Where will the travel industry be in 20 years?

Since I wrote my virtual travel book, I’ve been asked many times where I see the travel industry in 20 years. Though detailed predictions that far in the future are difficult to make, I do go into quite a bit of detail in the book.

And, it’s too much for a blog, or even a series of blogs. So, here, I’ll focus on the major transport aspects of travel, i.e., airlines, rental cars, and public ground transport. I’ll go into hotels, as well as architecture and construction in my next blog.

As virtual travel takes hold, I believe that in 20 years, the available market for traditional passenger travel by airlines, rental cars, and public ground transportation will be smaller, possibly significantly smaller, despite continuing population growth.

• There will be a clearly discernable and possibly significant reduction in the number of airline passengers.
• Airlines savvy enough to adapt will increase “non-human passengers”(i.e., freight) to take up some, though certainly not all of the slack.
• There will be a reduction in the number of flights, airlift capacity, number of employees and other aspects of their operations.
• Airline revenues will be down, and profitability will almost certainly continue to elude them all.
• This will have a domino effect on the aircraft manufacturing industry.
• Fewer departing passengers will mean fewer arriving passenger to rent cars. Local car rentals will not make up the deficit.
• As with the airlines, rental car companies will have reduced the size of their fleets, number of employees and other aspects of their operations.
• Rental Car company revenues and profits will be down, although profitability might continue to a point as they downsize.
• This will have a domino effect on the automobile industry.
• Local mass transit will have seen a ridership reduction
• The same will be true for taxis, buses, and other forms of ground transportation
• Public Ground Transportation revenue and profits, or contribution to profits will also be down.

Finally, and alarmingly for these industries, the trend will continue downward from the 20-year mark.

In the book, I think I make a logical case for these basic predictions.  Although all of you are certainly free to disagree. Check it out if you are a doubter, or if you’d like to get more rationale.  And please, let me know what you think!

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