Half of humanity lives in cities and by 2050 most regions of the world will be predominantly urban. Every day, 193,107 new city dwellers are added to the world's urban population, which translates to slightly more than two people every two seconds (UN-HABITAT 2008). This means that the world's urban population will swell to almost 5 billion in 2030 and 6.4 by 2050. Cities have long been the centre of tourist activity, from the early times of civilisation through to their highly developed state in the global economy. Cities hold a particular fascination for tourists, from the vast highly developed metropolitan cities like Los Angeles to small historic cities like Durham in the North East of England. Professor Stephen Page of Stirling University argues (Page & Connell 2006), that urban tourism is arguably one of the most highly developed forms of tourism at a global scale driven by the convention that urban tourism exists because of a post industrial society and an affluent society. According to Yeoman (2008), the growth of world tourism in the last decade has been due to inter-regional travel rather than inter-continental travel fuelled by inter-city short breaks and the budget airline. Cities have become activity places for culture, sports and amusements as well as offering leisure settings with physical characteristics and socio cultural features. Many planners have turned to tourism as a means for urban regeneration. For example, the redevelopment of the London Docklands in 1980's onwards has being marketed as an example of London's vibrant tourism economy. The urbanisation of tourism in Los Angeles has become a key component of the cities economy and integral part of the city's urban development. In recent years, I-Max screens, themed environments, mega stores, theatres, museums and sports venues have displaced marble-clad office towers in Los Angeles as it has become a sprawling metropolis of entertainment in the era of the experience economy. However, what is the future for the city of Los Angeles? According to studies by Scott et al (2004) California and the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles could be classified as an optimal climate for tourism and all year round visitation. But what does the future hold given warmer climates, rising sea levels, water shortages, peak oil and the continuing trend of urbanisation. Scott's et al (2004), study examined climate change scenarios for tourism in U.S cities through 2030 to 2080 and found that Los Angeles tourism would be marginally better off in the winter months but overall would move from 'excellent' to 'marginal / unfavourable', as the climate would become unbearable for tourists. If so, how will the city of Los Angeles adapt and mitigate for such change given the certainty of climate change? Would Los Angeles in 2050 be something akin to Logan's Run as portrayed in the classic science fiction film, where life is controlled and managed within a domed complex? This article takes a futuristic perspective on what tourism in urban Los Angeles will be and the relationship to California's hinterland in 2050.
As a consequence of this drive for urbanisation and the impact of climate change the following scenario is envisaged;
In this scenario there is a realisation that the exponential growth of tourism as predicted by the UN World Tourism Organisation in 2012 was unsustainable. No longer could it be justified both on moral grounds and resources for consumers to over-indulge themselves with holidays. Although tourism is the world's largest industry and China is the world's leading destination, things have changed, as climate change policies are embedded in international trade agreements. It all started in 2015 when the government realised that emission reduction targets couldn't be met and the Middle East countries decided to stop selling oil to the West. So it was necessary to encourage people to travel less and this in turn required a public policy intervention to help households and individuals change their lifestyle. By 2025, we have seen a major attitudinal change towards travel and tourism.
In fact transport is only allowed if it is green, clean and generates a low carbon footprint. For example, new cleaner technologies have made road-based car transport viable for a relatively short distance of up to 300 kilometres. Car distances beyond that point are heavily taxed. Public transport – electric and low energy is efficient and widely used. This efficiency is typified Metropolitan Los Angeles.
Visiting this metropolitan hub means hotels are sustainable, which includes self contained power generation from solar panel cells. The hub has an excellent IT infrastructure needed for a striving financial services industry. Corporate meetings are now confined to virtual worlds ever since the introduction of telepresencing in 2028. Telepresencing combines video conferencing and virtual reality to create three dimensional, high speed, fluid interaction across different geographical locations. Business people even have their own hologram to give that physical presence. The metropolitan hub has invested heavily in conference and exhibition space, combined with an efficient land-based transport system making this metropolitan hub an ideal association meetings destination. In 2050 association meetings are still important for face to face situations. Not everything can be done by telepresencing.
Technology in this scenario lets the world deal with change and overcome many of the environmental and economic challenges of climate change and energy policy. In this scenario it is about transporting people from A to B in mass numbers therefore reducing the need for individual journeys. Across the USA, urban hubs have organised themselves to minimise travel and carbon footprints. For example, Los Angeles is now a UNESCO tourism colony with award winning features such as the skyscraper Botanical Gardens. The city's green credentials stretch from the connectivity of its ULRS (Urban Light Rail System), connecting the airport with the city's business and leisure districts, making the city centre a car free zone, to the novel use of Segways for the elderly and infirm tourists. Globally, competition is increasing between cities and not countries, and the winners in the competitive environment are those able to link high value-knowledge assets with a desirable workforce, good quality of life, and appropriate public assets such as cultural and educational resources. That's one of the reasons why cities are changing and Los Angeles Metropolitan hub is at the forefront.
