The future of travel

The future of travel

  • The travel industry must use the crisis to take steps to address carbon emissions
  • It can look to precedents like 9/11 and other virus outbreaks to equip itself for change and resilience
  • Travellers should consider the impact on the planet and the potentially positive economic impact on the communities they visit

The future of travel used to be flying cars and faster-than-sound jets but Covid-19 has changed all that. Today the travel industry would simply settle for a resumption of some normality.

The pandemic has been devastating for the travel industry, which Tony Wheeler (MBA1972) is extremely familiar with. He is the co-founder, alongside his wife Maureen, of the Lonely Planet publishing house, and they are donors to London Business School’s Wheeler Institute for Business and Development.

Rajesh Chandy, Academic Director of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development was joined in conversation with Tony Wheeler, founder of the Lonely Planet, and George Looker (MBA2020) Project Officer at the Wheeler Institute, to discuss how the pandemic is impacting the travel sector and consider some of the long term implications.

Lonely Planet’s explosive growth in the 1980s and 1990s coincided with a new phase of cheaper travel. Few intrepid treks across Indonesia or interrailing journeys of self-discovery across Europe were conducted without one of the distinctive Lonely Planet guides sticking out of the top of a pocket. It had never been easier to see the world.

For Tony Wheeler, an appetite for diverse experiences will not be easily forgotten. In a fireside chat with George Looker (MBA2020), he remained cautiously optimistic about the future but sees large and small changes to the travel experience of the future. Some, he suggests, will come from consumers; others from innovation in the industry.

It is his hope that responsible travel, like the Wheeler Institute itself, will play an important role in bringing the world together and solving some of its toughest developmental challenges.

“The travel industry has an enormous challenge ahead of it but equally it shouldn’t waste the opportunities the pandemic has created,” said Tony Wheeler. “We should be looking at making some improvements.

“There’s no question that we did, to some extent, over-travel.

“Travel is going to be local at first. If you’re in London, that’s going to mean travel in Britain, or travel with Britain and Ireland, or traveling around Europe. You’re not going to be thinking about going to South America or North America, certainly not to Asia and Australia.

“I think when it comes back, it’s not going to just jump back to suddenly we’re going everywhere and EasyJet are in full operation and Emirates are flying you all over the world. That’s not going to happen, it is going to be different.”



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