Is the Future of Tourism Something Akin to “Outbreak”, “Westworld”, “Blade Runner” or “Eyes of Darkness”?

We recently published Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman, Una McMahon-Beattie and Marianna Sigala. In this post Ian discusses the aims of the book and highlights some of its key chapters.

As the Scenario Planner at VisitScotland in 2006, I facili­tated a team to model and construct a set of scenarios which replicated the present COVID-19 pandemic reality. This is an exam­ple of science fiction coming true and a journey beginning. Science fiction was used to explore the possible and impossible, to construct futures based upon technologies which had not been invented, to think about the transformation of tourism, and to predict the end of tourism based upon a natural disaster. The process took rationality to its limits. However, as academic researchers we would normally view science fiction as nothing more than a piece of creative writing. It is not something based upon fact but imagination; it is not real but fantasy. COVID-19 has challenged our thinking, as in Dean Koontz’s prediction in the Eyes of Darkness about Wuhan 400 or the 2011 film Contagion which portrays spread of a virus, attempts by medical researchers and public health officials to identify and contain the disease and the loss of social order in trying to halt its spread. Science fiction has become reality.

Thinking about the future

Science fiction is a ‘thinking machine’. It is about imagination and is right at the centre of scenario planning – the main research methodology used in futures stud­ies. Thus, the purpose of this book is to understand the role of science fiction in tourism research and how it is used to portray and make us rethink the future of tourism. It explores if science fiction can be of benefit to tourism researchers in a rapidly changing world, as it provides them food for thought and a way of thinking, rethinking and de-thinking of tourism futures. It helps set research agendas, directions and scope of research. In this vein, science fiction can be seen as a useful approach to foster and support transformation in tourism research.

Why change is necessary

Given the implications of COVID-19 and the overdue changes required in tourism, this book is more than just topical in nature and focus; it is also much needed to direct and foster tourism research that envisions beyond the past normal. As such, we fundamentally address the requirements for transformational tourism thinking and research through the contributions of the authors in this edited collection. Holistically, the combined contribu­tion of the chapters is to understand and construct a theoretical position or framework between science fiction and the future of tourism. If one can find an underpinning theory, then we have the basis of using science fiction as a theoretical lens and methodological approach to explore, frame and even form the future of tourism. By focusing on a specific form of tourism or topic, every book chapter uses a practical example and evidence to dis­cuss and explain the theoretical underpinnings, as well as the methods that others can also use to vision and rethink tourism futures.

Highlights of the book

In Chapter 6, Life Without Limits: Design, Technology and Tourism Futures in Westworld, Gurevitch uses a design theory per­spective which intertwines media, tourism futures and design. He explores the disruptive potential of technology to deliver experiences and the desire of tourists to feel free from the moral, social, economic and political con­straints of their daily lives.

In Chapter 8, Wildlife Tourism in 2150: Uplifted Animals, Virtual and Augmented Reality and Everything In-between, Bertella discusses the current research in both tourism and other disciplines in order to make a considered predic­tion about the future of wildlife tourism in 2150. Bertella examines the authenticity of future wildlife tourism where technology has been used to enhance the tourism experience.

In Chapter 9, Tears in the Rain: Tourism in the World of Blade Runner and Total Recall, Bolan addresses the worlds and their technology as depicted in the science fiction works by Philip K. Dick and explores their impact and influence on tourism. He examines the transformational impact of technology in tourism, from rep­licants to memory implants and self-driving cars to holograms.

In Chapter 10, Destination of the Dead: The Future for Tourism?, McEntee and col­leagues consider tourists a plague of zombies within the context of over­tourism and sustainability. The chapter takes a novel look at tourism and its impact on the people and places that experience excessive numbers of tourists. Zombies are now a clear genre in popular culture, appearing in countless movies, TV programmes and comic books, all of which depict crowds of mindless bodies shuffling along aimlessly while leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The same could arguably be said for some tour­ists, slowly walking along looking upwards at buildings with a selfie stick in hand while busy locals go about their daily business.

Towards a theoretical framework

Tourism futures needs a theoretical frame­work to contribute towards the evolution of tourism research. But as Yeoman and Beeton note, tourism futures is often presented with­out a foundation, is often misunderstood, and those that write about the future tend to emphasise presentism. What COVID-19 has taught us is the importance of moving beyond presentism and not thinking about the future as a linear projection based upon previously studied interrelations of known (economic) variables. Hence, the value of this edited collection is it encourages us to make a quantum leap in the terms of how we view and how we can afford to think about the future of tourism and tourism research. It takes us beyond the positivism to the non-linearity of interpre­tivism and a multiplicity of futures.

The book gives us a theoretical framework to study the future of tourism based upon science fiction. From an ontological perspective, the assumption is that the future needs to be explained by how the future will occur through science fiction. From an epistemological perspective, the book identifies a number of concepts including plurality, disruption and transformation, hyperreality of authenticity, dystopia, liminality, scepticism and the importance of narrative.