However, cities have grown up at the expense of rural communities. The rail network is practically non existent outside Los Angeles. Many rural communities have become isolated and unsustainable due to the lack of tourists combined with immigration towards urban hubs. Some micro climate rural communities do survive and position themselves as garden adventure playgrounds for urban day trippers. Over the last forty years there has been much change to California tourism product. The Naper Valley, once the corner stone of the state's wine and tourism industry is no more. Food tourism has virtually disappeared as Generic Modified and Replicator foodstuff along with vitamin supplements have become the norm for today's Californians. The Channel Islands National Park survives as an exclusive destination for the mega rich who are searching for an authentic eco-tourism experience. Other islands such as Catalina Island had to be abandoned due to the high cost of transport. Walt Disney's theme park is still the icon for many Californians as hedonism and fun and the key drivers in today's mass tourism market.
Air travel is relatively expensive as it still dependent upon carbon fuels, meaning it is heavily taxed at 80% GST and vulnerable to oil shocks. This meant, plans to expand Los Angeles Airport where curtailed in 2020 with investment being switched to rail networks and urban hubs. Tourism in California is predominantly a city based product with rural destinations offering an exclusive experience for those who can afford to travel to the islands and hinterland. In this scenario resource use is now a fundamental part of the tax system and people are more careful in their use of resources. So is this what it could look like?
It seems that the world in 2050 will be different from 2009. The theme of reversal of fortunes occurs as tourism returns to a mass tourism experience for the middle classes and luxury as an ecotourism experiences is only available to the upper classes. For starters, tourism is California as seen in The California Travel and Tourism Commissions (CTTC 2007) five year plan 2007-2012 will be completely different compared to 2050. Overseas markets such as Japan, Germany, Korea and the UK would virtually disappear due to the high cost of air international travel. Out of state travellers from New York, Illinois and Texas who normally fly to the state would fall dramatically as well. Reasons for travelling to California's such as 'change of scenery'; 'romance', 'escaping' and 'freedom' would no longer be valid as climate change would have fundamentally closed rural tourism to the middle classes of America. At the heart of the change would be the disappearance of California unique lifestyle and culture which is focused on a causal, laid-back vibe of freedom of expression and an active outdoor focus. California as a brand Find Yourself Here © would no longer be relevant. Products such as winter sports, food and wine tourism would virtually disappear from the landscape as the main focus of tourism becomes urban based. In strategic terms, tourism in California ceases to be a sustainable proposition after the oil shocks of 2015, resulting in an urban tourism experience shaped by the connectivity of transport structures and catchments.
Policy interventions by government drive this scenario, based upon a proposition of what sustainable transport should be and the consequences of over dependence on oil, especially when there is little alternative to jet fuels (Yeoman et al 2007). The result in policy shift will see the demise of The California Travel and Tourism Commission and the strengthening of the Los Angeles Convention Bureau as urban centres become the economic powerhouses in 2050. One of the key implications of the scenarios is the end of rural tourism in California due to the lack of access to rural areas. However, such a policy lends itself towards conservation through isolation driven by necessary policy changes identified due to climate change. However, tourism in California would lead to greater social exclusion of visitors without the means to pay for exclusive experiences. In this scenario, eco tourism is a luxury experience only accessible to those that can afford it, which is counterintuitive when dealing with the topic of community tourism. The scenario notes how the Channel Islands National Park can only survive as an eco destination based upon exclusiveness for the mega rich.
Relating this scenario to world tourism means international tourism would disappear as a consequence of the decline and lack of accessibility to aviation. It would be expected that the tourism in Africa and other developing countries deprived of access to developed markets such as UK, Germany and the USA would be more – therefore tourism could no longer be counted as a economic engine of growth for places like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Namibia. In these countries it would be expected that there economies would not be able to trade, climate change would be disruptive and populations would starve. International tourism is now defined by regional travel rather than intercontinental because of the scarcity of international aviation and dependence of land based transport systems.
One of the storylines in the scenario is a realisation that change is necessary, although too late. Governments change the supply side structures of the tourism industry through legislation and conservation measures. Whereas consumer's behaviours and attitudes change towards the environment – namely that change is necessary. As a consequence, tourism is no longer a right or privilege.
Individually and paradox of choice has been a striking feature of world tourism in the last decade (Yeoman 2008). As consumers' wealth and the experience economy grew – most of the world became involved in tourism, whether it was Incredible India or I ? New York or Afghanistan as the Last Unconquered Mountains of the World. A reversal of fortunes occurs based upon the restrictions placed on tourist access. As a consequence we see the return of mass tourism and centralised control – a Marxist approach to society rather than individuality. In the scenario tourism becomes a manufactured experience rather than an authentic one. The cultural experience of food and wine tourism changes considerably. No longer is the rural backdrop available but a Star Trek Replicator that generates food from a history bank of molecular structures. Food as culture moves from an authentic experience to a manufactured one. As is, tourism for the masses through Walt Disney in Los Angeles, is a theme park of fun, dreams and fantasy – something that is not about 'time on your own', 'enrichment', 'reflection' and 'self actualisation'. It could be reasoned, that Los Angeles will just be another Las Vegas with lap dancers, retail therapy and gaming – a monoculture found in any city. In 2050, luxury tourism will be an eco tourism experience, maybe the only way the masses will access such an experience will be through the Star Trek holodeck. Who knows!
