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How Climate Change Affects the Tourism Industry and Ways to Mitigate It

By Bash Sarmiento – Bash Sarmiento Writing

Climate change and the tourism industry are closely connected. Tourism is mainly climate-dependent — travelers tend to choose where to go according to a destination’s conditions. During the winter, they go to ski lodges, while in the summer, they go to tropical places such as Costa Rica. Unfortunately, these destinations may not always be the best places to be. Because of climate change, what we currently consider tourist attractions may become obsolete in the near future. 

The threats of climate change to tourism

It may be common knowledge that the tourism industry contributes to climate change, but did you know that it also works the other way around? Climate change can also impact the tourism sector’s operations. Here’s how: 

Rising sea levels can affect coastal attractions

Climate change has caused sea levels to rise by about 3.2 millimeters a year. With that said, coastal areas will likely be submerged, making them less viable for tourism. Global warming can also lead to the destruction of coastal infrastructure such as resorts, turning them into stranded assets – i.e., they can’t make any more money. 

The temperature may cause tourists to feel uncomfortable

A study found that the ideal temperature for a beach holiday is about 25 to 28 °C. But with the rise in temperatures, people may find certain tourist destinations to be too hot and uncomfortable. Because of this, they may opt to postpone their trips. For example, Southern Europe may start to see less demand for summer tourism due to extreme temperatures. 

Shorter winters will lead to shorter stays

Because of climate change, the winter season has become shorter and milder, and snowfall has continued to decline. With that said, destinations that rely on snow sports such as skiing are at great risk of rising temperatures.  This is especially true for tourist spots in low-lying areas, where the snow will be insufficient for winter sports. As a result, travelers will have to cut their trips short or choose winter activities that aren’t dependent on the snow. 

Destruction of nature can reduce a destination’s appeal

Our biodiversity has become vulnerable due to global warming. For instance, warmer oceans have caused our coral reefs to suffer — in fact, we’ve already lost 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs. In addition, rising temperatures may force some animals to relocate to colder regions. This can cause serious repercussions to destinations that rely on eco-tourism, as people will no longer see the appeal of traveling to these places. 

Climate conditions may discourage travelers from visiting

It’s no secret that warmer temperatures can increase the frequency of weather events such as storms, tropical cyclones, and storm surges, which can impact a place’s transportation, water supply, and more. Hot temperatures can also lead to an increase in forest fires in areas such as Australia, South Africa, and North America. Because of the possibility of disaster, people may be unwilling to go to a particular place. Additionally, unfavorable conditions may deter travelers from visiting a destination again. 

What the tourism industry can do to mitigate climate change

Global warming is real, and the industry has no choice but to adapt to the changes that it’s bound to bring. Here are some ways in which the sector can mitigate the impact of climate change:

Reduce carbon emissions

The tourism industry may be suffering from global warming, but it can’t be denied that the industry itself is part of the problem. In fact, it contributes to about 8 percent of global carbon emissions. That said, operators will need to assess their current practices and promise to be more eco-conscious. They can use metrics such as the SASB standard to guide them toward their goal of being more sustainable. 

Encourage guests to visit during the shoulder months

Resort owners in warm areas can market their shoulder months instead of the summer months. Similarly, ski resorts can open their doors year-round — this way, they can make up for the losses they will likely incur during the winter season. 

Construct more resilient infrastructure

Businesses in areas that are prone to flooding and other natural disasters can protect their assets by building stronger infrastructure. By doing so, they can avoid the costs of rebuilding from the ground up in case their property is destroyed. 

Governments must create circumstance-specific policies

The tourism industry needs to understand that there’s no single solution to mitigating climate change. Governments should seek the most appropriate response to their situation, whether that’s implementing stricter rules and regulations, asking businesses to submit sustainability reports, or other measures. For instance, they can take a page from UK legislation and commit to reducing carbon emissions by a certain percentage. 

What tourists can do to fight climate change

The tourism industry shouldn’t be alone in its fight against climate change — tourists shouldn’t add to the present problems, either. Below, we’ve put together a few ways to make travel better for the environment.

  • Cut your plastic use. Say goodbye to single-use plastics that take thousands of years to break down. One of the best ways to reduce plastic use is by bringing a reusable water bottle wherever you go. 
  • Opt for public transport. If possible, use public transport such as buses and trains. Remember that transportation is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses. How you get to and around your destination can have a huge impact on the environment. 
  • Be mindful of what you eat. It can be tempting to try the local cuisine but bear in mind that some items on the menu may not be eco-friendly choices. If possible, try to go meatless, as meat accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gasses. 
  • Do your research. Only visit places that have a clear commitment to protecting the environment. Read reviews or visit the attraction’s website to find out what they’re doing to be more sustainable. 
  • Don’t print tickets. It’s the 21st century — there’s no need to print tickets since you can save an electronic copy on your phone. 
  • Go for flight-free travel. The best destinations don’t have to be far away. Who knows? There may be a hidden gem right around your neighborhood! One of the best ways to travel in an eco-friendly way is to stay as close to home as possible.

Conclusion

The tourism sector has to accept the reality that climate change is a threat that they need to mitigate and fight at the same time. It needs to find ways to deal with the ever-evolving challenges that climate change presents, as well as evaluate what it can do to reduce its carbon footprint.

Meanwhile, tourists shouldn’t wait for the tourism sector to deal with climate change on its own. The industry may be able to mitigate climate change, but that doesn’t mean tourists should stop trying to be more eco-friendly. If tourists don’t also do their part, it will only make matters worse for the industry.