Climate change, population growth, shortages of oil and other resources will have dramatic impacts on how, where, when – and even if – people travel, and will reshape the industry over time.

We explored how factors like these could lead to very different worlds in 2023, each holding very different futures for the industry. We worked with tourism experts to create four vivid scenarios, and then generate a vision of the sustainable future the industry wants for itself.

Major companies and organisations have now pledged to collaborate to create a commercially sustainable tourism industry by the year 2023 which benefits communities in tourist destinations and protects the environment.

ABTA, Advantage Travel Centres, British Airways, Carnival UK, Sunvil, The Co-operative Travel, The Travel Foundation, Thomas Cook and TUI Travel were the first to sign the Tourism 2023 Vision. The founding partners are inviting other organisations to sign up to this vision and take part in the next phase of work, which will help shape the future of tourism.

The scenarios, vision and a strategy to implement the commitments were launched at the ABTA Travel Convention in Barcelona on October 8th, 2009. More than 100 people with expertise in different facets of the industry - including business leaders, academics, legislators, campaigners and commentators – have been involved in creating them.

Tourism 2023 is coordinated by Forum for the Future and supported by Defra.

The Tourism 2023 scenarios

The scenarios explore critical uncertainties facing the UK outbound industry, such as the impact of growing domestic demand, climate change, resource scarcity, legislation and increasing travel from emerging economies.

Vivid details bring the world of each scenario to life and are designed to provoke debate. Will mass tourism, swollen by the Chinese and Indian middle classes, cause huge overcrowding in popular destinations? Will soaring oil prices make air travel so expensive that families have to save for years to fly abroad? Will we see “Doomsday tourism”, with visitors rushing to see glaciers and coral reefs before they’re gone for good? Or will household “carbon quotas” see Britons go back to holidaying at home?

The scenarios have been illustrated in four short animations created by students from Goldsmiths College, London.

The Tourism 2023 Vision and Strategy

Signatories to the Tourism 2023 Vision commit to taking action individually and as an industry group to achieve a sustainable industry by 2023. It is based on six principles: protecting the environment; developing employees; providing customers with mainstream sustainable products; ensuring that destinations benefit from tourism; innovating to create sustainable transport and resorts; and developing a business which is environmentally, socially and financially sustainable.

The project identified three potential work streams on issues which require urgent industry collaboration: demonstrating that tourism delivers real socio-economic benefit to tourist destinations; making tourism a low-carbon, low-impact industry; and encouraging demand from customers for sustainable tourism.

Click here to download the Tourism 2023 report with full details of the scenarios, vision and strategy.

Next steps

The founding partners and Forum for the Future, ABTA and the Travel Foundation, with the support of Government, are now working together to engage the wider industry and set out a programme of work to deliver the Tourism 2023 Vision. They will also develop a set of measures to evaluate progress.

Get involved

To sign your company up to the Tourism 2023 vision or for an update on ongoing collaborative projects contact Vicky Murray at

Forum for the Future can also help you use or adapt the Tourism 2023 scenarios to test organisational or regional strategies, policies or to guide sustainable tourism product development. Most recently, we helped SouthWest Tourism in the UK to update their regional tourism strategy. We facilitated a series of workshops to make the scenarios relevant for the area, and we also tested their current strategy in the light of the four, very different, possible futures.

Click here to find out more about how Forum can help you on your sustainable tourism journey.

Media coverage

The Independent, 17 January 2010
Freezing snow, blazing sun – the British holidays of the future
Travel Weekly, 23 October 2009
Forum for the Future guest edits special sustainable tourism edition
Guardian, 13 October 2009
Climate change to re-shape tourism
Marketing, 9 October 2009
Tourism industry launches branded 'Tourism 2023' sustainability scheme
Travel Weekly, 8 October 2009
ABTA 2009: Travel giants back Tourism 2023 project
Daily Mail, 8 October 2009
The future of tourism: Airships, space travel for everyone and ticket-only admission to Paris
Geographical, 1 December 2008
Travel adaptors
Metro, 9 October 2008
Travel industry looks to the future
Genitron S Villuppo (Italian sustainable development web magazine)


Enjoyed this? Here are some other Futures projects you might like to read:

  • Fashion Futures 2025 - using futures techniques to develop global scenarios for a sustainable fashion industry
  • Tea 2030 - exploring the challenges facing the tea sector's future – and how to overcome them
  • The Five Capitals - looking at the five types of sustainable capital

Tourism 2023 Animations

How will we holiday in 2023? No one can predict the future and the Tourism 2023 scenarios do not try to. But they do each show a plausible world we might find ourselves in.

The four scenarios explore the key uncertainties facing the tourism industry and offer vivid images of possible futures. They have been brought to life in animations created by students from Goldsmiths’ College, London.

Boom and burst

A booming UK economy and impressive advances in transport technologies have fuelled a growth in travel worldwide. People travel more frequently, for further and at faster speeds than ever before and there are many new reasons to go abroad.

But precarious trade-offs have been needed in order to meet the UK’s emission targets, and many destinations are suffering from serious overcrowding. People are now asking: how long can this growth be maintained?

View animation or Download

Divided disquiet

Travelling overseas is an unattractive proposition. A toxic combination of devastating climate change impacts, violent wars over scarce resources and social unrest has created an unstable and fearful world. Security is tight and travel is cumbersome, time-consuming and inefficient.

Visitors are highly selective in where and when they travel, cramming into a small number of destinations where tight restrictions and overcrowding compound the problems. Many people have begun to think that holidaying abroad just makes the problems worse.

View animation or Download

Price and privilege

A dramatically high oil price has made travel punitively expensive. Cost is the primary concern for holidaymakers as everyone asks: how far can I get for my money?

Although a small, elite market continues to fly regularly, the vast majority of people simply cannot afford the experience. There have been mass redundancies across the travel industry and the affordability of overland routes has led to radical restructuring.

View animation or Download

Carbon clampdown

Tradable carbon quotas have been introduced for all UK households as part of the government’s bold plans to tackle climate change. The public has clamoured for tough action as environmental impacts are increasingly felt.

Holidaymakers are highly sensitive to the impacts of their travel and seek ethical experiences that are within their carbon budget. Holidaying in Britain is back in fashion and has soared in popularity.

View animation or Download



"Boom and Burst"
Scenario by Forum for the Future
Animation by Zarino Zappia,
Narration by Richard Earl

"Divided Disquiet"
Scenario by Forum for the Future
Animation by Stevie Robinson
Narration by Claire Wyatt

"Price and Privilege"
Scenario by Forum for the Future
Animation by Jane Xu
Narration by Claire Wyatt

"Carbon Clampdown"
Scenario by Forum for the Future
Animation by Aaron Lee
Narration by Richard Earl, Nicholas Rutherford and Claire Wyatt

People involved in this project