The scenario highlights how the convention and meetings industries will evolve and adapt to using technologies and video conferencing techniques such as telepresencing with a high value virtual reality dimension, supersede face to face meetings for ordinary transactions. However, it is noted that face to face meetings are still very important. But as seen in the scenario, Los Angeles is a super state with a high density population – so business tourism would be about serving this community.
What is the role of Los Angeles as an urban tourism destination in 2050? It would not be an urban gateway for international and domestic tourists anymore as air transport nodes would be minimal. Los Angeles would be a contained city focusing on the day tripper therefore the need for hotel accommodation and related services would fall. Local residents and commuters would be main users of attractions and infrastructure. Does this mean tourism is more defined as a leisure user as the blur between tourism and residents diminishes? With a large concentration population, crime and safety becomes an issue especially if resources are scarce. How would residents (tourists) feel about their city and night time activity? In the worse case scenario, would Los Angeles become the new Johannesburg with a series of suburbia gate fenced ghettos (Sandton) and shanty towns (Soweto). Such a dark proposition is not favourable for a creative tourist destination. In 2050, where space is a premium, city planners would be under extreme pressures protecting green open spaces for urban development. Test cases and encroachment will become the norm. Urban zoos and performing circus will probably have a reversal of fortune as tourists visit attractions they couldn't normally go on holiday to. Los Angeles will construct a series of mega indoor attractions for tourists to reminisce past experiences such as skiing and golf. As Los Angeles' climate will be too hot for many outdoor activities, even the once famous California surf will succumb come to an indoor water world similar to Seagaia Ocean Dome in Japan. It is envisioned (or hoped) that green technologies will mitigate the environment cost of such constructions. However, tourism in 2050 is a manufactured experience.
This discussion doesn't mean Los Angeles is a bad experience but faces many challenges. As Scott's et al (2004) study of climate change in US cities means Los Angeles moves from a position of 'excellent' to 'marginal / unfavourable' is a warning of what is to come. The role of planning must be to ensure that Los Angeles density and economies of scale brings a major opportunity to reduce energy demand and minimise pressures on surrounding land and natural resources. A well-planned and well-regulated Los Angeles in this scenario could mitigate the consequences of climate change through technological innovation, the harmonisation of green spaces and the co-ordination of leisure activity. Los Angeles is a creative city, with fantastic museums, a nightlife the envy of the world, a history associated with Hollywood and a celebrity destination. Combined with the use of green technologies, transport systems, icon cultures and urban parks, a sense of belonging and comfort needs to be created within a future Los Angeles.
Today, there is a strategic conversation taking place about climate change – the purpose of this chapter is to contribute towards the debate through 'shocking' the reader of the implications of change. Would you want to holiday in this world? Maybe a Metropolis Los Angeles could be a Logan's Run. A dystopian future society in which population and the consumption of resources is managed and maintained in equilibrium by the simple expedient of demanding the death of everyone upon reaching a particular age, thus avoiding the issue of overpopulation. This would be a world that doesn't have a rural experience (except for the exclusive few), no stories to tell about good food and wine, breath taking views, icon landscapes, special moments and mountains to ski down. A world of manufactured experiences rather than a natural wonderland.
This is a story about the future, not a forecast but is constructed based upon likely trends, critical uncertainties and a creative imagination that encourages thinking. A number of stresses or triggers have been made in the chapter, namely peak oil, urbanization, immigration, climate change and food supply, if combined and taken to the extreme lead to Urban Metropolis – Los Angeles in 2050 resulting in the death of tourism in California as it is known today.
Extract from forthcoming book – World Tourism in 2050, Channelview Publications, Bristol
Dr Ian Yeoman
Victoria University of Wellington
NEW 26/4/18 New publication: What is food tourism? here.
NEW 2/3/18 Ian talks about the future of travel in Virgin Atlantic’s Inflight magazine here.
NEW 22/2/18 New publication: Teaching tourism futures here.
20/2/18 Journal of Tourism Futures – Call for papers on the history of tourism here.
02/2/18 The Future of Luxury: new research published in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management here.
The Future of Travel, featuring my research with ABC Australia here.
Call for Papers: Futures Practice and Theory here.
Call for Abstracts and Chapters: Science Fiction, Disruption and Tourism here.
Ian speaks about the future tourist in VisitEngland report here.
Keynote address: The Future of Luxury and Premium Pricing – Paris 15th December 2017: More.
Call for Book Chapter: The Future Past of Tourism here.
Watch talk about the core drivers of change and Europe's future here.
Ian presents his views on technology futures to the OECD – 21st June here.
Ian profiled in Qatar Airways Oryx Magazine about the 'life of a futurist' here.
The future history of Revenue Management here.
The future of ping pong here.
Ian publishes research paper on scenario planning and policy in the Journal of Tourism Futures here.
The Future of Food Tourism reviewed in Annals of Leisure Research here.
Ian speaks to the EU on the future tourist here.
Fifteen years of Revenue Management here.
Ian appointed series editor by Channelview about the future of tourism Read More.
Previous News items can be found here.