Global Travel Revolution Challenges Climate Targets
The global travel & tourism revolution is spreading to China and other rapidly developing economies in Asia. It underscores how challenging it will be to meet emissions targets while satisfying growing aspirations for tourism and leisure.
Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industries, and the number of leisure travelers globally is set to increase enormously in the next few decades as more families reach middle-class status for the first time.
Travel to learn more about the world and experience new places appears to be a basic human instinct; all modern societies show increasing demand for travel, much of it for leisure, as incomes rise and transportation improves.
Leisure travel is set to make one of the largest contributions to rising energy consumption and carbon emissions through 2050, with much of the increase concentrated in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
International air travel will make an especially large contribution to emissions because aviation is energy-intensive and for the foreseeable future there are no low-carbon alternatives to relying on jet fuel. […]
CHINA TRAVEL BOOM
Britain’s mobility revolution has been matched or exceeded in all the advanced economies of Europe, North America, Japan and Australasia.
Now the mobility revolution is spreading to China and other rapidly developing economies in Asia and around the world as hundreds of millions more people move out of poverty and the middle class expands.
China’s railway passenger traffic has been growing at a compound average annual rate of more than 6% since 1990 while air travel has been soaring at almost 15% per year.
China’s passenger rail traffic has been doubling every 12 years while air passenger traffic has been doubling every five years, according to government data.
Massive investment in rail networks, including long-distance high-speed systems, as well as airports and aircraft has boosted capacity, reduced travel times and encouraged a surge in internal travel, much of it leisure-related.
China’s rail network had grown to 127,000 kilometers (78,914 miles) in 2017 up from 78,000 kilometers in 2007 and 66,000 kilometers in 1997, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The high-speed rail network has grown from less than 1,000 kilometers in 2008 to more than 25,000 kilometers by 2017 (“Annual statistical yearbook”, NBS, 2018).
Air routes have more than quadrupled since the turn of the century while the number of aircraft in use has risen five-fold.
Growth in overseas travel by China’s middle class is also soaring. China’s residents made 143 million trips overseas in 2017 up from 41 million in 2007 and 5 million in 1997, according to the World Tourism Organization.
AFTER CHINA …
China’s mobility revolution is far from completed. And behind China are other major nations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East where the revolution has barely begun.
India’s residents made just 26 million trips overseas in 2018 compared with 70 million in the United Kingdom and 93 million in the United States. […]
The global travel revolution underscores how challenging it will be to meet emissions targets while satisfying growing aspirations for tourism and leisure.