Long-Haul Tourism in 2050

"2050 Scenarios for Long-Haul Tourism in the Evolving Global Climate Change Regime"

An unrestricted increase in aviation emissions is not compatible with international climate stabilisation targets. Shaun Vorster, Marius Ungerer and Jako Volschenk illustrate in four different scenarios what the future of long-haul tourism in 2050 might look like, depending on the political course of action or inaction taken today. These scenarios might help to better understand the status quo and estimate the risks of a 'business as usual' approach.

The development of long-haul tourism in the next four decades significantly depends on future climate-related policies and on the way in which aviation is addressed under the new global climate regime. Emissions-related restrictions (emission caps and/or emission permits that need to be paid for) will have impacts on long-haul tourism. But without such restrictions, long term sustainability – not only in tourism – is at stake.

It is not clear yet what kind of new global framework the UN climate negotiations will bring. It is also still open whether there is political will for a global sector agreement to control international aircraft emissions under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The authors describe four scenarios, among which only the "green lantern" scenario is desirable. In this scenario, the growth in aviation is successfully delinked from the growth in emissions. For this scenario to be realised and for dangerous global warming not to exceed two degrees Celsius, all countries and all economic sectors must jointly make major proactive efforts.

The scenario of the "fallen angel", characterised by market and political failure shows the consequences of a lost decade. In this scenario, the tourism industry takes a reactive role, the aviation industry an observant role. In this scenario as well as in the "grim reaper" scenario, global warming will in this century increase to more than 3.5 °C. Due to climate change, ecological tipping points will be exceeded, with disastrous social and economic impacts also in many tourist destinations. The failure of international politics is described with a certain degree of sarcasm: "ICAO had much more important challenges to deal with, including managing the security (e.g. cyber-terrorism) and navigation aspects associated with the rapid growth in air traffic worldwide."

The fourth one, the "Florence Nightingale" scenario, is hardly plausible. It envisions a change of course in tourism (and more so in tourism than in other sectors), but this does not come about due to successful international policies; it happens under the pressure of high oil prices.

For the desirable "green lantern" scenario to become reality, there is a need for leadership in government and industry, and behavioural change on the part of tourists. At the same time, tourist destinations should heed the early warning signals and take effective precautions.

2050 Scenarios for Long-Haul Tourism in the Evolving Global Climate Change Regime. By Shaun Vorster, Marius Ungerer and Jako Volschenk, University of Stellenbosch Business School/South Africa, 2012, In: Sustainability 2013, 5, 1-51. ISSN 2071-1050. Download:


(TW 70, March 2013)