What will tourism look like in 2050?

In a world where 25 million tourists took an international holiday in 1950 and one hundred years later it is forecasted to grow to 4.3 bn. At the same time the world is facing considerable challenges, uncertainty over future oil supplies, rapidly changing technological applications, the emergence of India and China as key markets of the future and ageing populations. Against this background, how will the world behave? Are we going to see wars, protectionist tariffs or free liberal markets? Combined what does all this mean for New Zealand’s tourism industry. The Foundation for Research in Science and Technology project lead by Dr Ian Yeoman at Victoria University of Wellington attempts to paint a series of pictures of the future using a scenario planning methodology. The project sets out to provide:

  • Well-constructed scenarios depicting and quantifying possible futures for New Zealand tourism whilst providing staged information to stakeholders and leaders of parallel research projects at suitable milestones. This approach will provide the best opportunity to share work in progress as early as possible.
  • Establishing a clear understanding of the drivers and aspirations of future visitors within a rapidly changing world through local and international dialogues (at cultural, commercial, social, technological, demographic and geopolitical levels) that can be used to advantage by public or private policymakers and investors.

An exclusive future

To date, four scenarios have been constructed based the key uncertainties of the ‘future of resources’ and ‘political behaviour’. The first scenario, Reversal of Fortunes: A Dystopian Future the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state) describes tourism as an exclusive experience with markets focusing on high-yield tourists. However, the majority of the world’s population prefer an indoor leisure experience due to economic decline. Technologically augmented ‘insperience’ (the consumer’s desire to bring top-level experiences into their domestic and indoor domain usually through latest technological devices, making the home the centre of entertainment) is the name of the game. Over time, consumers have lost touch with the ‘real outdoors’ and only the rich in society can afford to access the authentic luxury rural experiences of New Zealand. The state is owned by the corporation as democracy has been sold and sacrificed.

Shifting markets

The second scenario, The Rise of the New Middle Classes: A World of New Consumers describes how the market and ethnic mix of New Zealand’s international tourists has changed. China, UK, Australia, Brazil, the US and Indonesia represent 60 percent of all international arrivals to New Zealand. The US and BRIC countries dominate world GDP and political power. New Zealand is a low taxation economy with strong economic ties with Australia. An abundance of resources drives the New Zealand domestic economy. A ‘have it all consumer society’ prevails. New Zealand is a successful tourism destination for domestic and international markets and so much success means environmental policies are challenged and constrained in a free market economy.


The third scenario, An Eco Paradise: A World of Collective Individualism looks at New Zealand as a paradise of resources, driving a land-based, export economy. In 2050, as the world suffers from scarcity of resources, eco-paradise is the new luxury and New Zealand tourism industry benefits. However, society has taken the decision to conserve the future for the collective good, as resources and the land are important features of the Kiwi psyche. As a consequence, society and government knows everything about you, what you do and when you do it. Individualism and freedoms have been sacrificed. New Zealand is a high-taxation economy with high standards of living, an innovation economy, a sustainable living ethos, moral conservatism and a controlled tourism demand and supply model which balances the economy with resources.


The final scenario, Sclerosis of Demography (incremental decline of the country’s wealth, as income wealth and productivity per capita falls due to ageing populations). As populations get older, the costs increase for governments because of health care and falling taxes). The scenario demonstrates how the tourism industry is in a downward spiral with fewer tourists spending less money per year. Why? As populations age GDP per capita falls, resulting in consumers having incrementally less disposal income in future years. Government’s attempts to reform are ineffective and the economy recesses. As a result, continuing fiscal deficit leads to political union with Australia. Health provision and tourism go hand in hand and the Ministry of Health and Resorts is responsible for positive ageing. In this scenario, international tourists are heavily taxed and tourism is focused on well-being and volunteerism.

The next stage of the project includes:

  • refinement and re evaluation of the scenarios within the context of world behaviours and access to resources
  • further quantification of the scenarios using Monte-Carlo analysis in order to measure probability of occurrence and understand policy decisions
  • researching the futures literature and testing the ideas with experts
  • Testing the scenarios with industry to establish the impact of efficiency of resources, impact on society and individuals
  • a communications exercise with industry and stakeholders.

For further details about the project and findings to date, please visit www.tourism2050.com