Don’t believe the hype, despite the dramatic increases in oil prices over the past year, the travel industry is booming. The rising cost of oil is fueling an international travel revival.

Take a look at the statistics – more people now are traveling than ever before. Over the past year travel to Europe is up 8% and the U.S. Department of Commerce projects international travel to be up 44% by 2010. Visitors to almost every country in the world is increasing, even Iraq. (Except the to the United States, in large part due to cumbersome visa restrictions and overzealous airport security.)

Though this might seem contradictory it’s not. The main driving force behind the increase in fuel prices isn’t price gouging (although it happens to a degree), it’s demand. This demand is coming mainly from the developing economies of China, India, and Brazil to name a few. These emerging economies on the world scene might make a trip more expensive but also create more places hospitable to travel.

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So, it’s more expensive to get around but you’ve got more choices that compete with each other (directly and indirectly) driving prices down, which is ultimately cheaper, even if you stay within your own country.

Although it’s possible to have a tourism industry without much infrastructure, more money means increased advertising opportunities and more development of cash mines like resorts and casinos. Take a look at these countries that you shouldn’t be scared to visit or emerging destinations and you’ll begin to see the link with increased GDP and “travelability”. The best part is these places come at a discount for travelers carry stronger currencies. Although it might be more expensive to get places, there are now more places to see for less and that’s good for all travelers.

People in these emerging economies are also beginning to venture out and explore traditionally cost-prohibitive nations. The weak dollar is bad if you’ve been spoiled by great exchange rates, but makes the US, Asia, and eastern Europe attractive options if your currency is getting stronger. Before the global “rise of the rest” Westerners explored other Western nations with more adventurous travelers heading elsewhere. The balance in the movement of travelers is shifting and more families are visiting relatives who’ve emigrated to the West, not the other way around.

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More and more travelers I’m speaking with are singing the praises of creating a travel budget and ditching the suitcase. Ultimately rising oil prices just change the way people travel, not discourage it. Travelers are going to make backpacking plans, families are going to visit each other…and be more creative with costs in the process.

Next week I’ll take a look at some travel relics that might be making a comeback as the price of gas and jet fuel goes up and up.

[photo by: octal]