Friday, 30 January 2004

If Air Travel Was Expensive...

I was musing over this thought the other day. This is just a ramble....

We live in an age of massive mobility. Railroads and bicycles were the beginning and their impact was huge. Tourism was born. Motor vehicles came next and eventually became affordable. In the last few decades, mass tourism and global trade really took off with the advent of cheap air travel. This massive mobility has forged the way world works today.

What if energy sources were taxed to reflect their true cost? What if fuel became expensive? What if air travel was no longer affordable?

Some speculation...

Obviously it would quickly wipe out mass tourism. That could be quite a good thing as tourism places a huge stress on many popular destinations. Of course, it would also cause a huge economic shifts for these locations as they found new sources of income. In some cases, this might be better; while others, maybe not.

Holidays would occur closer to home. Less foreign tourists; more local tourists. Less mobility would probably strengthen the use of local languages.

It would dampen globalisation. To be cost effective, goods would need to be shipped by sea or rail and that takes longer. Fresh fruit from exotic locations would disappear. Cut flowers would be expensive. There would be a stronger market for locally grown products.

Distant places would become more exotic - again. There would be less mixing of cultures and a strengthening of local culture. It would be odd because cheap communication technologies would still enable distant interactions. So you can stay informed and collaborate all around the world but you wouldn't visit much of it. Maybe this would undermine sympathies for other cultures. Maybe this is dangerous because media companies would have more influence over how the world is perceived. Or maybe the Internet and video conferencing would reverse that. Hhhmmmm.

World-wide professional conferences would probably have to happen online, if at all.

The nature of business would change with business travel getting too expensive. Person-to-person in-the-flesh interactions are critical for developing trust. Trust is critical before any relationship, businesss or otherwise, is established. All our communication technologies are still a poor substitute for that. It would probably mean more regional business groups and less global times. That's probably true for any social group.

Politically this would put the emphasis on stronger regional economic zones as global mobility became more difficult.

It would be a very different world. Maybe a better world.

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