Questions 1 - 13
Read the text and answer Questions 1 - 13
Emerging Tourist Destinations
A The rise of emerging economies marks the third revolution the travel industry has undergone in the past 50 years. The first came in the 1960s, in the shape of cheap air travel and package tours. Rising incomes enabled people of modest means to travel more, to farther-flung parts of the globe, and to take advantage of “all-in” offers that may have included sightseeing trips, scuba diving or camel rides. The second was the advent of the internet, which has allowed millions to book flights, hotels, hire cars and package tours without going near a high-street travel agent.
B Now fast-growing emerging economies-not just Dubai but also the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and others, such as South Korea and Vietnam-are changing the world of travel once again, either as destinations or as sources of newly affluent travellers. Often, citizens of these countries are visiting similar, emerging lands. Last year, for example, Russians made a total of 34.3m trips abroad, up from 29.1m in 2006. Turkey was their most popular destination, followed by China and Egypt. The Chinese head the table of visitors to Vietnam.
C The WTTC claims that travel and tourism is the world's biggest industry in terms of its contribution to global GDP and employment. The lobby group forecasts that global travel and tourism will account for $5.9 trillion of economic activity in 2008, or about 10% of global GDP, employing 238m people. It expects employment to rise to 296m in the next decade. In fact, assessing the scale of the industry is not straightforward. When all travel and tourism is lumped together, so that everything from airlines to cafés counts, it is no surprise that the WTTC's total is so large. As a rule, restaurants do not record whether they are serving tourists, business travellers or locals out for a meal.
D For the next year or two, the travel industry is likely to find its long-standing customers in rich Western countries a less than reliable source of growth. As American families plan their holidays, many will be worrying about the frailty of their country's economy, the rising cost of petrol and-for those venturing outside the United States-the weakness of the dollar. They are delaying booking in the hope of nabbing cheap, last-minute deals. They certainly seem to be spending less. On May 7th Orbitz, an American online travel-firm, posted a first-quarter net loss of $15m compared with a net loss of $10m a year earlier. The majority of its business is domestic bookings, which were 6% lower in the first quarter than a year earlier, at
E For faster growth, the industry will have to look to emerging economies. These are becoming increasingly well established as places to visit. Now they are starting to provide more visitors too. According to McKinsey, a consulting firm, by the middle of the next decade almost a billion people will see their annual household incomes rise beyond $5,000-roughly the threshold for spending money on discretionary goods and services rather than simple necessities. Consumers' spending power in emerging economies will rise from $4 trillion in 2006 to more than $9 trillion-nearly the spending power of western Europe today.
F Some of that extra purchasing power will go on travel, at home and abroad. Western companies are flocking into the developing world to prepare for these new tourists. “The Middle East, India and China are the next big thing,” predicts Bill Marriott, the chairman and chief executive of Marriott, an American hotel chain. He thinks that the industry will be bigger in the Middle East, where he is planning to build 65 hotels by 2011, than in India. China will dwarf even the Middle East.
G Last year the number of visits abroad by the Chinese reached 47m, 5m more than the number of foreign visitors to China. The Chinese also made 1.6 billion trips at home-a staggering total, but not much more than one each. According to WTTC forecasts, Chinese demand for travel and tourism will quadruple in value in the next ten years. At present China ranks a distant second, behind the United States, in terms of demand, but by 2018 it will have closed much of the gap.
H Other emerging economies have woken up to the spending power of Chinese tourists. Mexico is one: AeroMéxico will begin direct flights between Mexico City and Shanghai at the end of May. The plan is to fly twice a week. In Vietnam, home to one of the fastest-growing tourist industries in the world, Chinese and other Asian tourists are overtaking Westerners. In the first 11 months of last year 507,000 visitors came to Vietnam from China, along with 442,000 from South Korea and 376,000 from America. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is also counting on more Chinese custom. It forecasts that 1.3m Chinese will visit the country this year, 10% more than last year when visitors were put off by Thailand's unsettled politics.
Changes in the way we travel
New technologies are reshaping the nature of air travel. In-flight internet access, and even the use of mobile phones, could soon become commonplace, on some routes at least. Entertainment systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated as airlines compete for customer loyalty. However, one of the most ambitious plans of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and one which will probably take the longest, is switching baggage labels from printed bar-codes to wireless tags based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
The aim is to reduce the number of misplaced items of baggage, a headache for passengers and airlines alike. Of the 1.5 billion bags carried on commercial flights each year, around 0.7% go astray. Dealing with each lost bag costs airlines an average of $100, or around $1 billion a year for the industry as a whole, not to mention the loss of customer goodwill. A big part of the problem is that crumpled or torn bar-code labels are misread by the machines that process baggage as it travels between passenger and plane: the accuracy of printed bar-codes can be as low as 80%. RFID tags, in contrast, have accuracy rates exceeding 95%.
