A future of youth creep and geriatric lesbians

17 May 2002

One clear trend is driving the future, said futurist Richard Neville, and that is the acceleration of time and the disappearance of time.

Speaking at the PATA Annual Conference in Delhi last month, he said the age of power leisure was on us, citing executives who do power gardening - mowing the lawn while downsizing the marketing department.

Is the industry ready for power tourism? Ten minutes at Taj Mahal the rest of the day at an Internet café?

"The future is already here and it is changing your life and your customers lives," said Neville. He identified three driving forces.

? Globalisation - this carries with it the potential to create the first whole earth civilisation, which can also be seen as colonisation under a different name. It is turning the world into one shopping mall. "We are born free and everyone is in franchised chains," he said.

? Cyber revolution - an age of information resources is empowering customers who, in turn, will keep pressure on all of us to be innovative and be truthful.

? Sustainability - the quest for environmental sustainability will gather momentum. "In some parts of the world, the threat of environmental degradation is greater than the dangers of terrorism."

Tourism needs to nourish its role as more than an antidote to terrorism - one that goes beyond paying lip service to the environment. It needs "triple bottomline accounting" in environmental practices, said Neville.

Citing John F Kennedy who in 1961 declared, "By the end of the decade, we will put a man on the moon", Neville said, "JFK gave us the moon. What have other politicians given us - just spin doctoring and increased taxes?

"The world seems a much more dangerous place to be in now and the gap between rich and poor is wider. We have two segments of the population - the cash rich, time poor and the time rich, cash poor."

He warned about "a joker in the future pack - a wild card - and it doesn't have to be a disaster.

He said the world was undergoing sweeping change in values and ethics. Walls are coming down that will affect tourism - walls between wholesale and retail, product and service, night and day, body and mind, place and space, real and artificial, fact and fictitious, shareholders and stakeholders, and education, entertainment and experience.

"Any destination that can offer the three (education, entertainment and experience), in one hit will be the winner."

The wall between middle age and old age was also collapsing, said Neville. Middle age is now 55 to 75 and he called it ?youth creep?.

"People are living longer but men die sooner," he said. "Soon the world will be full of geriatric lesbians - do you have travel plans for them?"

He said that since 9-11, nation states have become more paranoid, intrusive and furtive. Fear has entered the travel industry.

Tourism, he said, has to get out of its suburban cocoon and nourish the meaning of travel beyond shopping and false tourism experiences.

"People want to touch and feel the world as it is. People are asking deeper questions about their own lives and questions about other people's beliefs. They are searching for authenticity." These "contemporary pilgrims", he said, "are not searching for the meaning of life but meaning in life."

He predicted a boom in spiritual tourism where "people who used to go to Bangkok for bonking and Buddha sticks now go for Buddha".

He said up to now, evolution could be summed up in three stages - conquest, colonisation and consumption. "We have gone from the cave to K-Mart."

Citing an alternative evolution which was at once vertical, psychological and spiritual, he said the future was a race between self-destruction and self-discovery, "and your industry has a role to play in its outcome".

For article on Mark Shuttleworth's space adventure, click here: Space Odyssey 2002

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