Tourism and Climate Change

"There is growing evidence since the IPCC Third Assessment of human activity to adapt to observed and anticipated climate change. […] Even if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations remain at 2000 levels (see Working Group I Fourth Assessment), there are some impacts for which adaptation is the only available and appropriate response." (IPCC, 2007)

There is evidence that adaptation in the tourism sector is already taking place. Tourists are aware of climate change. Insurance companies consider climate change risks in the calculation of their primes, so that it induces higher costs for tourism destinations and companies, especially for ski resorts. Also national tourism authorities incorporate climate change issues in their national tourism strategies - Germany, Australia and the UK among others. And international organizations acknowledge the need of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change. World Tourism Organization as well as PATA support their members to develop and implement adaptation measures.

Case study - Fiji

Fiji, with its 322 islands and a long coastline will be very likely affected by climate change; due to higher sea-level, higher temperatures, as well as more intense droughts and wind events. Considering the low adaptation capacity of its tourism industry, including low financial sources and a limited technical knowledge, tourism establishments, especially at the coast, are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. It is assumed that climate change induces an annual loss of tourism businesses in the coastal areas at around 10 million US Dollars. With the objective to reduce the vulnerability of Fiji's tourism industry, the government in cooperation with national and international organisation implements a pilot-project with the objective to strengthen the adaptation capacity at national, enterprise and local level. This includes the following measures:

  • development of a risk management framework, including guidelines and an early warning system;
  • awareness raising and the implementation of training programmes;
  • integration of climate change issues in tourism policies and development of preventive regulations;
  • detailed analysis of risk management and business plan development at two destinations;
  • establishment of a network and a website for the dissemination of practical experience and background information;
  • and the incorporation of tourism aspects in national climate change framewor

There is an urgent need for the tourism industry to adapt to the global climate change, as tourism is sensitive to climate conditions. However, adaptation activities have to be carefully planned and assessed as they require a multidimensional approach (see graph below).

Barriers to adaptation
  • Limited understanding of climate risks and vulnerabilities
  • Lack of supportive policies, standards, regulations, and design guidance
  • Existing legal or regulatory restrictions
  • Lack of availability or restricted access to appropriate technologies
  • Costs of identified adaptation options when budgets are limited
  • Lack of availability of resources such as in-house expertise
  • Social/cultural/financial rigidity and conflicts
  • Short-term nature of planning horizons – necessity of realising return on investment
  • Level of uncertainty

Source: UK Climate Impacts Programme (, 12 April 2008)

Further information

The UNWTO-UNEP report 2008 on Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges and the seminar report of UNEP, the Oxford University and UNWTO on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector: Frameworks, Tools and Practices provide a pool of adaptation measures for a wide-range of tourism stakeholders.

The brochure Climate Change and Tourism in the South of England provides some ideas how a tourism enterprise can adapt to climate change.

There are founds available to faciliate/enable adapation processes, especially developing countries (NAPA, Special Climate Change Fund, The Least Developed Countries Fund, Adaptation Fund, Canada Climate Change Development Fund, Global Environmental Facility, World Bank: Climate Change).

A very useful resource is the Tourism Industry Action Plan on Climate Change which has been prepared by the Sustainable Tourism CRC Group for the Australian Government.

A good example is also the study 2030: Swiss Tourism and Climate Change (German).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published a not tourism specific Compendium of Decision Tools to Evaluate Strategies for Adaptation to Climate Change, which provides a comprehensive source of methods and tools to assess vulnerability and adaptation.

The Tour Operators' Initiative (TOI) represents the international network of tour operators which promote sustainable development through tourism - climate change is top issue on its agenda. TOI's websites includes case studies and practical guidelines supporting adaptation processes.

Communication is an important element of climate change adaptation. The resource book "The Rules of the Game: Principles of Climate Change Communications" provides a good overview on how to strategically communicate climate change issues.

DestiNet - an European information portal for tourist destinations and stakeholders - is still under development, but already provides some useful resources for sustainable tourism practices.

eCLAT - a network of research professionals - unites a handful of top researchers in the field of climate change and tourism.





Tourism Vision
aims at supporting tourism
stakeholders to adapt to
a changing climate and to
mitigate tourism's emissions.


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