The Future of Tourism and Airbnb: Is This Where We Wanted to Go?

We recently published The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ by Jeroen A. Oskam. In this post the author explains the motivation behind the book.

Last year I was invited by the world’s first “crystal ball gazer” in tourism, Ian Yeoman, and his co-editor Una McMahon-Beattie to write a book in their new series on The Future of Tourism. I had been studying Airbnb for a few years with the futures view Ian had introduced me to. And although it is always good to see that one’s analyses and argumentations have made sense, in the case of Airbnb (and other urban vacation rentals) this has become a very bitter “told you so”.

At Hotelschool The Hague, a small but internationally top ranking single-discipline university, the research team acts as an antenna for new insights and developments, but it also seeks to inform alumni and professionals about new trends and innovations. We seek to jump on emerging new trends before they get big, and in 2015 we invited a mixed group of researchers and practitioners to discuss something cool: the Airbnb trend, its appeal to travellers, and its future evolution. This seems not too long ago, but remember the context: urban tourism was still hardly controversial, a millennial generation was said to have adopted an anti-consumerist attitude to possessions and Amsterdam had declared itself a “sharing city”.

However, in the course of this first research the social climate started changing. The development of Airbnb in New York had already got out of hand, as had been demonstrated by the data and analyses of Murray Cox; our data showed that also in Amsterdam, rather than a utopian movement, we saw the beginning of a similar commercial development. When we published our numbers, which showed an explosive growth during that year, we were immediately accused of being secret agents of a hotel lobby that wanted to destroy the sharing movement. We made predictions about the future development or Airbnb that almost seemed bizarre back then but that nevertheless have become reality.

Closely linked to these developments was the growth of city tourism during that same period. All of a sudden, city residents all over Europe started hating tourists (from September to May, that is, when we are not travelling ourselves). City authorities started looking for a brake to at least slow down growth; but there was none. Airbnb and the platforms cannot be blamed for this growth. But they are responsible for making the situation unmanageable for cities.

In this book, I have tried to summarize the information we have so far, combining an analysis of the numbers with insights on the nature of ‘Sharing’, such as the concept of ‘cult marketing’, which for me has become crucial to understand the phenomenon, and which also directly explains so many of the misinterpretations and the deceitful claims that surround it. I have looked at the users or ‘guests’, at the Airbnb operators or ‘hosts’, at the impact on hotels and on cities. The book gives new scenarios for the development of Airbnb and other urban vacation rentals towards 2025. Let’s just hope that this time we are not heading towards a new “I told you so”.

Finally, I have tried to give an interpretation of this trend — along with that of Uber, task platforms etcetera— as a societal development. Can we find a reason why all this apparent idealism turns out to be something completely different? What drives these changes and what is their future outlook? Has the ‘sharing’ movement been taken over by greedy impostors, or has its current manifestation always been a part of their way of thinking?

I am also eager to see the rest of the books in The Future of Tourism series. Without any doubt they will help spur debate on what we can expect from tourism, and maybe on wider societal trends. Fortunately, I understand that some other authors are more optimistic than I am.

Jeroen Oskam


For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reinventing the Local in Tourism edited by Antonio Paolo Russo and Greg Richards.

New series: The Future of Tourism

We are pleased to announce our new book series The Future of Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie. In this post, Ian introduces the background to the new series and discusses the future of travel.

Series flyer - click to enlarge
Series flyer – click to enlarge

I was really excited when Channel View suggested a new book series about the Future of Tourism, as I have lived and breathed the future for the last 20 years, championing the cause, creating a new field and unravelling complexity. All other fields of tourism research are fundamentally about the past or the present whereas the future hasn’t occurred yet. The future is the only place you can travel to and the only place you can prepare for. To me, it’s the only field of tourism that has relevance.

It all began…

I started my career in tourism futures as the Scenario Planner at VisitScotland back in 2002 when 9/11 and Foot and Mouth Disease were having an impact on Scottish tourism. They were complex issues which needed unravelling. We did this, along with developing a robust economic forecasting system, scenarios about the future of Scottish tourism and an environmental scanning process. Taking these elements, we were able to build a system that made sense of the future, thus enabling leaders of Scottish tourism to understand the future, test their ideas and make informed decisions. I am now based in New Zealand and even more passionate about the future of tourism through building, partnering and giving opportunity to others to publish their thoughts on the future through this new series.

What is the future?

For economists and meteorologists it is relatively easy to understand and predict the weather with accuracy for the coming weeks or the economic outlook for the next 12 months as these events have a degree of certainty. However, predicting a longer term perspective is fraught with difficulties, whether it is the challenge of an automated world, changing food patterns, the breakup of the European Union, augmented reality or emerging markets. The further you look into the future, the more uncertainty prevails. Around the world people are living longer and expecting to do more in their lifetime. If you are born today in a Western country, you have a one in four chance of living until you are one hundred years old.

The future will have wars, terrorism, famine and disaster just like the past, but tourism will prevail. The future of tourism will be fed by equally unprecedented natural resource competition and environmental impacts, however it is Thomas Malthus who wrote in an essay on the Principles of Populations published in 1798 that sooner or later population growth will be checked by famine and disease. Was he wrong? While exponential growth can be expected to lead to increased scarcity of resources, human creativity can ameliorate increased scarcity. Basically, humankind is good at adaptation and overcoming many of the challenges it is presented with.

