Space hotels, floating cities, underwater hotels and adventure travel via submarine all feature as some of the more extreme destinations and experiences soon to be available. Cruise ships weighing 500,000 tonnes, larger than today’s aircraft carriers and with their own flight decks[i] form another. The desire for something new would seem inherent in human beings, yet in a world saturated by curated travel and social media it would seem increasingly difficult to push the envelope out yet further – especially for the vast majority of travellers not able to afford space travel or submersible adventure.
Perhaps then, the next frontier lies in technology? Virtual travel, at present, acts more as a way of planning a trip as opposed to an alternative to taking one even as Samsung warns that ‘…travel agents must embrace digital and virtual reality to survive[ii].’ Whilst holodeck style travel is highly unlikely to feature as a direct replacement for travel any time soon, there is considerable scope for a deepening of tourist experiences and even forms of time travel.
Years ago, an augmented reality app appeared in Berlin, allowing tourists to follow the path of the Berlin Wall as if it were still standing. As this technology matures, and in conjunction with virtual reality, we will be able to recreate past scenes with more visual, tactile and sensory feedback than ever before. Staid recreations of past battles or historical events could be replaced with mixed reality – interactive, participatory events that enable greater learning and potentially open up a whole new array of tourism destinations currently idle or under-utilised. The potential for raising local tourism levels is considerable – whilst bringing the Roman Coliseum or Beijing’s Forbidden City to life has obvious attractions, recreating local attractions and history will also have a place for consumers increasingly conscious of constricted planetary resources.
In these examples, it is not the destination that represents the frontier but rather the enhancement of the environment around us. If the travel and tourism industry is to start to grapple with the complex question of sustainability and its various economic and environmental facets, inducing more domestic and regional tourism would appear to be a good place at least to start. This would, in many cases, require new forms of collaboration, partnerships and industry ecosystems to form.
[i] Source: Lupyled, retrieved 2016 http://www.lupyled.com/en/the-future-of-travel-2050/