Europe pundits predict contintent's tourism future


NEW YORK -- What are the most significant trends that will affect travel to Europe over the next 100 years?

We put this question to a handful of industry veterans with this note: "Predictions can be as wild, brash, shocking, comical and as far out as you please."

Some rose to the occasion, others stuck to a script. We'll let you determine who gave the most interesting answers.

Cees Bosselaar, director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism in New York:

  • Everyone in the developed world is nuts. They work too hard and are too materialistic; they want houses and Porsches. In the new millennium, society will realize that life is really all about spirituality, health and relationships.
  • However, the relaxing element of a vacation will be less important to people. They will go on one-year sabbaticals to experience their fantasy.

  • Over the next 10 or 20 years, Europe will go through a Disney-fication and McDonald's-ization. Then there will be a reaction: "Let's keep things traditional and not screw it up."
  • One hundred years from now we will try harder to preserve the authenticity of architecture and destinations. There will be stricter zoning and building codes.

  • One hundred years from now, technology will allow for virtual experiences to Europe so that people don't have to travel there.
  • More Europeans will travel outside of Europe because it's so crowded, leaving more room for tourists from other parts of the world.
  • The climate is getting so screwed up that sun-and-fun destinations might be changed. The climate might be too hot in places like the south of France, so we might all head to the north tip of Norway.
  • Travel seasons will be eliminated: There will be no more summer peak season for Europe. The educational system will be changed and there won't necessarily be summer vacations. In the future, families will be able to travel at different times and not during school holidays.
  • Travel right now is a pain: Airports are full, hotels are overbooked, plane food stinks and flights are delayed. The main goal of the travel industry should be making the experience of getting someplace a more pleasant experience. If this does not happen, growth in travel will stop.
  • Bob Drumm, president of General Tours in Keene, N.H.

  • Americans on the East Coast will have weekend houses in Europe instead of the Hamptons. They will escape to places like the south of France and Brittany [France]. This will be possible because air travel will be so much faster than it is today.
  • The center of many European cities will be closed to vehicular traffic. These city centers will be operated like live museums, where national heritage will be emphasized through arts and crafts.
  • Looking at cities, [European] governments will have to choose between allocating space for residents or tourism traffic.

    Bernard Frelat, president of Rail Europe and in White Plains, N.Y.:

  • By the end of the century every nation there will have joined the European Union -- Wales, Scotland, Switzerland, even the eastern European countries -- every one but England.
  • Europeans will all have one currency, which will have parity with the dollar. Europe will finally surrender to the dollar, but its currency will be the eurodollar.
  • There will be one language in Europe, but it will not be English. The French will retaliate against the English for not joining the European Union, and of course the European Union will continue to retaliate against American domination. So the official tongue of Europe will be a combination of French and German. This will be French with all of the c's replaced by k's. Tourists will still need a translator.
  • All major cities in continental Europe -- who knows about England -- will be linked by 400 mph, high-speed trains.
  • Conventional planes will be replaced by rocket aircraft that will travel at 5,000 mph and will only be used for intercontinental travel, covering 1,000 miles in five minutes. The rockets will go up 100,000 miles vertically and then go horizontal.

  • No one will own a car anymore. Cars will be made available on a street corners for free. They will be managed like a pool; passengers will pay on a usage basis.
  • Users will have a computer chip that allows them to turn the car on, then they will be billed direct. The car can be activated for a few minutes or a few days. An on-board computer drives the car and speaks several languages. Taxi cabs will have disappeared.

  • The top destination in the world will be the Galapagos Islands [Ecuador]; going there will be the only way for people to return to the prehistoric world where a computer chip doesn't control their lives.
  • Visits will be limited to one day. No one will be able to stand it for more than 24 hours because people will be so wired, they won't be able to go without technology for longer than that.

    There will be no place like the Galapagos in the world, unless France continues with its plan to eliminate work, then France will become the world's largest national park and continue to its reign as the leading travel destination of the world.

    Einar Gustavsson, director of the Iceland Tourist Board in New York and U.S. chairman of the European Travel Commission:

  • The U.S. economy will grow further over the long term and the middle class will expand. Consequently, there will be an expanding and regenerating market for travel to Europe. The productivity gains will also continue giving Americans much longer vacation time than we have seen so far.
  • Bigger aircraft such as the A3XX, which will be able to take 600 passengers, and further down the line, thousand-passenger Zeppelin-style "air ships," will take people on six-hour trips from New York to London, not using runways, but going from downtown to downtown.
  • Big problems will arise on the arrivals end. Europe's great iconic sites are in danger of being overwhelmed by tourism. The problem is not really with U.S. visitors, but with the expansion of intra-European tourism to hundreds of millions of annual trips.
  • Part of the solution is to develop and create new places of interest, from northern Scandinavia to the interior regions of Spain and from eastern Europe to the far reaches of Turkey. Large investments in promotions will be required to shift the traffic patterns.

  • Europe will continue to lead in development of new museums, performance centers and architectural structures. All of these will reduce the pressures on the old and treasured, but familiar sites.
  • A spacecraft, the Orbiter, will take you anywhere you want to go in one hour. The Orbiter will replace the Concorde as the favorite transportation mode of rich clients and business travelers.
  • Printed brochures will cease to exist. Handheld computers will guide tourists around Europe, providing an updated list of events. The computers will also allow travelers to pay for events.
  • Imad Khalidi, president of Auto Europe, Portland, Maine:

  • 2001: There will be a growth of 15% of U.S. visitors to Europe. Car rental growth will follow at the same speed.
  • 2005: Twenty-five million Americans will visit Europe, creating traffic jams on the already jammed highways, and in restaurants and hotels.
  • 2010: Fifty million Americans will go to Europe. Actual rude Europeans will become ruder to Americans and show them they are not welcome anymore.
  • 2011: Americans will create a virtual reality tour of Europe and charge $10 for the CD. Europe is dead as a destination.
  • 2015: Trips will start to outer space, including Mars and Jupiter. The first McDonald's fast-food museum will open on Mars.
  • Space car rental will be there as the first Hertz location on Mars. If I am alive by that time, I will be a running a brokerage space car rental company -- Automars or Autojupiter -- just to bother Hertz.

    Rosario Mariani, Alitalia's vice president sales, North America & Mexico:

  • The biggest growth in travel to Europe will come from the special-interest market. Travelers who have been to Europe many times will participate in narrow niche programs, like a tour for butterfly catchers. The people who have not been to Europe before, mostly from middle America, will still take escorted tours.
  • Increased air frequencies and lower fares will result in a higher rate of family-and-friends travel. In fact, fares will be so cheap, people will fly to Italy just go to the opera.
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