Climate Change and Tourism

Our climate is changing. Over the last five years, storms have become stronger. Temperatures have become more extreme. Snowfall has declined. Water levels have increased. Climate is the general weather patterns (long-term) within a specific area; weather is the daily (short-term) forecast for the same area. The Caribbean has a tropical climate. Over the course of six months, the climate will remain tropical. But over the same six month period, the weather will change. It will be sunny one day, rainy the next.

Tourism has an incredible economic impact, with many areas relying heavily on tourism. While we may not see every day how climate affects our travel or decision making process, Destination Analyst’s 2019’s State of the American Traveler data shows that 50% of people will change their travel plans based on climate change.

20.9% will change the destinations they choose to travel

Climate and weather influences where we travel. We travel to the Caribbean because it’s a tropical destination – we want sunny beaches. We travel to the mountains in the winter for the cold and snow packed skiing and snow mobile trails.

With the developing changes to the climate, we now have to worry about stronger hurricanes in the Caribbean or if there will be enough snow in the mountains.

According to research released by the Geophysical Research Letters, snowfall in the western United States has decreased by 41% since 1980, which has reduced the ski season by an average of 34 days. That is 34 days of loss revenue for a snow sports industry and related tourism entities that generates over $20 billion each year. Likewise, in the French Alps, ski resorts have had to close or limit the number of runs open as warmer temperatures has affected snow basin levels. Some resorts have had snow flown in from higher altitudes.

28.5% will change the timing of their trips

Because the climate is more extreme, we are starting to change the typical times we travel. Hurricane season typically runs June – November. Recent research has shown the proportion of hurricanes forming from tropical storms has tripled over the past 30 years. The strength and speed at which hurricanes form are becoming more unpredictable, making forecasting harder. In 2017, three hurricanes (Harvey, Maria and Irma) devastated tourism in the south United States and Caribbean, causing over $265 billion in damages. According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hurricanes will increase in intensity by 5% this century.

15.2% will change how they travel

Awareness of climate change is at an all-time high. Travel accounts for about 5% – 10% of the total carbon emissions in the world. In general, the average person is becoming more aware of their carbon footprint and are actively seeking ways to mitigate their impact. One way to mitigate their carbon footprint is changing how they travel. Rather than flying to a destination, more people are taking road trips. Road trips greatly reduces the amount of places a person can travel, greatly affecting tourism impacts. How many times have you seen a converted RV van in the news?

The tourism industry has started to take notice. More resorts are implementing on property sustainability programs and more CVB’s and DMO’s are marketing their regions as being sustainable. Before you travel next, do research on your destination and make informed decisions on how you can mitigate your impact.