Climate change threatens global tourism

Climate change and global warming present significant challenges to internationally recognized tourism destinations, jeopardizing their ecosystems and infrastructure. Consequently, the tourism sector is facing emerging challenges due to these impacts.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2022 data, the tourism sector, valued at $7.7 trillion, contributes 7.6% to the global economy.

While still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry now faces additional challenges due to the adverse effects of climate change. The sector’s value before COVID-19 was $10 trillion, comprising approximately 10.4% of the global economy.

A report by Cambridge University research highlights the negative impact of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and ocean acidification on the infrastructure supporting maritime tourism.

Coral reef damage, rising temperatures and wildfires further threaten tourist destinations.

A 2023 study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) emphasizes the negative impact of extreme heat on tourists. Examples like wildfires in Greece, heat waves in Italy, and flight cancellations in the U.S. illustrate this point.

Changing tourist behavior

The aviation sector, crucial for tourism, also faced challenges due to extreme heat. Some U.S. aviation companies had to reduce passenger loads and luggage or postpone flights during 46-degree Celsius (114.8-degree Fahrenheit) weather.

Tourist behavior is also changing due to rising temperatures. Research by the European Commission suggests that if global warming continues, tourist activities in Europe might shift from the south to the north.

This could lead to a decrease in the number of tourists for southern destinations and an increase for those in the north.

Specific tourist destinations in danger

Due to climate change, the Maldives, one of the most threatened tourist destinations, faces the potential submergence of a large portion of its landmass due to rising sea levels.

The Maldives, reliant on tourism and vulnerable to rising sea levels, faces potential submergence of 77% of its land by 2100, according to the country’s Tourism Ministry.

Similarly, the Caribbean, heavily dependent on tourism, is witnessing coral reef bleaching and rising sea levels.

In Europe, the Alps struggle with inadequate snowfall, affecting winter tourism. Venice faces climate-related challenges, including rising sea levels and extreme weather events, threatening its historical sites.

In South Asia, popular coastal regions grapple with environmental degradation caused by over-tourism and pollution. Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have implemented measures to preserve their coastal ecosystems.

Africa is also at risk of significant biodiversity loss, impacting safari tourism. According to World Bank data, the continent could lose 50% of its bird and mammal species and 20% to 30% of life in lakes by 2100.

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