Adapting to change
I remember when the harmless little TV remote control first appeared in our lives, and social commentators recoiled in horror, heralding the birth of the couch potato and the end of exercise as we knew it from the sofa to the television. I also recall attending a speech in 1991 or 1992 that foretold that libraries as we knew them musty, learned smells and well-thumbed books that have passed through many homes would not exist in 10 years as the Internet changed the face of reading and our relationship with the written word.
Of course, these scenarios did not occur and the world did not become an alien place with the advent of these technologies. Sure, in the UK at least, changing the TV channel without leaving your seat is a given, but the remote control did not create a pandemic of apathy. Likewise, the Internet is becoming commonplace in most homes in the UK but it has been accommodated into our lives without changing them beyond recognition. We send emails, not letters, and go to the gym. But the desire to communicate/be fit remains unchanged.
The fundamental reason for learning any language is to foster communication with others and for this reason, I don't believe that the language travel industry will expire, although it will adapt to changing circumstances. Recent research into the English language teaching (ELT) industry predicts that the number of learners of English will hit a high point and then slowly decline, which indeed is likely (page 6). But while future generations will consider the ability to speak English a basic skill, they will still desire the opportunity to practice their skills in native English speaking countries, which will fuel our industry. However, it is possible that elementary level evolves into remedial level!
The predicted growth in demand for third age language programmes, aimed at older learners, also underlines that given the opportunity, broadening experience through travel and language learning is a desired activity for many, to enable interaction with others. In Japan, a desire to experience the lifestyle of local people overseas has been a noted trend among mature travellers (pages 24-28).
Reasons to learn a language are rooted in aims of personal interaction, for business or leisure reasons. As long as we desire to interact with the world, then experiential learning will, in its many guises, evolve and flourish, be it through internships (page 31), vocational training (page 48) or targeted language programmes.