Tourism and Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) concluded in its Fourth Assessment Report that "[…] there is high confidence that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems" and that "[…] confidence has increased that some weather events and extremes will become more frequent, more widespread and/or more intense during the 21st century" which more and more influence our economic activities. Furthermore, Sir Nicholas Stern (2006) warns in the Stern Report to avoid economic loss caused by climate change related impacts.

As a climate sensitive sector, tourism might be highly affected by global climate change due to changes of temperatures, precipation, wind speed, storm frequency, etc.

The impacts on tourism are expected to lead to the reduction of visitors in some destinations (e.g. Spain, Northern Africa). However, other regions like Germany and UK are expected to profit from increasing tourism revenues.

Examples of climate change impacts

Negative impacts
Positive impacts

The Mediterranean might be too hot during summer, and considering the improving summer temperatures in northern Europe, it is likely that the Mediterranean and its related tourism industry will encounter a decrease in international tourist arrivals in summer, according to Amelung & Viner (2006).

Hein (2007) predicts for Spain a decrease of the tourism flows by 20% until 2080 (base year 2004), under the assumptions that the volume of European tourism, the relative attractiveness of a region and the monthly preferences of tourists will not change.

Climate change could exacerbate this risk of moor land wildfires in the Peak District National Park (England) which harshly threatens tourism development, according to McEvoy et al. (2006).

Footpath erosion in the Lake District National Park (England) is likely to become a more severe problem under a changing climate in combination with higher predicted visitor levels, also during bad weather when footpath erosion is particularly caused, according to McEvoy et al. (2006).

"Under present climate conditions, 609 out of the 666 (or 91%) Alpine ski areas in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland can be considered as naturally snow-reliable. The remaining 9% are already operating under marginal conditions. The number of naturally snow-reliable areas would drop to 500 under 1 °C, to 404 under 2 °C, and to 202 under a 4 °C warming of climate.", according to Agrawala et al. (2007).

The improve climatic conditions during spring, autumn and winter are expected to foster tourism in the Mediterranean, especially in Spain, Greece and Turkey, according to Amelung & Viner (2006).

Amelung & Hein (2006) predict that "Northern Europe, in contrast, changes into a region that is characterised by very good or excellent summer conditions. Changes for the United Kingdom in particular are remarkable".

Hamilton & Tol (2006) predict that countries at higher latitudes and altitudes will become more attractive to domestic and international tourism.

Hamilton & Tol (2006) predict that international tourism flows will fall, due to the fact that Germany and the UK that will profit from climate change,

At the Sefton coastal dunes (England) the number of visitors could increase due to more pleasant climate, but the environmental attractiveness and golf course management could be at risk, according to McEvoy et al. (2006).

In the Greater Toronto Areal "[…] as early as the 2020s the average golf season could be one to seven weeks longer and with much improved shoulder seasons annual rounds played could increase 5.5% to 37.1%.", accordin to Scott and Jones (2006).

Source: Julian Fischer (

Tourism Vision suggests the following scheme for the analysis of climate change impacts on tourism:

The basis for impact assessments are climate models, in particular the IPCC scenarios and regional downscalled model variations.

The assesssment of the natural and cultural heritage vulnerability, the adaptation capacities of lead species (e.g. polar bears) and attracttiveness of landscapes provides insights of possible impacts on tourism resources. This might be enriched with a detailed assessment of destination-specific activities (e.g. coral bleaching and scuba diving).

Tourism Vision currently conducts a study on "Tourism, Coral Reefs and Climate Change: Degradation and Protection of a Tourism Resource".

Climate tourism index are used to examine the implications of climate change for tourism, and in particular for tourists' comfort. They are based on human comfort indexes that combine different climate factors, such as temperature, humidy, hours of sunshine and wind speed.

Matzarakis developed a Climate-Tourism-Information-Scheme which illustrates the different components of a climate index and their impacts on the tourists' comfort. This scheme can also be used for long-term climate projections.

Tourists' comfort is the main factor for tourism demand models calculating the impact of climate change on tourism. As tourist psychology and experience are mostly neglected or over simplified, these models have to interpreted carefully.

However, Bigano, Hamilton & Tol (2006) conclude after the analysis of the holiday destination choice of tourists from 45 countries (based on UNWTO data) that "Climate change would drive tourists towards the poles and, for those not interested in sea and sand, up the mountains.", and in an other study, they state that "Domestic tourism may double in colder countries and fall by 20% in warmer countries […]. By 2100, for individual countries, international arrivals may fall by up to 60% of the base value or increase by up to 220% of the base value […]".

Furthermore, climate change affects tourism businesses indirectly and directly, e.g. through safety issues, insurance primes and opening times.

A holistic climate change impact analysis must also consider long-term and framing aspects which are affected by changing climate conditions and influence tourism flows, such as social stabilty, economic development and mitigation policies (e.g. inclusion of aviation in the EU Emission Trading Scheme).

For instance, the last UN Human Development Report illustrates the devasting impacts climate change might have on developing countries.

The Deutsche Bank (2007) presents a good world wide overview of climate change impacts on tourism. Have a look at the portfolio-chart below which shows climate change impacts in relation to tourism's share of the gross domestic product.

World wide climate change impacts on tourism

Source: Deutsche Bank (2007) (translated from German)

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 mitigation measures for a wide-range of tourism stakeholders.

The Deutsche Bank conducted a study analysing how climate change will affect holiday regions by 2030.

The IPCC 4th Assessment Report (2007) provides the state of the art knowledge on climate change. The report of Working Group II focuses on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

IPCC (2000) also published a Special Report on Emission Scenarios.

The UNFCCC Compendium 2008 provides assessment tools for climate change vulnerabilities and opprtunitites for adaptation.

The websiteClimate Change and the Visitor Economy in England's Northwest, integrating different case studies, illustrates the impacts of climate change in the UK.

The study 2030: Swiss Tourism and Climate Change (German) gives an overview climate change impacts on Swiss Tourism, as well as possible responses.

Scott, D., researcher at the University of Waterloo conducted a large number of articles on climate change impacts, focussing on wintersport and golf.

Members of the International Society of Biometeorology Commission on Climate, Tourism and Recreation concentrate their work on climate indexes in order to measure tourist well-being in relation to different weather parameters. Related studies also consider future climate changes. A comprehensive report on Developments in Tourism Climatology has been published in 2007.

The Hamburg Tourism Model is a simulation model of tourism flows to and from 207 countries. It is used to analyse scenarios of population and economic growth as well as climate change and climate policy.

The Stern Report – Stern Review on the Econmics of Climate Change (2006) is the most comprehensive economic analysis on this issue, concluding that "[...] the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever."

The Human Development Report 2008 is dedicated to climate Change and poverty, concluding that "The poorest countries and most vulnerable citizens will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks, even though they have contributed least to the problem."

UNESCO (2007) published a study on the impacts of Climate Change on World Heritage Sites which includes well illustrated case-studies.

The GEO-4 – Fourth Global Environmental Outlook reports on the state of the global environment, assesses the current state of global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity, and describes what has changed in those two decades.

The Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen (German) (2007) conducted a survey (n=1000) among German on how climate change impacts and will impact on tourist behaviour.





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


Am Tongrund 2 30974 Wennigsen Germany info(at)

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