What next?

Many science fiction movies and books come in sequels. So, COVID-20 we suppose, but hope not! Indeed, that is not a science-fiction-inspired thought anymore but very much a possibility. We can only suggest you read a good science fiction novel and draw your own imaginings about the future of tourism. That’s what we did, and Captain Kirk was our inspiration, along with films such as Soylent Green or Star Wars. Delve into those alternative, imaginative worlds and ask yourself, what if they were to come true?

Ian Yeoman

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie. 

Imagine if the Future Was the Same as the Past…

This month we published The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie. In this post the editors explain how the book explores the connection between the future and the past.

“Those who wish to look into the future are well advised to concern themselves first with the past, where all things originate” said Homer. We believe that the future is a replication of the past. If this is the case, it should be possible to analyse the past in a scientific manner to inform the future. Hence, one might ask, how does the past shape the future?

Are overtourism and sustainability old, new or constant issues in the evolution of tourism?

The biggest concerns about the future of tourism today is the exponential growth of tourism and its effect on communities and the environment, therefore we have invented the word ‘overtourism’. But these concerns are not new. As Thomas Cook began to capitalise on the idea of package holidays and mass tourism, a number of people began to complain about the negative effects of tourism. European towns and countryside were seemingly overrun with tourists, and ‘ruined by the increase in guesthouses, pensions and restaurants’. Tourists took a carefree approach to flowers, fish and fowl; they tended to do what they liked, unless restrained by keepers and land managers. In 1861, in what has been called an early instance of the ‘ecological blight that tourism so often brings in its wake’, Thomas Cook became embroiled in the alleged shooting of an eagle by one of his tourists on Iona.

The seaside in Scotland was a magnet for increasing numbers of visitors, of all social classes. But while there was the collecting of shells and fossils, the raiding of rock pools for crabs and sea life, the cheerful use of the sands, there was little worry about the impact on the beaches. There was, however, concern over the impact of mass tourism at the seaside, in terms of the behaviour of the day-tripper and the excursion­ist. There were tensions over mixed bathing, over the use or non-use of the Sunday, over dress and language. There was occasional damage to property, and more regularly to public order. But there seems to have been no concern in Victorian times over the use of the sea or the condition of the beaches, although access to the seaside itself could provoke objections from local landowners. Bigger numbers did lead to concerns over amenities at the seaside resorts: there were real questions of water supply, sewage and sanitation for the swollen summer populations. The overloading of systems could lead to outbreaks of epidemic disease, e.g. the typhoid epidemic in Bournemouth in 1936, which was due to contaminated ice-cream and milk. But resort enteritis, or beach tummy, was a small price to pay for the pleasure of a summer break from the harshness of the urban environment.

Changing Society

Tourism has become democratised as a result of changes in society i.e. the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was the catalyst for new forms of transport such as the steam train which enabled new tourists from the middle and working classes to travel further afield, marking the beginnings of mass tourism. Further technological developments in aviation, have meant tourists can travel further e.g. the Kangaroo route. This advancement in technologies was a game changer as the cost of aviation in real terms fell, making aviation not a form of luxury but a commodified product. As mass tourism created demand, so was born a new industry of infrastructure and supply, whether it was travel agents, airlines, hotels, destination planning or legislative frameworks. However, some things don’t change: the purpose of travel and why we go on holiday. Tourism is about adventure, connecting with family, mindfulness, relaxation, hedonism, enjoyment and culture. The motivation and behaviours stay the same. It’s just as the past moves into the future, the number of tourists has grown exponentially.

The Future

Right at the heart of The Future Past of Tourism is the concept that the future is just a re-occurrence of the past. What we have set out to do is identify the key turning points in tourism evolution in order to predict the future. In futures research, change is the constant from the past to the future. One of the roles of futures research is to model the development of society, looking for signs, social movements, technological advancement and signs of change at the point of evolution. This is what we have done. So, if you want to know what the future holds, read this book.

 

For more information about this book, please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Histories, Meanings and Representations of the Modern Hotel by Kevin J. James.

Trips of the Past and Trips of the Future

This month we will be publishing The Future Past of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie, which looks at how the history of tourism will shape its future. Inspired by this, in this post the CVP team reflect on their favourite past trips and dream future ones…

Laura

I still remember the first holiday I ever went on, to stay in a holiday cottage in West Wales with my cousins when I was nine. I had a new suitcase especially for the occasion, which I filled with all sorts of things from my bedroom at home…none useful for a holiday! The holiday itself was very simple: days spent on the beach or playing in the garden, and I’m sure it wasn’t as sunny as I remember but in my mind it was a perfect week. My cousins and I still talk about some of the in-jokes and sayings from the holiday and it’s those shared memories which make it my favourite past holiday.

