But don’t fret, you’ll still be able to travel later. It will just be more crowded.
In the year 1500, the world population is estimated to have been less than 500 million. It took 300 years for that figure to double to one billion. In 1960, the world pop was three billion. By the year 2000, 40 years later, it had doubled to six billion. You could call that explosive humping. Today we are at 7.5 billion. The rate of growth has eased a fraction, but still, given current trajectory, simple math puts us around 10 billion by 2050, a short 30 plus years from now.
When I first visited Cancun, Mexico, and Phuket, Thailand decades ago, they were beach outposts, minus the proliferation of high-rise hotels and the antiseptic feeling of an overrun tourist destination. Similar outposts are fast being built to attract newer avid travelers. And they will come. Most major airports around the world are bursting at capacity, thick with worm-hole lines to check-in, security, customs, and immigration, while short of gates for arriving planes. Many flights are delayed for takeoff because of congestion at the destination airport. When I flew out of LAX in April, as we were sitting on the runway approach going nowhere, the pilot announced that we were number 12 in line and it would be another 20 minutes or so before takeoff. As we turned the corner to liftoff, there were another 12 behind us.
There are may places in the world, like the Inca trail between Aguas Calientes and Manchu Picchu, in the Andes of Peru, a typically four-day hike, that was independently treck-able not long ago. Because of its mushroomed popularity, the only way now to hike the old stone path built by the Incas a millennium ago is with a guided group tour. (It is still a spectacular hike)
Not only will we be adding another 30% to the world’s population over the next generation, but consider also that two most populated countries, China and India, together more than 1/3 of the world’s pop, have been experiencing highly dynamic economic growth during the last decade resulting in hundreds of millions rising out of poverty and joining the middle class. Tens of millions in these two countries are now financially wealthy. These millions with new money will eventually be looking for destination feathers to stick in their travel hats.
A couple of generations ago, those who traveled wrote letters, books, or passed their travel exploits by word of mouth. Today we have instant information streaming at our fingertips for virtually every spot on earth, complete with photos and detailed instructions how to get there.
By adding up the following:
- the earth’s ballooning population of homo sapiens resulting from our relatively recent insatiable urge for planting human seeds
- instant access to information about anywhere
- significantly improved infrastructures coupled with more developed trade relations among most countries
- the swelling class boom in China and India and their eventual yearn to spend,
and a solid long-term business may be owning a hostel or hotel in a lazy, soon to be overrun, tourist ghetto.