You know, I really should stop predicting things. My dark imaginings have a disturbing tendency to come true.
Back in March 2019, pretty much apropos of nothing, I suggested that mass international tourism could be a temporary phenomenon. Quote:
International tourism arrivals grew by nearly 6% last year to 1.4 billion, according to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. […]
That is, of course, if current trends continue. But what if they don’t? We take it for granted, but the ease and safety of global travel today is really unbelievable, relying as it does not only on technology, but also the low cost of fuel, geopolitical stability, the openness of many countries to tourism, and a global middle class that can afford to vacation abroad. The problem is, none of the above conditions are set in stone. A large-scale war, economic depression, or energy shock, among other possible disruptions, could trigger a collapse in international travel, perhaps marking the end of the era of mass global tourism.
I should have added “engineered mass hysteria and global lockdown in response to a virus” to that list of possible disruptions, but nobody’s perfect.
In any case, here we are (article from July 9, 2020):
The world’s tourism industry is losing at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5% of global gross domestic product after four months of travel being shut down, according to research from the U.N.’s Conference on Trade and Development. Those numbers could nearly double to $2.2 trillion and 2.8% of global GDP if the stoppage in international tourism lasts eight months; losses could soar to $3.3 trillion (4.2% of global GDP) if international tourism shuts down for 12 months. […]
In May, the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization released a report stating that international tourism fell 22% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. UNWTO researchers said at the time that international tourism for all of 2020 could fall anywhere from 60% to 80%. Those estimates were based on factors such as how well countries contain the spread of the virus, how long travel restrictions are in place and how long nations’ borders are closed.
Prophetic? You be the judge. Anyway, it remains to be seen how long the travel restrictions will last and/or people are too terrified (or poor) to fly to foreign lands. Governments and airlines are also doing what they can to make the commercial aviation experience as miserable as possible, so that alone will likely deter a lot of people from traveling. I suspect the global floating population of backpackers and country-hopping “digital nomads” will be cooling their heels for a while yet.