The future of tourism

By Matt Burdett, 27 January 2018

On this page, we look at factors influencing future international tourism, including greater use of social media, international security and diaspora growth.

Growth forecasts

Tourism is predicted to increase in the future. The number of international tourists is predicted to increase by 3.3% per year up to 2030, reaching 1.8 billion tourist arrivals (Lee, 2017). Although all areas are set to grow, the fastest growth will be in emerging economies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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  • UNWTO, 2017. United Nations World Tourism Organisation Tourism Highlights 2017 edition. UNWTO. Madrid.

This increase in tourism has profound impacts on the economic and social characteristics of destinations. The total value of tourism to the world economy by 2027 could be as much as US$11 trillion (without accounting for inflation, so the nominal value will be even higher).

  • Total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP, worldwide. Source: WTTC, 2017.

  • Summary table of estimates and forecasts in world tourism. Source: WTTC, 2017.

A further consequence is the increase in the number of flights that will be undertaken. This is predicted to be concentrated in Asia, unsurprisingly based on demographics: firstly, the population in many Asian countries (especially India) is still growing; and secondly, the wealth of China and India (and some other countries such as Thailand) is increasing, so more people will be able to afford to fly.

  • Percentage of passengers sourced from different world regions; and the predicted growth in the fastest growing markets for flights. Source: Atkinson and Palumbo, 2018.

Reasons for the growth of tourism

There are two main reasons why tourism has grown and is predicted to continue to grow:

  • Demand: There is a greater demand from people for tourism. As people have higher incomes, and as they have more leisure time, they want to travel to new places. This is also helped by technology such as TV, social media, online advertising, and online booking sites. Meanwhile, diaspora growth has meant that there are more people born in a different country to the one they live in, resulting in more travel for people to visit relatives.
  • Supply: There is a greater supply of tourist facilities worldwide – for example, most countries now have more tourist attractions compared to the past, and there are more hotels, restaurants and so on that make places suitable for tourism. This is sometimes due to a deliberate government policy to encourage tourism. Also, technology has increased the accessibility of new places through better transport and information systems. Also, there is a greater level of international security so tourism is now offered to more destinations worldwide.

Social media

Social media is replacing traditional methods of marketing and advertising. Content is generated in three ways:

  • Government sources
  • Private companies and organisations
  • Individuals

The importance of governments and companies is declining as individuals create more of their own media. User-generated information about tourist destinations is increasingly important. Regardless of the social network being used, there are two main reasons why social media is so much more important:

  1. Argument quality. This refers to the range and quality of the content provided. Governments and companies generally present a limited view of the destination because they want to appeal to as many people as possible. However, individuals generating their own content are aiming to appeal to a limited number of people who are likely to have similar interests to themselves, so the details that they give are more relevant and more likely to be detailed about the things that interest their audience.
  2. Peer tourist source. This means that the source of the information is a peer, or a ‘fellow tourist’ and therefore more likely to be trusted than a tour company of a government tourist board.

User-generated content can provide a virtuous cycle as international tourists post pictures and descriptions which helps others to imagine themselves in that location. They then share their own experiences, which enables others to have more information about potential destinations. However, this can work in a negative cycle too – a bad experience shared on social media can influence future tourists to stay away (Lee, 2017).

There are other ways in which the tourism industry is being affected by social media (Carnoy, 2017):

  • Customer service. Feedback from tourists to the travel provider is quick and public, leading to quicker responses and the problem being solved.
  • Loyalty. Branded experiences are quickly shared and targeted advertising on social media can encourage future bookings.
  • Travel research reformed. People actively seek out comments from other travellers on social media, such as ratings for hotels, regardless of whether they know the person in real life.

International security

Tourism is benefitting from a global standardisation of safety. Airlines, airports and cruises all operate to international standards that help to reduce attacks. Although these safety standards don’t guarantee a terrorist attack won’t happen, they are an effective deterrent (Beirman, 2017). This leads to a greater sense of security and encourages people to travel.

The graph below shows that from 2000 to 2014, a very small proportion of the deaths from global terrorism occurred in Western countries with the exception of the 2001 attacks on the United States. Tourism between Western countries and most of the rest of the world is still very safe. However, terrorist attacks are high profile and can cause people to change travel plans to a perceived safer destination.

Image result for number of people killed by terrorism worldwide

  • Global Deaths from Terrorism. Source:, 2015.

In addition, travel itself is safer than it has ever been. Each day, over 100,000 flights land without any safety problems, and the IATA has developed a six-point safety strategy to minimise the potential of safety incidents in the air (IATA, n.d.). The result is that travellers feel happier to go to more destinations, and more often, leading to a growth in international tourism.

Diaspora growth

Diaspora tourism is “the travel of people in diaspora to their ancestral homelands in search of their roots or to feel connected to their personal heritage” (Huang, Haller and Ramshaw, 2013). This type of tourism is driven by the increasing numbers of people who don’t live in the country they were born in (see graph below). These people generally continue to visit their country of origin, leading to an increase in overall tourism.

  • Number of international migrants by major area of destination. UN Population Division, 2017.


Atkinson and Palumbo, 2018. Singapore Airshow: Asia aviation in five charts. BBC Online. Accessed 7 February 2018.

Beirman, 2017. Tourism Security – Tourism’s Greatest Global Challenge. Accessed 27 January 2018.

Carnoy, 2017. 5 Ways Social Media Has Transformed Tourism Marketing. Accessed 27 January 2018., 2015. The plague of global terrorism. Accessed 27 January 2018.

Huang, Haller and Ramshaw, 2013. Diaspora Tourism and Homeland Attachment: An Exploratory Analysis. Tourism Analysis. 18. 285-296. Accessed 27 January 2018.

IATA [International Air Transport Association], n.d. Safety. Accessed 27 January 2018.

Lee, U.K., 2017. International Tourism Advertisements on Social Media: Impact of Argument Quality and Source. Sustainability, 9(9), p.1537. Available from Accessed 27 January 2018.

UN Population Division, 2017. International migrant stock 2017: graphs. Accessed 27 January 2018.

UNWTO, 2017b. United Nations World Tourism Organisation Tourism Highlights 2017 edition. UNWTO. Madrid. Accessed 27 January 2018.

WTTC [World Tourism and Travel Council], 2017. Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2017: World. Accessed 27 January 2018.

The future of tourism: Learning activities


  1. Describe the expected growth in tourism between 2010 and 2030. [3]
  2. Identify three impacts that the growth in tourism is likely to have on the world economy. [3]
  3. Distinguish between the demand for and the supply of tourism. [2]
  4. Explain two ways in which social media is contributing to an increase in tourism. [4]
  5. Outline the link between international tourism, and terrorist attacks. [2]
  6. Define ‘diaspora tourism’. [2]
  7. Suggest reasons why people who live different country to the country of their birth would add to international tourism. [4]

Other tasks

Identify a tourist location of your choice. Plan a strategy to ensure benefits from the predicted increase in global tourism by 2030. Summarise your strategy under the following headings:

  • Background: The predicted growth and the various reasons why world tourism will grow
  • Discussion of your tourist location
  • Identification of the type of tourists you will aim to attract
  • The steps you will take to increase tourism