Miles, a loyal MR reader, writes to me:
I’ve spent a fair amount of time today at my desk in California looking at this, and it got me thinking about an interesting interplay between the tourism industry and the “digital revolution”:
(use the +/- buttons to zoom and drag to shift the view)
After finding people and understanding the scale of those mountains, I am in awe of Everest and the Himalayas, but feel absolutely no need to travel there. A digital representation has given me an amazing experience of a place on the other side of the world, and at least for this particular occasion, has convinced me never to go there (try to find the people climbing the upper portion of the glacier and you’ll understand why). So maybe some amazing (non deadly) location would convince me that I need to visit in person, but at some point, the digital experience gets so good that it’s a better, cheaper alternative to travelling. If in a few hundred years we can create digital experiences far more immersive than physical visits to locations, what experiences/amenities/etc will induce people to travel? Where will tourism die off (Himalayas), where will it increase (Paris)? As you say, solve for the equilibrium.
Thought it might make for an interesting discussion.
I predict that bustling, interactive locations — such as Guatemala — will do fine, and it is the static nature settings which will face a bit more competition. That said, while I have never visited the Himalayas, I suspect the trip there involves a lot of bustling interaction with local cultures and that the final destination is in part an excuse for the process. Keep also in mind that most of us do not in fact enjoy travel but enjoy only the memories of travel, with our minds playing a fairly active role as editor. I doubt if the memory of visiting the digital image will ever compare, even if the image itself is more beautiful and more convenient than the reality of an actual physical site. Finally, there is marketing to consider. The digital image may market the original, just as the rather vivid LOTR movies have boosted tourism to New Zealand rather than replacing it. So overall I still see tourism as a continuing growth industry.