Global warming threatens tourism

The international tourist industry could face serious financial threats from climate change because of its heavy reliance on the natural environment to sell holidays, according to a new report released today by WWF's Climate Change Campaign.

The report, “Climate Change and its Impacts on Tourism”, was commissioned from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, one of the world’s leading research centres on climate change. It analyses the potential impact of increasing global temperatures on ten of the world’s favourite tourist destinations.

The results indicate that droughts, rising seas, flash floods, forest fires and diseases could turn profitable destinations into holiday horror stories. It underlines the need for the tourist industry to persuade western industrialised governments to take more concerted action to reduce their nations’ carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr Ute Collier, WWF’s UK-based expert on Climate Change said, “People love their holidays and want to feel comfortable. But our favourite destinations may soon be too hot for comfort.” The report says that more frequent periods of extreme heat will cause discomfort in many eastern Mediterranean resorts, where the number of days above 40 degrees Centigrade is expected to increase.

Climate change is also expected to increase the risk of illness in several parts of the world leading to a falling-off of tourism. A decline in cloud cover in Australia will increase exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Malaria is likely to re-emerge in Spain. Popular small island states, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, will be particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Sea-level rise may also be of particular concern for Florida since many tourist activities are concentrated along the state’s coasts, beaches and islands.

Winter tourism may also be affected, as the Alps and other skiing destinations experience less snowfall and shorter skiing seasons. These impacts will be especially pronounced in lower-lying ski resorts, and where commercial ventures are already marginal, such as the Scottish Highlands.

“The tourism industry could be faced with huge costs as global warming begins to influence decisions about when and where people are going to go on holiday,” Dr Collier warned. “We must see real action from Governments to confront the problem of global climate change.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie