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Climate Change vs The Tourism Industry  


The Earth is massive, and humanity has spread to every corner of the globe. We now have humans on all 7 continents and without a doubt there is so much to see and experience around the globe. The tourism industry is so important to so many countries. It brings in money, media attention, and power to a city and a nation. With most people having passports and advances in aviation and maritime travel it is easier than ever to travel to most countries around the world. There is one problem: climate change. The changing climate is making weather unpredictable, increasing the amount and severity of natural disasters, and rising sea levels can wash away entire islands and cities. Let’s explore how climate change is changing the tourism industry around the world.  

Tourism is affected majorly by rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, droughts, and increased severity of natural disasters. Sea level rise will have huge impacts on coastal tourism which accounts for a huge chunk of the tourism sector. According to research from the University of Cambridge, “nearly a third of Caribbean resorts are less than 1 m above the high high-water mark. A sea-level rise of 1 m would damage 49–60% of the region’s tourist resort properties, lead to the loss or damage of 21 airports, and inundate land around 35 ports”.  The cost of rebuilding these resorts would be astronomical for countries that are so small and don’t have massive GDPs. Higher sea levels or tides and more intense storm surges will also increase the rate of erosion of the beaches. This will make beaches smaller and more crowded making them less desirable for tourists. It is not only the beaches that will be affected, but also the reefs. The Great Barrier Reef is an important natural wonder off Australia’s eastern coast. It attracts divers and snorkelers to witness its thousands of species of corals and ocean life, but rising ocean temperatures and acidification have led to coral bleaching. When the corals die, they leave a desolate wasteland void of life. According to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, “Aerial survey results show 73% of surveyed reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park have prevalent bleaching (more than 10% of coral cover bleached) and 6% in the Torres Strait.” Urban areas are not safe from the rising tides either. Venice is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy, but on November 12, 2019, during high tide 80% of the city was underwater. Many buildings in Venice were built with waterproof basements made of white Istria stone. The upper levels however were made of bricks and mortar,” explains climate expert Dario Camuffo. The higher sea levels are destroying the bricks and mortar of the buildings. Miami, Florida in the US is another popular tourist site. Sea levels in the area are rising at a rapid rate, with six inches of rise expected by 2030 and up to six feet by 2100. At the rate we’re going there will be no more snorkeling in the reefsrelaxing by the Caribbean beaches, or sailing through the canals of Venice or spring breaks to Miami.  

It is not only the water that will be the problem for tourism, but also the rising temperatures. This will probably have the greatest impact across all different tourism sectors. For example, colder climates like Colorado, the Alps, and Canada welcomed tourists for skiing. Shorter winters make the snow on the mountains melt faster causing ski resorts to have to shut down early for the season. Total snowfall has decreased in many parts of the U.S. since widespread observations became available in 1930, with 57% of stations showing a decline, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These rising temperatures don’t only impact cold destinations, but also the ones that are already warm. There has already been a 10% drop in the number of people planning to visit the Mediterranean in June-November this year following last year’s high temperatures, according to the European Travel Commission. On July 17, 2023, there was a breakout of wildfires in Greece after heatwaves and record temperatures reached 113 degrees F. On July 18, the island of Rhodes was evacuated due to the extreme heat and fires. Also, in the same month, Greece shut down the Acropolis, which is one of the nations most popular tourist attractions. This was because of the temperatures in Athens hitting 105.8 degrees F. Heat like this can lead to dehydration, burns, fires, and heat stroke. These high temperatures are also impacting travel for tourists. Most bridges are made of metal and/or concrete which expands in the heat. In extreme temperatures, they can expand to the point where they crack. During the European heat wave of 2022, the Hammersmith Bridge in London had to be wrapped in reflective insulation foil to prevent the metal from cracking. Also, the asphalt on the road itself will do the same as the bridges. As temperatures hit the 80s and 90s, they expand too much to the point where they crack, making it dangerous for drivers. It is the same story for the rails. Amtrak’s senior public relations manager Jason Abrams writes: Amtrak rail partner Canadian National (CN) has implemented reduced speed regulations in Canada due to heat, impacting the Amtrak Adirondack route. Trains 68 and 69 will originate and terminate in Albany, NY until further notice”.  The extreme heat causes the metal rails to buckle and warp which can lead to derailment. There were major delays in Amtrak service and this is very inconvenient for Canadians trying to get home as well as Americans looking to travel to Canada. Delays and inconveniences are becoming a common occurrence in air travel as well. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 50 flights were grounded in Arizona in 2017 due to extreme heat. Also, destabilizing natural winds have led to more turbulence and more severe storm events, grounding many flights and making tourism extremely difficult. The tarmac also warps and snaps during extremely high temperatures causing jet wheels to get stuck. No matter how tourists are getting to their destinations – road, rail, or air – they will all be affected by the rising temperatures.  

The rising temperatures and sea levels will either destroy our favorite tourist destinations or make them less desirable and comfortable. Tourists will opt to travel to Norway instead of the Bahamas or Canada instead of Rio de Janeiro. These countries whose GDPs comprise mostly of tourism will have to find methods of mitigating the effects of climate change or restructure their economies as a whole. Tourists do not want to go to cities that are damaged by natural disasters, where they’ll suffer heat stroke, or where the beaches are so overcrowded due to land loss. There is so much to see out there in our massive world, but climate change will one day make that world much smaller for tourists.  



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