Whither tourism now?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Planes, ships and airports have all grown in size in the last fifty years.

Macchi Piccu, Peru
Machu Piccu , Peru where restrictions on visitor numbers have been imposed

When I first voyaged on a ship it was just under 14,000 tons; today cruise ships like the Symphony of the Seas are fifteen times the size. The first plane on which I travelled 10,000 miles fifty years ago carried under 200 passengers. The 747 and the A-380 carry 0ver 470 and 570 respectively.

Heathrow routinely booked over 80 million passengers through it in the two years prior to the pandemic but to me, it seemed to be time-consuming to get to, time-consuming to get through and unpleasant to be in as people slept on floors, restaurants were overcrowded and queues took over forty-five minutes to get through despite the best attempts by airport staff.

Just over a year ago, Heathrow was looking at developing a new runwa, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in France had submitted plans for a new terminal and it cost an arm and a leg to buy one of the major airports. The owners of Manchester Airport had plans to add a further 10 million passengers per year and Southend wanted to develop from an airport carrying just under a million-and-a-half passengers a year to 10 million. Teeside International plans to grow ten-fold albeit from a much reduced number compared to what the number of passengers passing through its halls fifteen years ago.

Roll on a year and what do we find?

France has dropped plans for a new terminal, many large cruise ships have gone to the breakers yards and the jumbo and A-380 planes are dying like the dodo to be replaced by smaller planes. I am not even sure hub airports have much of a future as passengers might prefer point-to-point services rather than have to change at enormous airports with all the potential health issues that might occur.

Some pundits are saying that business travel will never return to the levels it once was at as business people have found the convenience of video calls is both efficient and saves them millions. The effect on airlines could be game-changing as many airlines rely on business class passengers to provide their profits. Leisure fares will probably rise as a result.

Aas the ire of local inhabitants grew, destinations had to deal with tourism pollution. Places like Barcelona and Venice brought in edicts to control tourism numbers. Even tourism in the Florday Keys was hit by restrictions.

Yet it seems that the travel industry – over optimistic one minute and deeply pessimistic the next – is forecasting a quick rebound.

Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus seem to be falling over themselves to welcome Britons back this summer as the UK will be one of the few countries in Europe where the majority of its adults will have been vaccinated by the summer and thus likely to be able to travel.

It is believed that tourism is one of quickest and biggest areas to grow a destination’s economy and what country doesn’t want a sharp rebound from the effects of the pandemic?

But will they be so anxious to see visitors in the huge numbers as before?

The most popular visitor sites such as Barcelona, Florence, Macchu Picco, Venice and the Cote d’Azur in France might prefer smaller numbers. In the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands have announced that they are likely to place limits on the number of cruise ships that can visit the islands, the numbers prior to the pandemic being twenty-seven times the size of the population!

Sustainable tourism rather than decimation tourism may become a reality rather than an over-talked about wish.

North wales landscape
Snowdonia is seeing tourists again… and parking problems as too many people arrive and the roads and car parks can’t cope

During lockdown in the UK there have been problems with visitors to Snowdonia, the Gower, the Brecon Beacons and Cardigan Bay in Wales, the coastal towns in England and the Highlands in Scotland. Locals fear an invasion of tourists this summer.

Will they and busy destinations abroad welcome visitors or plead for more restrictions?

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