which saw 7.8 million visits in 2022
A view of the Louvre Museum (Paris), which saw 7.8 million visits in 2022

Global travel is booming. The post-pandemic travel splurge and high ticket prices that come with it show no signs of slowing well into next year, despite economic uncertainty.

Case-in-point: record tourists in France, Italy, Croatia among others.

Western and Southern Europe experienced record temperatures, which has not abated the tourist surge. While TikTok is awash with tips on how to beat crowds and heat, travel publications are busy suggesting off-the beaten paths in hotspots like Paris, Dubrovnik and Capri.

Rising prices for travel do not appear to be curbing wanderlust

On the other hand, the airline industry, after being decimated by Covid-19, is experiencing record profits, mostly propagated by leisure travel.

In May, the Emirates Group reported a record $3 billion profit. German airline group Deutsche Lufthansa reported a jump in second-quarter operating profit and said it expected high demand for travel, especially in premium classes, to continue for the rest of the year.

Airlines are capacity-building, trying to match demand. They are increasing aircraft arsenal as well as bolstering staff. Lufthansa Airlines, for example, has added 1,000 members of staff per month this past year, according to its CEO.

More and more airlines are leaning in to the luxury flying trend by crafting more and more bespoke experiences at 30,000 feet. Earlier this year, CEO of Lufthansa Airlines, Carston Spohr, was surprised by the “huge demand” for first-class travel this past year. In a conversation with CNN’s Richard Quest, he noted, “People are spending more money on watches, cars, handbags and first class flying. Obviously we want to tap that demand.”

Dubai, Doha, London among top cities where international travellers loved to splurge in 2022

‘Set-jetting’ is also on the rise, according to the 2023 American Express Global Travel Trends Report.

For example, Taormina, Sicily, is experiencing record tourists following the debut of cult Emmy-winning Netflix show, ‘The White Lotus’. San Domenica Palace, the Four Seasons resort where the show was filmed, was booked through last fall for the current season. Rooms at the resort go for upwards of €1,000 a night.

And despite it all, tourists continue to frolick alongside wildfires in Hawaii, forming record lines at the Louvre and the Acropolis. Those travelers who were hit with record heat in Europe said they will be back again – just not in July perhaps.

At the same time, we are seeing airports struggling to cope with this passenger and airline flex. London’s Heathrow airport averted a workers’ strike early in the summer which would have resulting in cancelled flights during peak flying season. Toronto’s Pearson airport, among others, has been short-staffed with disastrous baggage-handling issues.

Pakistan, too, is looking up. On August 14, Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) inaugural flight from UAE to Skardu, Pakistan was successfully carried out. The past two years have seen a proliferation of boutique hotels and tour operations in the stunning northern areas of Pakistan. Something to look forward to, surely.

However, despite the booming travel business, there is one unanswered question – and an important one. How to move forward in a sustainable manner without making too much compromise? This question is particularly pressing due to the uptick in climate-change events that are now harping into everyday life.

Travelling over the holidays: 8 destinations worth considering

What does this mean for the industry?

The European Commission projects that tourism on the continent – already the world’s biggest tourist draw – will grow regardless of warming conditions, but higher temperatures will migrate demand, sending more tourists to Northern Europe instead of the Mediterranean.

Southern regions would lose nearly 10 percent of their current summer tourists for example. Elsewhere, travel data suggests a 30% uptick in travel to Nordic countries where its cooler.

It’s impossible to know where these trends are headed.

Denying climate change is definitely off the table. It is dictating travel, itineraries and many other aspects of life.

Tragic headlines and statistics are also prompting a hard look at the nature of tourism as well as taking residents and host cities into consideration.

In that case, is there such a thing then as over-tourism? And if so, what can we envision tourism to look like in the next 10 or perhaps 20 years?

Earlier this year, UNESCO warned that Venice risked “irreversible” damage due to issues ranging from climate change to mass tourism.

French Tourism minister Olivia Gregoire, too, set out a plan to better manage the peak-season influxes that threatened “the environment, the quality of life for locals, and the experiences for its visitors”.

The Acropolis has set curbs on the number of daily visitors in an effort to restrict damage to the popular archaeological site. Other popular cities are planning to tax visitors. Either way, the host cities, it seems, will now be dictating the ebb and flow of travelers and their itineraries driving the crowds to lesser-known locales.

Considering that this trend continues, whether one is feeling adventurous, curious or just bored, aside from cities, flights and hotels, there are other plenty factors to consider, which now include climate and topography not to mention inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

More and more people will have to carefully assess what they want to indulge in, to what extent and at what cost. It seems pushing personal boundaries while debating these concerns is very much the order of the day.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Faiza Virani

The writer is Life & Style Editor at Business Recorder


Comments are closed.

KhanRA Aug 17, 2023 10:39pm
Pakistan missed out entirely on this boom. Not because of bad tourism policy, but because people simply have no interest to visit us.
thumb_up Recommended (0)