Climate change poses a growing risk to the tourism industry, the tourists themselves and the economies that rely on their spending, WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli told the Technical Conference on Climate as a Resource in Beijing on 1
“Climate change will constitute an increasing risk for tourism operations
in many destinations. With many tourism activities heavily dependent on the
climate and insurance policies increasingly affected by natural hazards,
accurate weather information and the forecasting of extreme climatic events
are becoming ever more important for tourism businesses,” he said at the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) meeting in the Chinese capital.
To combat this threat, more research is needed, and also closer
co-ordination between governments and the private sector to ensure that
possible effects are factored into tourism policies and development and
“Whatever the environmental outcome, tourism cannot be seen in isolation,”
Mr Frangialli stressed. “Major changes in the pattern of tourism demand
will lead to wider impacts on many areas of economic and social policy,”
such as housing, transport and social infrastructure. Knock-on effects
could hit dependent suppliers from farmers to handicraft makers.
Beach destinations, winter sports resorts and all outdoor tourism
activities are all “highly dependent on favourable climate conditions” on a
daily basis, the Secretary-General underscored at the conference.
But extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and floods, threaten
the health and safety of tourists and local populations alike and can
destroy the basic infrastructure of a destination. When this happens, the
images alone can dissuade potential tourists from travelling, with the
consequent downturn in visitor numbers hitting the local economy.
Climate change can also transform the natural environment that attracts
tourists in the first place - eroding coastlines, damaging coral reefs and
other sensitive ecosystems, or limiting snowfall in mountainous regions -
as well as affecting basic services like water supplies, especially during
periods of peak demand.
“In mountain regions, it seems very probable that winter demand will be
affected. The season will shorten, opportunities for beginners to learn the
sports will diminish, and demand for high altitude resorts will increase
which in turn could raise environmental pressures and cause further damage.”
Seaside resorts could also be affected as potential visitors stayed away
from beaches where it became too hot for comfort in summer. Tourists
heading instead to cooler, higher altitudes could put further environmental
pressure on mountainous regions.
On the other hand, the alteration in weather patterns could provide new
opportunities for the tourism industry, particularly by increasing the
number of visits in previously off peak months.