Travel Trends: "The Changing Shape of Tourism" — by Lakshman Ratnapala

Demography is one of the external factors that shape travel and tourism.  The structure of societies is continuously changing, and it is incumbent upon both public and private sector organizations to anticipate these changes and react in a competitive way.  Translated into marketing, demographic changes are likely to impact the patterns of travel demand, including frequency, length of stay, products and, consequently, the communication strategies of  government tourist offices and private companies alike.

A report by the World Tourism Organization and the European Travel Commission on “Demographic Change and Tourism” describes how destinations and the private sector can make the most of these trends in terms of product development and marketing. Visitors’ profiles and preferences will become increasingly fragmented and destinations’ competitiveness will depend on their ability to develop and market tourism products to an ageing, multi-ethnic population structured into multi-generational families.  Population growth and increased life expectancy, for example, will radically challenge current assumptions of ageing for tourism.  Younger tourists who are still working fulltime may look to relax on holiday while older tourists with more time on their hands and a “younger” outlook may go on holiday to try new activities.

The world population is forecast to grow from 6.9 billion to 8.3 billion between 2009 and 2030.  The growth will not be evenly spread across the globe, rather different regions will expand at different rates and some will decline as a percentage of the total.  Europe, for instance, will decline by 1% while the Americas and Asia will increase by 17% and 18% respectively; much of Asia’s growth will be driven by India and China, whhich will amount for just under 20% of the world’s population each (China 17.6% and India 17.9%).  The decline in Europe will make itself felt in the form of an ageing population.  There will be a dramatic growth in the European over-50s population while the Asian population will remain mostly under 45.

Population growth will generate substantial expansion in overseas travel.  In 2000 the rate of international journeys was 11.5 per 100 people.  If the rate did not accelerate, then population increase would see a 20% rise in international travel.  However, increases in wealth, particularly in developing countries, are expected to see the rate of journeys grow to 20 per 100.

Fertility and life expectancy are two of the biggest factors affecting global demographics.  Other key issues are changes to work patterns and social values that increasingly bring women into the workplace, downplaying social mores such as those that assign a higher value to male children. As these values begin to converge, so do the demographic factors they engender.

The final important factor is migration.  This influences tourism in two ways, through Migration Led Tourism (MLT) and Tourism Led Migration (TLM).  TLM is generally migration that takes place to fill vacancies in the tourism industry of a nation or region, for instance young people from eastern and central Europe migrating to western Europe. MLT is tourism generated by migration of any type, often people visiting friends or relatives in their new homes or migrants returning to their places of birth to do the same.

— Lakshman Ratnapala
BATW International Consultant

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