As a bag with an RFID tag passes through a scanner, a pulse of radio waves awakens the tag, which responds by transmitting a small burst of data. The drawback with this approach, however, is that the association between tag and passenger is stored in the airline's database. So every time the tag is read, a real-time connection to that database is needed to work out how to route the bag. It works well for a single airline, but when more than one airline is involved, links are needed between their databases. That is why many in the industry favour a second approach involving the more expensive tags. These have the advantage that data can be written into them, including passenger and routing details, when the bag is checked in. This information then travels along with the bag, without the need for any database look-ups.
But as RFID is adopted in other industries, economies of scale ought to reduce costs.
RFID tags have in fact already been adopted, to varying degrees, by forward-thinking airlines and airports around the world. The aim of IATA's initiative is to introduce standards, to ensure interoperability, promote adoption, and make the benefits of these technologies available to the whole industry. The switch from proprietary, airline-specific technologies to open standards will, however, reduce the airlines' scope for differentiation. If all passengers are using the same facilities, how can airlines distinguish themselves from their rivals?
Primarily through the routes they fly and the prices they charge, of course; and the quality of their in-flight service. But while technology would seem to make competitive differentiation within the airport more difficult, it is simultaneously increasing the scope for differentiation in the air, through the provision of ever more elaborate in-flight services.
In-flight entertainment is now a critical part of how airlines position themselves, say Mr Harteveldt. One of the most advanced entertainment systems in current use is Virgin Atlantic's V:port, currently available in 13 of the airline's 31 aircraft, and being installed in all its new aircraft. Its most notable feature is video on demand, with 300 hours of films and television shows that can be called up by any passenger at any time. The video is stored on hard disks on a central server and is streamed to each seat. V:port also has a music-on-demand service and a selection of games, some of which (such as a trivia quiz) support multi-user play between passengers. All this, says Lysette Gauna, Virgin's head of in-flight entertainment, reinforces Virgin's association with fun and innovation. Similar systems will become available on rival airlines in future, says Ms Gauna, so Virgin is already developing an improved system.
Another trend is the growing availability of internet access on board aircraft. The state of the art here is Boeing's Connexion service, which uses a satellite broadband connection to create a Wi-Fi "hotspot" inside the cabin. Lufthansa was the first airline to deploy the service, in May last year, and it intends to make it available on all long-haul flights by the middle of 2006. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have also adopted the technology, and Singapore Airlines, China Airlines and SAS plan to follow suit. Prices vary with the duration of air time but the service typically costs $30 on flights of six hours or more, and $20 on flights of between three and six hours. A similar system is offered by Tenzing, a subsidiary of Airbus. It recently established a joint-venture with SITA called OnAir, with a view to exploiting what is expected to be the next big trend in airborne communications: the in-flight use of mobile phones.
Contrary to popular belief, the main impediment to the use of mobile phones on planes is not interference with the aircraft's avionic systems. On a typical long-haul flight, says Mike Fitzgerald of Altobridge, a firm that makes technology to bridge satellite and cellular networks, 20 mobile phones are left switched on. Instead, the problem is that airborne mobile phones disrupt mobile networks on the ground. An airliner with 500 phones on board, whizzing across a city, would befuddle the network as the phones busily hopped from one base-station to the next.
When the technical and regulatory rules have been sorted out, however, the small matter of in-flight phone etiquette will remain. "I have concerns that it will be extremely annoying," says Nancy McKinley of the International Airline Passengers Association, a body that represents frequent travelers. However, OnAir's market research found that long-haul travellers expressed more interest in internet access and text-messaging than voice calls, and Mr Harteveldt says his research has found that very few travellers want to make voice calls while in the air. It may be that the voice market will be stillborn, and more discreet data communications will predominate.
A View of Tourism's Future
A. One does not have to be an optimist to believe that international tourism will grow substantially over the next century. Apparently, however, one does have to be an optimist to regard this as a good thing. As tourism has burgeoned in the latter half of the twentieth century it has been accused of many things: despoiler of environments, destroyer of cultures and exploiter of poor nations. Tourism, it is claimed, ultimately destroys the attractive features of a place and thus can neither sustain its resource base nor itself as an industry in the long term. If these charges are valid then tourism either should be severely restrained or will eventually burn itself out, but not before causing much damage. When looking to the end of this century this scenario gives little cause for optimism.
B. It is possible, however, to regard tourism's future growth as not only assured but also highly desirable. That is not to suggest that tourism has not and will not cause problems but these are not insurmountable and are potentially outweighed by the opportunities for improving the human condition. International tourism is in its infancy and it is possible to learn from past mistakes. This optimist's view is that tourism will continue to grow, that the challenges consequently presented can be met, and that the ultimate outcome will be positive, depending on how well both the tourism industry and governments respond to those challenges.
