The purpose of this paper is to briefly review the development of drive tourism in the past 75 years, highlight contemporary issues that will shape the structure of drive tourism in the near future and speculate on how drive tourism may develop in future decades.
The paper draws on a range of academic and grey literature to identify the major trends that are now emerging in the drive tourism sector. These trends form the basis for observations on how new and emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles may offer new drive tourism opportunities in coming decades.
Recent and near-future advances in automobile technologies, including propulsion and control, are likely to radically alter the structure and operation of drive tourism, offering new opportunities for participation in this form of tourism. The paper observes that the tourism industry must act in a proactive rather than reactive manner if it is to maximise the opportunities that will emerge “from” the coming period of climate change and technology-generated disruption.
Drive tourism has opened many previously remote areas for tourism bringing benefits such as employment and business opportunities. However, the growth of drive tourism may also have social costs including disruption to local social norms as people migrate into and out of these areas in search of new economic opportunities. Future developments in drive tourism may create similar disruptions.
Despite the size and value of the global drive tourism market, academic investigation has been limited. The value of this paper lies in its identification of a range of issues that need further research, including the need to rethink the structure of drive tourism and how new technologies and future responses to climate change may affect this sector.
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