It is rare to find a national or regional tourism plan, book or academic article about the future of tourism that doesn’t reference the UN World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) forecasts – thus they have become the main arbiter of the future. This is an industry which in 1950 represented 23 million international arrivals and was forecasted to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. But the future of tourism has to be more than an economic forecast as extrapolated forecasts can often be misleading, ambiguous and debateable.

What will change?

In 2050, we still foresee romantic holidays in Paris or hiking the Yellow Mountains of China. What might be different is that Brain Computer Interfaces will have the ability to read customers’ minds, thus anticipating all their dreams and desires, or exoskeleton suits will give us all the power of Iron Man as adventure tourism is redrawn. Pokémon has taken the world by storm, but it is the convergence of the technology trends of GPS systems, augmented reality and ubiquitous computing that have made the game real and accessible to the masses, combined with the consumer trends of smart boredom and gaming cultures, that have changed how we play.

The future is both an understanding of the past and a quantum leap of imagination. Whether you believe in Star Trek, or Sunderland being the epicentre of tourism, the future is the only place you can travel to. Think of the future as your next holiday: we will help you pack your suitcase, plan the journey, guide you to attractions of interest to ensure you have a great time. Our new series, The Future of Tourism, will involve everything from science fiction to the rational – all because we adopt a multidisciplinary perspective that provides the answers to the questions you want to know.

For more information about the new series please see our website. Proposals should be sent to Sarah Williams, Commissioning Editor.

Why Men Cook But Don’t Washup! The Changing Demographics and Profiles of the Male Foodie

Earlier this month we published The Future of Food Tourism edited by Ian Yeoman, Una McMahon-Beattie, Kevin Fields, Julia N. Albrecht and Kevin Meethan. The book examines the changing trends of food tourism and in this post Ian explores the concept of the male foodie.

9781845415372Food is now a hot topic, constantly on our television screens and part of popular culture. Consumers today want to know about the food they are eating and are genuinely interested in cooking food. Indeed food tourism is now classed as a mainstream experience. This interest in food means men do a greater share of cooking at home than at any point in time for which records exist; furthermore, it seems likely that this represents a greater contribution to what has become an essential part of our lives in modern history. Younger men, both singletons and those living with their partner, are playing a greater role in the kitchen far more than their fathers did. What is even more surprising is that they enjoy this greater involvement. In fact it is viewed as both a passion and a leisure activity by this new generation of men in the kitchen. In the new book, The Future of Food Tourism, Ian Yeoman and Una McMahon-Beattie explore how men are claiming the kitchen in a particular way and the implications for food tourism.

Food is the new rock ‘n’ roll by which men express their masculine identity. It is Jamie Oliver in the TV series Naked Chef who cooks with passion, fun and as a lifestyle activity rather than a domestic chore. Jamie Oliver is a man who negotiates the tension between ‘new man’ and ‘new lad’ with references to football, music, booze and babes but avoids any reference to seriousness as ‘you gotta laugh’. Then there is Heston Blumenthal’s aspirational wizardry that aligns the preparation of food with history, folklore, nostalgia and science or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s production conscious, thinking man’s real food or Gordon Ramsay’s macho man stance, where he turns cooking into a heroic task equal to the labours of Hercules. These celebrity chefs play an important role in society today, by both mediating how consumers understand food and the role of cooking within society.

By 2030, will the British man be swapping football for culinary skills as chefs such as Gordon Ramsay become the new male icon? Why is this? Upwardly mobile men, aged between 25 and 44 are becoming passionate about food and the rewards it brings such as pleasure, praise and love. No longer will conversations in the bar be about the Premier League or Manchester United but tips and recipes about the best food and wine. Across the world societies are changing. By 2040, there will be 10% more men in China than women so men will have to work harder to impress those ladies – all in the hope of love. Today, we are observing a micro trend of men taking cookery courses, learning to appreciate wine, taking charge in the kitchen and food becoming ‘the’ new hobby.

This upwardly mobile singleton has had his overseas experience – travelled to Europe, Vietnam and Patagonia and beyond – and tasted a variety of foods, whether it is an authentic curry in India or steak from Argentina. These travels and experiences ensure they acquire cultural capital about food which means once they return to Britain they will shop in local ethnic supermarkets for authentic ingredients or search out the finest cheeses in specialist food shops. Mass affluence in society has meant men have been able to try out new experiences, broaden their horizons and raise their expectations. Affluence has changed the way in which society eats and the way that they cook. Today, cupboards in our kitchens are laden with important delicacies from far afield.

Men like being in the kitchen, as today’s modern kitchen is full of gadgets whether it is an ice cream maker, sous-vide machine or a chef’s oven range. A modern kitchen also means less washing up as the built in dishwasher takes care of that! Contemporary society and culture is also witnessing other changes such as a significant increase in the number of women entering the workforce which can result in creating new pressures in the home. In these circumstances it might be expected that men would do their fair share of household duties, whether it is childcare, cleaning or shopping. However, men have chosen to make their greatest contribution by involving themselves in the most creative area of housework – the kitchen. The male does not see this as a chore, but rather a hobby and a leisure experience. The kitchen for the male has become the ‘new battleground of the sexes’ – somewhere to be better and to outdo their partner. It is also a place to escape, away from the drudgery of everyday life and the pressure of work. To men, the kitchen is the equivalent of a spa treatment or somewhere to create a masterpiece. Thus, the man foodie has arrived.

Dr Ian Yeoman, Futurist, Victoria University of Wellington and the European Tourism Futures Institute.

2050 - Tomorrow's TourismFor more information about the book please see our website. You might also be interested in Ian Yeoman’s previous book 2050 – Tomorrow’s Tourism.