Sustainable tourism and climate change

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As one of the world's largest and fastest growing economic activities, international tourism continues to grow and place stress on remaining natural habitats, which often underpin tourism. Sustainable tourist destinations have many responsibilities at they attempt to reduce negative tourism impact on their communities. Among other matters, efforts can be made to better provide the tourists and tour operators with information about destinations, and minimization of adverse impacts. The CoPraNet Partnership using existing achievements and ongoing international work within the network, including collaboration and the exchange of views to develop a transparent, international quality information scheme for tourism destinations. To the extent that it is an issue in these destinations, information needs to be included on climate change.

There is great reliance on tourism in Mediterranean and south Atlantic regions, and thus great vulnerability to climate change. Tourism in Northern European destinations, including the Baltic Sea, may benefit from climate shifts and general air and sea warming, but even these areas may still experience greater vulnerabilities due to changes in precipitation patterns, flooding, and eutrophication. An understanding of climatic impacts and mitigative and adaptive responses could also be incorporated into management of these destinations and regions.

The projected temperature increases due to climate change are quite striking for the Mediterranean region. These temperature impacts could be disproportionately felt in the prime tourist season in the summer, affecting existing tourist developments and destinations, and will need to be considered for the design of future developments.

Sustainable water uses are necessary. Energy uses may have to increase in the future in order to provide cooling during the hotter summer period. Unless this energy is locally sourced or inexpensive, the economic viability of these developments could be affected. Sustainable tourist developments could be designed for energy efficiency and to generate and use renewable or low carbon energy sources.

Another more difficult factor to predict is the overall impact of temperature increases on the desire of tourists to travel to the Mediterranean region. Certain tourist developments may be less busy during the summer, and either become busier in the spring and fall, or lose overall visitors. These seasonal changes and potential decreases in overall visitors could impact the economic viability of small and large scale developments.

Changes in the seasonality of tourist demand could also affect working and social patterns in local communities, and eliminate or reduce the quieter period that allowed communities to tolerate large quantities of visitors during the remaining part of the year. Therefore, it would be useful to consider and plan for the possible social and cultural impacts of changing tourist demand on local communities.


Case Study: Climate Change and European Coast and Beach Management, 2006, Completed by M.A.K.Muir for EU-funded Coastal Practise Network (CoPraNet)
The main author of this article is Magdalena Muir
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Magdalena Muir (2007): Sustainable tourism and climate change. Available from [accessed on 17-07-2018]