The Future of Vacations: Go Explore The World, Before It Changes

The climate crisis will transform travel destinations, so tick off your bucket list before it’s too late

Samit Basu Updated: Jul 8, 2019 10:18:52 IST
The Future of Vacations: Go Explore The World, Before It Changes

Deep in the heart of summer and a dystopian present, if there’s one desire that people share with each other right now, it is to escape. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take vacations sometimes—and haven’t yet this year—best to get to it while you still can, because tomorrow’s vacation, predictably, is going to be complicated. As we head into the future, artificial intelligence will grow even better at predicting exactly what sort of holiday we’d like based on our taste data, and packaging the whole experience for us. So expect those decisions to take far less time. Within a couple of decades, we’ll just be telling our digital assistants our travel dates and companions, letting them handle the rest. It won’t all be perfectly app-predictable, though. Climate change will mean that many summer destinations will become less idyllic, leading to tourism switching to new places. The deepening climate crisis will also lead to various regions becoming more dangerous in terms of hurricanes and tsunami risks. Heading further into the future, we’re also going to see a few travel experiences disappear because of the damage we’re doing to the environment: Visit coral reefs and go on safaris as soon as possible—if those are on your bucket list—those plants and animals might not be there for much longer. New experiences will arrive, on the other hand—giant malls in the Middle East are already providing experiences from skiing to diving indoors.

Another inevitable prospect is regulation: Most major tourist hubs are already groaning under the influx of thousands of holidaymakers, so expect higher tourist taxes, or even limits on the number of tourists allowed. After all, we live in a time where even Mount Everest is overcrowded with tourists! There’s also likely to be political instability worldwide, of course, but you’ll have to look beyond travel AI to keep track of that. Plane travel might not get significantly faster, but airlines will deploy lower-carbon-footprint technology, airport check-ins will turn biometric—more invasive, but more efficient, they’ll claim—and luggage will get smarter and more difficult to lose despite airlines’ best efforts. You’ll have more stay options—post-Airbnb home-renting experiences, social travel companies, new tools for interfacing between tourists and locals. Better live translation technology should also open up countries not yet saturated by tourists, and help you find what you want within your holidays—whether it’s moments of genuine disconnected calm, or a customized checklist of images that will generate the most envy when you share them online. When augmented reality goes mainstream, you’ll be able to interact with the cities you visit in more interesting ways that cater to your tastes—algorithms will figure out whether you want to experience more history, culture, nightlife or food, and guide you accordingly as you wander. Further in the future, you’ll be exploring crowdsourced social travel, human-free robot-assisted living and my personal fascination, virtual holidays.

For people from our part of the world, the worst part of international travel is waiting for visas before you can overspend in parts of the world that don’t really want you there. It’s also unlikely that moon tourism or deep-sea tourism will be accessible to non-billionaires in our lifetimes. So the idea of VR holidays is fascinating—more so if you also ima-gine historical tourism, fictional amusement parks or virtual interactive experiences where you travel through real and imaginary places of your choosing. Of course, that’s also called reading a book, so maybe we should all just get out instead: The world is still beautiful, and there’s so much of it we haven’t seen.

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