If there is one thing the world has learnt from the recent environmental catastrophe in Australia, it is that climate change is real and it is here with us and it is not leaving any time soon.
Unusually high temperatures and months of severe drought triggered a series of massive bushfires across Australia that left 27.2 million acres of bush, forest and parks across the country burned. That is nearly the size of the UK! There are fears Australia might never recover from this. But what does this have to do with the future of travel you ask? Everything!
As the world grows ever more conscious of the devastating effects of a wounded planet, paradigms are shifting. People are beginning to become more sensitive about their carbon emission levels. They are watching their carbon footprints almost with the same intensity they watch their weight. Every effort will be channelled towards smaller carbon footprints and travel, which is a major carbon contributor, cannot afford to be left behind in this second green revolution.
The keywords that will drive and fuel future travel will be sustainability and eco-friendliness. It is now clear that this planet is not infallible after all and the race to protect its fragileness has already begun and will only intensify going forward. More and more sector players are embracing these new concepts as they daily engage in the ever-so-delicate balance between safeguarding the planet and earning from it.
Kenya already has an elaborate ecofriendly framework that is used to rate and reward tourism sector players for pursuing eco-friendly business practices. The national carrier, Kenya Airways, in collaboration with Wildlife Works, a forest and wildlife conservation company that uses carbon offsetting to fund its work, now allows its passengers to offset the carbon emissions from every flight they take.
The conservancy movement, on the other hand, is aggressively advocating for sustainable adventure travel in favour of its more destructive mass tourism alternative. In the future, travel products will appeal more to smaller groups of adventure seekers who spend more but leave a much smaller footprint on a tourism asset. The idea aims to guarantee a truly magical safari experience in an exclusive environment where the pressure on nature gets greatly minimised.
In a time not too far away, biometric face recognition software and machine-readable passports combined with digital boarding passes will mean that travellers will spend significantly less time clearing with customs at our points of arrival and departure. The net effect will be a significant reduction in paper usage, thriving forest cover and, of course, a happier traveller.
Future travel will equally see a further rise in the so-called silent traveller segment that has been growing steadily in the last 2 decades. The silent traveller is typically a middle-income, tech-savvy individual who has little time in their hands to spare because the cogs of corporate busyness cannot run without them.
The silent traveller never has the time to walk to a brick-and-mortar travel agency to discuss their travel itinerary and hence greatly rely on peer-reviewed online travel platforms like Booking.com, TripAdvisor TravelStart, SafariQuest and cab-hailing services to plan their travel. In the future, these platforms will themselves evolve into state-of-the-art Artificially Intelligent integrated platforms relying on big data and machine learning to predict the tastes and preferences of the traveller with near-precision.
But perhaps the single greatest disruption that will shape future travel will be the energy sources that will power the next general of travel technology. Electric Safari Pty Ltd, a South African company that specialises in converting normally aspirated vehicles into fully electric vehicles running on liquid-cooled batteries from TESLA is taking the lead role in Africa with their first-ever electric-powered safari vehicles.
According to Steven Blatherwick, Electric Safari’s founder, an electric safari cruiser or rover can perform comparably well to its diesel counterpart with far less carbon emission, zero noise pollution and significantly lower maintenance cost. “In the 1 year since we released our first-ever safari vehicle to a commercial lodge, it has cost the lodge USD 1.2 on average per day on on-grid charging with an amazing 3.5 tons saving on carbon emissions annually,” he said.
Going green is the new cool and future travel will very definitely be at the centre of this disruption to remain relevant and competitive. Of course, this will not come cheap initially. It costs about USD 56,131 (inclusive of a USD 10,831 solar charging unit) to repurpose an aspirated vehicle into an electric one for instance. This is in addition to the initial vehicle purchase price.
The secret lies in the running costs of the vehicle which are significantly lower and the amazingly low carbon emissions which make this car a darling for businesses working in environmentally sensitive areas such as national parks. “You can recoup your investment in about 4 years with an electric vehicle besides enhancing your credibility with customers when they see the length you are willing to go to make the world a better place,” Steven adds. What are you doing to make your travel business green?