2020 Foresight

Travel Talk

What does the New Year have in store? I am no prophet, no seer, and no possessor of a crystal ball. Certainly no Nostradamus. I can only guess what might be ahead, and my guess is no better, and quite possibly worse, than yours.

TourismSteering clear of Politics (especially post-Brexit ones), I should concentrate on what’s in store for us Silver Travellers. What might happen in the field of national and international tourism. 

One of the main trends of 2020 is that destinations will push back against the pressure of tourism popularity, fighting to maintain their true character. It is, or should be, instinctive to welcome visitors, not only through politeness, but in the knowledge that they create jobs and income. But it is equally instinctive to get annoyed when they threaten to overwhelm you.

I guess it is inevitable that the campaign against climate change will continue to gain strength in the coming months. My main prediction is that protestors and demonstrators will continue to attack soft targets, such as airlines and their passengers.     

They do not listen when you point out that airlines account for a mere 2% of global CO2 emissions. And that data centres pump out twice as much. Most people have never heard of data centres, though they know about Amazon and Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter, and have shopped on line. The internet sucks up information and stores it in several thousand worldwide locations, all of which have to be air-conditioned. Those are data centres. And, I repeat, they are pumping out twice as much CO2 as all the world’s airlines.

Data CentreBut it is easier to have a pop at the softer target of airlines, even though they are cutting and offsetting their carbon footprints. Aircraft manufacturers are introducing lighter airframes and engines are becoming more efficient. Though it won’t happen in 2020, aircraft will eventually be powered by electricity. Cargo planes at first, then larger passenger aircraft.

In fact, electric planes are already flying in the USA – light aircraft used by flying schools. 

Though the uncertain future of our planet is very likely to be at the forefront of our minds in 2020, and beyond, my prediction is that science and technology will produce solutions for most of the problems that face us. As evidence, I cite The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.

At the end of the 19th century, some 50,000 horses were used to draw cabs and carriages and omnibuses in London. Many more hauled carts, drays and wagons. Hundreds of people earned a living from tips as they plied their trade of crossing sweeper, brushing away the odoriferous tide. They were about as successful as Canute had been.

Horse-drawn omnibus in London 1902 - Author: Henry Charles Moore [Public Domain]London had a horse poo problem. The Times forecast that “in 50 years every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

We know it didn’t happen. What happened was the invention of the internal combustion engine and the appearance of the ‘horseless carriage’. The horse manure problem was solved at a stroke. Of course, the Victorians weren’t to know that motor vehicles would produce other pollution problems, but science and technology is solving those.

(I’ve not the time to go into details, but, here in the UK, electric fuel cells are being developed for motor vehicles that are far ahead of the ones in current use. A car whose fuel cell currently provides a range of 350 miles would be able to cover at least 1,500 miles if it was fitted with the new version.)       

I said I’d steer clear of Brexit, but must mention that, as far as travelling to and within Europe is concerned, 2020 will see absolutely no difference in the situation.

TourismDuring the transition period, until 31 December, the old rules and regulations apply, and even afterwards, when we are well and truly ‘out’, those European countries who rely on tourism to boost their budgets will be taking measures to smooth our path. Extra immigration gates at their airports, no visa requirements, etc.

So, my prediction for travelling in 2020 is that we shall continue to do so in the style to which we have become accustomed. I hope we shall do so in a spirit of discovery and adventure and with an understanding of the effect our journeys are having on the climate of the planet, the customs and cultures of the countries we visit, the welfare of our hosts. We shall, in short, travel responsibly.

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John Carter

Long-time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and BBC holiday programmes

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