In 2019, travel and tourism contributed $9.25 trillion to the global economy. That number was projected to grow in 2020. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) expected the upward trend of free-to-roam world travel to eventually produce 8.2 billion air travelers by the year 2037 — more than the entire global population in 2020. And then the world spun into a pandemic. Borders closed, economies were very literally shut down, and leisurely travel around the globe — something that’s a completely modern phenomenon and experience — instantly ceased to exist.
According to IATA now, it won’t be until 2023 when flight traffic returns to pre-pandemic numbers. And now that leisure travel has slowly started to creep back as an option for some citizens of the world, albeit with major restrictions and health guidelines to follow in response to COVID-19, new statistics are starting to help researchers understand what to project for post-pandemic global travel.
Some of their observations are fascinating when imagining a day when surf trips can be planned again — if ever — at least in terms of international travel. If we are to believe The Economist, we all may want to get comfortable with the idea of our surf trips excluding airport security and baggage fees for a while. A majority of travel right now is executed domestically, meaning road trips are the new norm whether your activity is surfing, skiing, backpacking, or just a weekend holiday with the family. In May, for example, 80 percent of Airbnb reservations were made domestically. And that is actually one major upside, of course, knowing that carbon emissions from commercial flights accounted for 2.4 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions in 2018.
But the global travel footprint is probably the only clear positive for outdoor sports travelers right now. We’ve all grown used to booking trips to remote destinations to get our fix in the water or on the hill and at least for the foreseeable future, the entire segment of our industry that relies on international travel is on indefinite hold. So if you’re itching to get away, it may be years before flying is your best option. For now, we might just have to embrace the idea of domestic surf or snow trips.