One of the most productive forms of economic development is promotion of the travel sector, an aggregation of 6 or 7 industries fueled by visitors, especially community-destination marketing.
From the vantage of retirement after 40 years in that field, it is fun to speculate on not so far-fetched changes looming for the travel sector. Here are a few I see brewing but in no particular order:
- Given experimental versions, it is easy to see how solar-powered passenger planes and cruise ships will hopefully not all too soon dramatically shrink carbon footprints.
- Electric car fleets will soon be the rule for car rentals both because the current range of that technology is perfect for that use but also eliminating the time-consuming and expensive tango to return them with a full tank of gas.
- As conferences and meetings continue to shrink as a proportion of travel, convention centers and the ballrooms of large convention hotels will be transformed into local museums and galleries or maybe even automobile showrooms a la Penske Wynn Ferrari.
Domestic trips in the United States inclusive of heritage and cultural activities (23%) are now twice the number involving conferences and meetings (10%.) The former continues to grow, the latter shrink. American museums along now draw 850 million visits.
- The importance of public outlets for charging devices and access to WiFi is only beginning to revolutionize the design of restaurants, hotels and airports. This technology, launched by entrepreneurial federal regulators from an area of radio frequencies known as “junk-bands”is already the major influence on how 79% of working professionals select and interact with these facilities.
- WiFi is already the favorite and most pervasive amenity for hotel guests. Look for WiFi enabled televisions and streaming of content from providers such as Netflix and Pandora to not only revolutionize in-room entertainment, but to provide access to community-destination information and insider concierge services.
As carriers now begin to make WiFi scalable, look for the travel sector to transform from reacting to consumer demand to fostering its full integration into the travel experience. There are already more than half a billion WiFi-enabled devices in American homes.
- Self-driving technology will revolutionize taxi cab service, eliminate issues around intoxication or age or texting and driving, spark scalable car rentals by the hour, and revolutionize city overviews/tours and reclaim the right-to-be-viewed for scenic roadside viewsheds away from obsoleted billboard companies as drivers become even more conscious of blight.
- Given more time free from the focus of driving, the new technology will make travelers even more conscious, rather than less aware of cognitive distance friction, further narrowing the geographic radius visitors are willing to go from the purpose of their trip but intensifying exploration of a community.
- Big box stores will be converted to mini-same-day distribution centers, while locally-owned and independent stores will be focused on showrooming with purchases converted to online delivery with proliferate. Carbon footprints will be shrunk by alternative fueled fleets.
- Locally-owned, independent restaurants will become the norm and chains the exception, as consumers’ tastes (including visitors) increasingly migrate toward locally-induced flavors, tastes and foods, including generic foods such as meats because they take on tastes created by local grazing.
- Communities and developers will align to make communities more distinctive because it generates more business than cookie-cutter designs. Historic preservation and adaptive reuse of facilities we see now as contemporary will make them more distinctive to each community.
Communities and developers alike will give high priority to of open space, urban forests, scenic preservation, biodiversity and distinctive design grows even more quantifiable.
The laws of natural selection will outperform regulation. Generic communities will be left behind like truck stops, surpassed by communities that make themselves visitor-worthy.
Tourism promotion and destination development will be increasingly funded by community-wide tourism development overlays with the cots born by a miniscule assessment spread over all beneficiaries and all visitors rather than just overnight visitors staying in a small number of commercial lodging facilities.