Laura and her cousin attempting some sunbathing

There are a zillion places I’d love to visit, some close to home and some further afield. Inching its way up my list is the North Coast 500, Scotland’s 516 mile long tour of its northernmost roads. The appeal is the stunning scenery, isolation and Scottish hospitality. I’m yet to decide if I want to drive or cycle it, but either way, I’ll need to be prepared for all weathers!

Tommi

My favourite travel has always involved trains and ferries. Childhood journeys to Finland for Christmas always involved a train ride first across the UK, then a ferry to Hamburg, Esbjerg or Gothenburg, and either an overnight sleeper train to Stockholm followed by the Viking Line to Turku or Helsinki, or the Finnjet direct from Travemünde. The excitement of travelling over several days to get to “Mummola” in the winter with the dark scenery passing mysteriously by the train window. Stopping off in Copenhagen to see the Tivoli, or spending a night in Lübeck and visiting the German Christmas markets, before the final ferry ride across the Baltic. Would the sea be frozen? Would we spot any seals on the ice? Having a proper sauna in the bowels of the exciting Finnjet ferry with a swimming pool that had a swell in it as the ship rocked on the waves…all the while knowing that as we got closer to Grandma the sweets started tasting nicer…. First we got Skipper liquorice pipes on the ferries to Europe, then Marabou chocolate if we went via Sweden or Haribo in Germany, and finally as we hit the Finnish boats – Fazer! And proper liquorice! As our ferry sailed into Helsinki we would be met by an uncle waving to us from the terminal building and they would drive us the last leg to where “mummi” and “vaari” were waiting, having filled the garden with ice lanterns and we would catch the scent of “pulla” and “makaroonilaatikko” drifting out of the door…it’s no wonder I’ve grown up to love travelling!

When I was a child we would often travel overland partly due to cost of flying a family of four to Finland in the early 1980s and partly due to the feeling that by flying over everything we were missing out on so much. My Dad always looked forward to the adventure and the endless planning to find a “new” route…although I have tended to travel more by air in the last few years, I definitely feel like I have missed out on a lot, so I hope to get back to a more exciting, and relaxing, way of getting around.

In the immediate future we are planning to travel by train to Anterselva in Italy for New Year, with an overnight stop in Munich and a ride over the Brenner pass before spending a week cross country skiing, and catching the overnight train from Milan to Paris and back to the UK.

One day I would dearly love to travel all the way to Japan by train. Japan is a country that I have always loved spending time in, and if I can travel overland I feel like I will better understand where it is, and hopefully arrive for once without any hint of jetlag! I would hope to travel via the Trans-Siberian either to Beijing or Vladivostok, and then take a ferry with a few days in South Korea on the way…I personally hope that the future of my own travel will come full circle to my past travels, and that more and more of my journeys will once again be taken by train and ferry.

Flo

I’ve been lucky enough to go on some amazing trips over the years, but maybe the one that stands out the most is a trip I took to Ghana in 2015. I went with my friend to visit her family in Accra, Kumasi and Abetifi. I loved everything about it – the people, the language, the colours, the tropical heat, the food, the landscape… We stayed with my friend’s parents on the compound of the school they run, so we were always surrounded by kids, which was fun (and very noisy). We spent our days visiting family friends, markets, local villages, museums, the cultural centre, a cocoa farm, a Kente cloth workshop, a lake and a waterfall, and our evenings at the local ‘spot’ which was a tiny neighbourhood kiosk/bar with really loud speakers. A highlight of the trip was a very long drive (with one, and later two babies on our laps) to stay with my friend’s grandmother up in the mountains. She was still working the land in her 80s!

There are so many places I’d love to go in the future, but I think Sri Lanka’s probably top of my list. Apart from how beautiful and diverse it looks, my grandparents, who were in the army and navy, met there during the war at a dance in Kandy, and so I’ve got a bit of a sentimental reason to visit too! It might be a little while yet though, as I’ve decided to have a ‘no-fly year’ in 2020, so I’ll be keeping any travel to countries I can get to by train.

Sarah

In 2015 my sister and I went to the US to embark on as many different kinds of tourisms as we could – sport, literary, film, tv and music! We started in Boston where we saw the Red Sox play and spent a bookish day in Concord, then to New York where we took in a Giants game, an Islanders game and a Red Bulls game! We bussed next to Washington, DC. After much sightseeing there we flew down to Orlando to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – and also managed some relaxing by the pool. Our last stop was Nashville, where we visited the Opry and Ryman before spending our last night watching Foo Fighters at Bridgestone. It was a pretty tiring holiday but every day was very exciting! 🙂

It would be amazing to have a whole year off and pack it with as many sporting events as possible. January and February in Australia to watch the Big Bash (and be warm!) then back to the UK touring round the country for the rest of the football season and cricket season, maybe taking in an England cricket tour at some point to the West Indies 🙂

 

For more information about The Future Past of Tourism please see our website.