7 Billion People – What does this mean for Travel?

| October 30, 2011 | 22 Comments

World Population Growth 7 Billion

No matter how unique we all think we are, realistically we are still just a number. In fact I am the 79,691,134,498 human-being on this planet according to the UN population statistics:

  • 4.8 billion were still alive before me.
  • 3.5 billion have since been born after me.
  • 1.4 billion have died since I was born.

The reason I know this is that the UN has a very cool website where you can input the day and location you were born and it will give you all the statistics on who has lived before you and after you. It outlines where people are being born and where they are moving too.

Since 1968, the population of our world has doubled. Doubled! That’s 3.5 billion people extra in just 40 years.

The majority of this rapid population growth is occurring in less developed countries. Countries that the majority of us like to travel to.

So with the population due to reach 7 BILLION PEOPLE today it raises a number of worrying questions for me.

What does this mean for travel?

Well one of the benefits of population growth is that every day our world gets smaller and it becomes easier to travel. New planes and routes to connect the growth areas means that places that were previously inaccessible can now be reached by any Joe Blogs with any tour company. For goodness sake you can even pay a huge sum of cash and basically be carried up Mount Everest!

World Population

However, Population Growth does raise a number of issues. The greatest one which I have noticed is that I feel that every location I travel to becomes more Westernised. For every kind of traveller this creates problem. Although we may not all be perpetual traveller’s trying to “find” oneself the majority of us DO travel to explore new areas and cultures that we don’t get at home.

So these unique and new destinations will no longer be authentic in 20, 10 or even 1 years time. What will travellers do? Will we just travel for rest and relaxation? I know some people travel to the same destination year on year and absolutely love it.

Personally I don’t see the appeal of visiting an English pub in a warm and sunny climate such as Ibiza. Who wants to just hang out with the same food, drinks and people that you get at home?

How will this growing population affect my future travel plans?

Unfortunately I find myself with more questions than answers.

Would love to get your feedback below about why you are travelling and what you think population growth means for travellers? Has over-population or changes to “authentic” destinations meant that you have changed your travel plans?

About the Author ()

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

Comments (22)

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  1. Andrea says:

    Interesting observations! I agree with you – most cities looks very similar as a result of globalization. I was so surprised by what I saw this year travelling to South America, for example. Sections of Lima, Bogota, Santiago, Buenos Aires, etc. look like they could be plucked right out of the US.

    • Great points Andrea. We have not travelled through South America much but it seems like Asian countries are trying to achieve a “Western” look sometimes. I guess that is why we try to find more and more remote places to visit, which then suffer (maybe suffer is too harsh) the same fate. Hopefully some of these places we all love to visit will retain their uniqueness when they realise that is why we travel there in the first place!

  2. I didn’t know that UN site existed. Kinda cool.

    Exportation of culture and modernism is inevitable. However, I try to remind myself when I get to a location that the people there (or at least many of them) want the changes. Who am I to judge whether or not they should eat at McDonalds or live in a modern 20-story building?

    • Yea I wasted a good half hour on the site finding out bits and pieces about who was around before and after me!
      I totally agree with you there, and I don’t have any problem with people potentially wanting to chase the dream of living in a new apartment etc. I just hope that the cultures and true tourist sites that we want to visit are retained as that is the reason why we travel there (and ultimately where a lot of income for these people comes from). As long as they recognise that then I think there is hope.
      And progress is always good, as generally it leads to better health, incomes and lives for most people. Fingers crossed we can all continue to live in relative harmony without exploitation.

  3. Tobias says:

    Interesting and thought provoking post. I do agree that even cities in developing countries are starting to look alike. The number of Starbucks, mcdonalds and pizza hut’s in Manila, which i recently visited, makes the city look like it could be anywhere in Europe or North America.
    If you take a deep breath and go somewhat outside of your comfort zone though, there’s a lot of cultural differences to explore. And after all, that’s why we travel, right? :)

    • Definitely get what you mean Tobias. I understand why the development takes place and am glad that undeveloped countries are moving forward as well but I do love finding undeveloped areas. Just hope there are a few left in a few years time! Cheers
      Cole

  4. Interesting article. I guess I tend to travel to places that are extremely different from home, so I haven’t noticed this as much. I wonder what I will think when we head to South America next year.

