What are the challenges for tourism in the future?

An increase in tourist flows, the digital transformation of territories and technological innovations ... The future of tourism will depend on how we respond to future environmental and socio-economic challenges.

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Tourism is an economic industry made up of various sectors (accommodation, transport, culture, etc.), and a multitude of clientele and territories. However, tourism involves so many actors that its borders are blurred and its dynamics multiple. In Paris, tourism accounts for almost 1 in 10 jobs, hotel turnover amounts to around 4 billion euros each year, and the economic benefits of trade fairs and congresses bring in more than 5 billion euros to local authorities. Tourism is above all a laboratory that reflects the changes in our social models. To reflect on its future is to reflect on the models that will shape our daily lives.

Three major trends

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Although the future is set to be paved with many new features, future challenges to the industry should not be so different from those of today. It is undoubtedly the way in which they are approached that will change, and these issues will certainly take on new dimensions at the crossroads of major trends. Although not exhaustive, we can point to three of them:

The increase in tourist flows

This is a trend forecast by the WTO; the number of international tourists surpassed 50 million in 1950 and totalled 1.4 billion in 2018. Tourist arrivals are expected to reach 2 billion in 2030 and 3 billion in 2050. A similar trend can be seen in Greater Paris, which recorded 38 million tourists in 2018 and which is estimated to welcome more than 50 million in 2040.

The digitization of territories

Because territories are the first medium for tourism experience, whether it be a basic shift with the use of data making it possible to rethink the ways and means of organizing a stay. For more than 10 years, Paris has been committed to the initiatives of Smart City in order to become an open, connected and ingenious city. Housing, traffic, heritage ... All sectors of urban life are concerned, and data sets have been categorized.

Technological innovations

Technological innovations in the widest sense, in terms of transport, virtual reality and connected objects, will offer opportunities to rethink economic models, practices and products geared to greater fluidity and personalization.

If the future must be sustainable, how can we rethink the environmental and socio-economic challenges of tourism in the light of these three trends?

Environmental challenges

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Tourism is estimated to be responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and environmental problems arise locally. The temporary closure of sites, like an echo to the campaign ‘We stay on the ground’ (flight-free) are all symptoms of the excesses of unchecked growth. Urban tourism is also affected with debates about the’ pollution of numbers’.

How can we rethink environmental challenges in the face of rising flows? In transport, innovating with greener technology is a consideration, in principle. But what will the results be? Disillusionment with progress has damaged the confidence of an exclusively technological solution. And it is now hoped that data will provide better monitoring, better understanding and better management of the natural and heritage resources of territories. The real challenge will be to know how to integrate digitization so that territories will be managed sustainably. But this alone cannot be a solution, because preserving the environment is an individual and collective matter. It requires deeper changes in our relationships to time, space, and our production/consumption patterns.

Socio-economic challenges

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These issues can be considered through the trio of interactions between locals, tourists and tourism industries. These issues are all the more crucial in urban areas because they involve questions of employment, housing and public space.

Ensure that the economic and social benefits of tourism in territories are balanced

This is usually an issue that arises in developing countries. And perhaps it will find a new resonance in more advanced countries. The tourism sector is made up mainly of service industries (almost 30,000 in Greater Paris in accommodation, leisure, catering and transport). It is therefore on the front line in terms of the impacts of technology on employment and the running of companies, and also on the front line in terms of the replacement of certain actions involving people due to the emergence of digital guides, automatic transport, butler robots, etc. How can we envisage the future of employment in tourism? Far from alarmist predictions that were forecasting ‘the end of work’, the question will be rather how to reinvent it and how human beings will bring added value to it. The challenge is socially important insofar as a sense of downgrading could be reinforced by the gap between an increase in the economic benefits of tourism for communities and local jobs.

Ensure sustainable cohabitation between tourists and residents in the territories

The issue of cohabitation between tourists and inhabitants is important because it addresses questions such as access to housing, safety, hygiene, etc. and because an increasing number of tourists want to experience places like a local to have an authentic experience. Through public authorities in places like Venice and Amsterdam, DMOs are reviewing their actions in this light, through campaigns to raise awareness, and limit offers or promote alternative ones. This is also happening in Paris where projects like Explore Paris help to rethink the promotion of the capital focussing on its peripheral districts. For tourism professionals, borders are fading, especially in the hotel industry, where more inclusive concepts, centred on entertainment and which are open to local customers (through new childcare services, dry-cleaning, etc.) are becoming a new norm. In the wake of the 25hours Terminus Nord, establishments such as the Grand Quartier, the Mob Hotel, and JO&JOE symbolize this trend in Paris. Might not locals be a new perspective for tourism development strategies in the territories.