C. By the end of the 21st century it is highly likely that vastly more people will travel more often to a wider range of international destinations. The trends are already apparent. In 1950 the top fifteen receiving countries accounted for 97% of all international arrivals, a share that had declined to 62% by 1999. Over the next twenty years arrivals are predicted to grow fastest in East Asia-Pacific, followed by Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. From 1985 to 1998 outbound travel growth from the developing countries of East Asia-Pacific averaged 8.5% per year compared to the global average of 5.3%. Clearly a consequence of economic prosperity is a realization of the desire to travel, and as this extends to other regions throughout the 21st century a continual supply of new travelers is assured. With time, increasing affluence should enable international travel to change from being an aspiration to an expectation for many more people, as has occurred in the economically developed world in the late 20th century.
D. There are, however, reasons to believe that this future will not or should not be realised. One of the greatest uncertainties lies in at least maintaining the current historically low cost of international travel. With plans well advanced for the introduction of larger and more fuel-efficient aircraft the medium-term outlook is promising, but looking into the future there must be concerns about the increasing scarcity of oil. Maintaining low travel costs may be contingent on alternative power sources and continually improving technology. Given the scale of the international travel industry an optimist must believe that there is at least a substantial incentive to anticipate and counteract this.
E. Technological developments such as the Internet and virtual reality may reduce the need or desire to travel. This notion can be summarily dismissed by considering the nature of the tourism experience and what motivates it. Tourism, in essence, is sensual, emotive and driven by a desire to experience a different place in more than two dimensions. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, ambience and people are integral, as is the actual presence of the tourist within this milieu. Vicarious experiences can simulate some aspects but not the totality. Moreover they cannot provide the surprise discoveries, sense of adventure and chance encounters that real travel affords. It is more likely that the greater awareness of other places engendered by information technology will stimulate a desire to authenticate by direct experience.
F. Far more difficult to challenge is the claim that tourism is ultimately unsustainable because of its impacts on environments and cultures that then make destinations less appealing. International tourism is often portrayed as a juggernaut, consuming one destination after another and then rolling on. Tourism could become self-limiting in that accommodating the anticipated growth over the next twenty years then creates the conditions for a subsequent decline. Signs are emerging, however, that the tourism industry has learnt some valuable lessons on the downside of its 'success' and has taken steps to secure its own future. Codes of environmental ethics have burgeoned and environmental management initiatives have been developed in key industry sectors. While some of these efforts may be viewed cynically, they have served to raise awareness that tourism can do potential harm and placed sustainability firmly on the tourism agenda. The greatest risk is that such standards may only be selectively applied, and here the emerging destinations of the less developed world are under most threat.
G. Less developed nations are particularly vulnerable. They possess environmental and cultural features that tourists wish to experience, given the right conditions. They also possess a powerful economic incentive to develop tourism rapidly and with as few constraints as possible. They lack capital to achieve this and consequently have frequently ceded control of tourism development to foreign interests. To attract capital they have offered concessions - tax breaks, liberal access to land and low environmental standards - which ultimately reduce the benefits. There is no easy solution to this dilemma, but ironically it may lie in the growth of tourism itself. The combination of a growing market, increasing diversification and rising levels of experience amongst tourists will lead to the industry constantly seeking new destinations. Bargaining power is likely to shift in favour of destinations, although this is certainly not in immediate prospect and relying on this solution may require some patience.
H. The alternative, for all nations where the culture and environment are felt to be under threat, may be to focus on quality rather than quantity. This oft-promoted solution aims to reduce tourism's harmful effects without sacrificing economic benefits. The approach typically advocated is to provide high quality facilities and services and thereby attract high spending tourists, selective restraint operating through price. If adopted broadly it could constrain the growth of tourism below predicted levels, but will it be effective in achieving its aims, and is it socially desirable? In relation to the first question there must be doubts. High expenditure does not mean high yield, given that there are greater costs associated with providing higher quality. Its desirability depends on how the social benefits of traveling are perceived. The mere fact that tourism has grown so rapidly and that new countries have emerged as major markets as soon as their citizens have the economic means and freedom to travel implies that individuals perceive great benefits. In the 21st century do we wish to reverse a significant trend of the 20th and revert to the conditions of the 19th when only the most privileged could travel internationally?
I. Other solutions must be sought to more directly mitigate the impacts of tourism without unduly constraining growth. With respect to environmental impacts there is a substantial, growing knowledge base, plus the technical means and legislative models to achieve this. A problem remains in relation to cultural impacts, however, because the issues are more complex. A pessimist would suggest that continued growth could dramatically transform cultures and create an homogenized world. An optimist would retort that cultural change is inevitable and not necessarily undesirable, and that tourism could counteract other change agents and actually help maintain cultures. Understanding this viewpoint requires an examination of the nature of both culture and international tourism, and the relationship between them.