    • It was hard to try and put my thoughts in to words on this post as I understand the need for change and love that people are improving their lives. But imagine if all those places you travelled to that are so different started to sprout McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner? Would you then think twice about going back? Cheers Cole

  5. Amy Moore says:

    I understand what you are saying, but I can’t agree with all of it. While some things may become homogenized (like finding a McDonalds in every larger city), people all across the world have national pride and will continue doing some things differently because of this. Look at places like Chinatown in NYC… the people there strive to live differently even though they are surrounded by Americans. Does it give you an “authentic” experience of China? Probably not… but can you truly have an authentic experience anyway?

    Also, I don’t feel you can point to population growth and say that it’s causing what you are feeling while traveling. Sure, travel is easier now than it used to be. Because there are more people in the world or could it be more accurately explained by better technology/business models/some third reason?

    I’m glad you wrote this post and gave me points to ponder. Looking forward to seeing your posts this winter from Egypt. Also, email me with your blog URL if you aren’t listed in our travel blog listing page already.

    • Thanks for the insightful comments Amy. Definitely don’t mind you not agreeing with my points and don’t mind being put in my place! :) Would rather have good discussions with people than believe everything I say haha.
      I agree totally that better technologies etc have made it easier to travel. I don’t necessarily agree that population growth is the reason behind it all, was just being quite general about the changes we have seen even just during our short 2 years of travel. I am all for people and communities living how they want to in their own societies, why should I, or anyone for that matter, tell them how to live their lives. It is great that a lot of countries are progressing forward and making all the changes. I guess I just would like to see some area retain their “authentic” feel as this is why we sometimes travel (if that makes sense). However, in saying that, I don’t want communities to “fake it” for tourists as that just degrades the whole experience in my eyes.
      Love that I gave you something to ponder and feel free to write a response as a guest post if you want?
      Will give you an email as we would love to feature on your guys travel blog as well!
      Cheers
      Cole

  6. Interesting article! You can definitely see the westernization in many places but you can still find places which haven’t been that affected by tourism. This sometimes means that you gotta go off the path ;)

  7. Laurel says:

    Very thought provoking post. I hate the Westernization of the world, but wonder if that’s going to change as the new super powers are up and coming and rather quickly. I haven’t really thought about how it will impact my travel plans, except to keep finding those “hidden” places, no matter where I am.

    • Hi Laurel,
      Interesting point about the new super powers. It will be very interesting to see what happens because places like China has a booming tourism industry at the moment and wonder how this will affect our travel.
      I think “hidden” places are different for every traveller!
      Cheers
      Cole

  8. James says:

    I think that this is a growing issue. I also feel that it is part of a larger problem that extends beyond travel. When i look at the world i see that there are very few places that are self sufficient and dont rely on importing goods. This global reliance on the importing of good from western foods to clothes, I feel, is based on the fact that it is extremely hard for specific areas to provide these things for themselves. They therefore have to import, and large corporations, such as Mc Donalds etc, have capitalised on this. As far as travel goes, I think places will start to become very similar because of this, and things that define cultures will gradually decrease. Obviously this will take time so for those saying there are still differences out there, these differences aren’t exactly increasing are they. As you said in the post that travel is becoming easier, this is the case, but for how long will this continue? How long will we be able to access global air travel for it all of our planes run of a fuel that is depleting and non renewable? There is a lot to think about!!

    • Many many good points thanks James. And there are definitely corporations out there that are capitalising on the needy (this has always been the case and always will be I believe until we all take notice that we are getting screwed by the 1%).
      It is interesting about the planes and fuel because companies like Virgin are already trialling biofuels to run their planes on so hopefully we are headed in this direction and can stop using polluting non-renewable products (this needs a new post by itself haha).
      Thanks

  9. It is true that lot of places are becoming more “westernized”, but that is indeed progress like Stephanie and others said. And while you will find McDonalds almost everywhere, the culture and the attitude of people hasn’t changed as radically I don’t think (although I would be naive to say it hasn’t had any impact). I recently went to Philippines and while yes you have pizza hut and McDonalds and big malls and all that, the people still feel very different and they still are ridicilously friendly. I don’t think people change as quickly as we fear.

    • Thanks for the insight Jarmo. Totally agree that by just having a Macca’s doesn’t make a culture “westernized” but it is always interesting to see them everywhere (plus handy for the loo’s). As I have said before I hope that every civilization does continue to progress but still hold true to their own beliefs and traditions. It’s so good to hear that about the Philippines as well. We really want to visit there in the next year or 2.

  10. Angel Collins says:

    Wow!. You are a great observer. I totally agree with you. I didn’t realized that most countries are westernize already. I just came to that thought just now. Great point of view!. XD

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