Changes in the global climate have already seen Britons encounter searing heat, stinging jelly fish and wildfires at their favourite Mediterranean resorts this summer.
The Halifax Travel Insurance Holiday 2030 report reveals that by 2030 global average temperatures are likely to be at least 1°C higher and possibly as much as 2°C. While this doesn’t sound very much, the implications could be dramatic for global holiday destinations.
By 2030 global sea levels could be 72 mm higher but accelerated melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets could contribute to levels of 25cm.
Every one mm sea-level rise translates into 1.5 metre retreat of the shoreline. This means by 2030 shorelines could be expected to have retreated by at least 108m, and possibly by up to 375m, equivalent to the height of the Empire State building. This would wipe out beaches across the globe and coastal amenities such as hotels, golf courses and retail facilities would be threatened.
Holiday 2030 predicts a fundamental shift in holiday destinations in less than 25 years with a reversal of the traditional trend for north to south ‘migration’ that accounts for 70 percent of all international travel. By 2030 the traditional British package holiday to a Mediterranean beach resort may be consigned to the scrap-heap of history replaced by a rise in tourists staying at home or engaging in health, cultural, sports and ‘beauty’ tourism.
Increased temperatures will make Southern European beach destinations, such as Majorca and Ibiza, too hot for many travellers. Holidaymakers will be switching their main holidays from the summer to the winter and spring as they will be discouraged from travelling to southern European resorts by increased drought, flash floods and the loss of coastal real estate such as hotels, resorts and golf courses.
Conversely, climate change could have a positive impact on the British tourist industry. For example, it has been shown that the number of tourists leaving the UK for the Mediterranean is related to the level of precipitation in the UK the previous summer. Drier and hotter UK summers are, therefore, likely to result in a reduction in the numbers heading south. Holiday resorts in the South East such as Brighton and Bournemouth may see holidaymakers flocking to the beaches as a result of rising temperatures and the potential for aviation taxes to reverse the trend for cheap flights abroad.
As well as rising temperatures and climbing sea levels there will an increase in extreme weather events, including drought, torrential rainfall, floods and storms. Travelling further afield will be even more unpredictable. In Florida beaches may be lost to rising seas with ever-more powerful hurricanes threatening property and people. David Rochester, senior pricing manager at Halifax Travel Insurance, commented: "With increased extreme weather events and dramatic temperature increases predicted, holidaymakers will be considerably more at risk abroad in 20 or 30 years than they are today.
As an industry, travel insurers need to prepare for the impact of climate change and constantly analyse these new risks in order to protect our customers whilst they are on holiday. "Furthermore, the travel insurance market itself will change as our travel habits alter. In addition to changes in where we want to go on holiday, there will be a change in when we want to go."
A winter holiday to the Mediterranean and a summer holiday to Sweden might become a popular trend. As a responsible travel insurer Halifax is watching the impact of climate change very carefully and has commissioned this academic research in order to more accurately forecast its impact on the travel insurance industry and holiday patterns" Bill McGuire, Benfield Professor of Geohazards and Director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre, commented: “When we investigate how climate change will impact on specific holiday destinations in 25 years time we have to base our forecasts on trends that are already becoming apparent and make broad predictions. Although these findings imply a slow down in global tourism and a change in holiday patterns there are measures that both travellers and the tourism industry can take to mitigate some of the worse effects of climate change. Local and national governments will have to invest far greater resources in water management such as desalination, sea defences, planting schemes to slow desertification and more rigorous building standards to cope with high winds and greater rainfall.”
Spain The Holiday 2030 report reveals that Spain's peak tourist season is likely to shift. Whilst Spain is currently the summer destination of choice for British tourists, in 2030 the cooler Autumn and Winter months will mean it will attract far more tourists in the Autumn and Winter months then it currently does. A 2° rise in average global temperatures could see up to 21 more extremely hot days in the summer (> 35°) and stifling nights. Tightened water restrictions could lead to tourist facilities such as swimming pools and golf courses being closed. Together, the 200 or so golf courses around the Mediterranean use as much water as a city of 2.5 million people, a situation that will not be sustainable by 2030. If the changes are in line with expectations Britain could soon begin to creep up the ranks of top summer holiday destination.
Canary Islands: As for the Mediterranean region, higher temperatures by 2030 are likely to make much of the region excessively hot for summer beach holidays. Conditions will be more bearable during the winter months, but more frequent Atlantic storms may bring flash floods, damaging winds and landslides. Without the construction of defences, a combination of increased wave heights, bigger storm surges, and sea-level rise will cause major erosion. Storm activity and higher waves, can also be expected to increasingly threaten beachfront property. With few rivers, most water is derived from rainfall that is guided through tunnels bored in the rock, from deep boreholes, or from desalination plants. Increased pressure on water supplies may render the current high levels of tourism in the region unsustainable. The impact of Climate Change on the Canary Islands could contribute to increased emphasis on Britain as a top summer holiday destination.
France: Provence and the C?te d’Azur In France, tourism is likely to prosper in the ‘shoulder’ months, as the warmer weather continues for longer into Autumn. Tourists will also have to cope with flash floods, as severe, convection-driven storms punctuate the heat waves and extreme precipitation events become more common. Wildfires are going to be a major problem, particularly away from the coast and in the months of August and September. Rising sea levels will require authorities to address beach erosion and also put in place plans to move buildings back from the shoreline. Wetlands that are popular with visitors will suffer, either due to drying out, infiltration by salt water or inundation by the sea. The predicted extreme conditions in France could encourage more people to consider Britain as a summer holiday destination.
Greece: the islands The principal climate change threats to tourism in the Greek Islands, including Crete, looks likely to be a combination of soaring temperatures, and ever-more scarce water supplies. Inevitably, water is going to become a major problem on the islands, many of which must rely on wells due to minimal river flow. Crete appears particularly vulnerable and within a decade could face serious water shortages in five years out of six. Increasing aridity is also sparking creeping desertification, which may have severely affected the landscape by 2030. Again, toughening conditions in Greece are likely to have a positive impact on British tourism, particularly during the summer months.
Italy: Amalfi Coast and Tuscany The number of heat waves predicted to occur in the Tuscany region is also forecast to rise dramatically. The Amalfi area will suffer from far more unbearably hot and humid nights, with another 35 – 42 ‘tropical’ nights, when temperatures fall to no less than 20° C, forecast. Both regions are likely to see at least 20 more dry days a year, contributing to increased fire risk. More extreme precipitation events are also predicted, however, bringing the prospect of more frequent flash flooding. Longer dry spells, particularly in southern Italy, will also increase the potential for water shortages and drought. With respect to fire risk, northern and central Italy, including the Tuscany region, is forecast to be most affected by future climate change, leading to another month of fire risk in the summer months, much of this defined as extreme fire risk. With sea-levels anything up to 20 cm or more higher by 2030, all the beach resorts of both Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast will be badly effected by erosion caused by higher tides, storm surges and bigger waves. As the weather in Italy becomes less reliable tourists may be drawn to Britain for their summer holiday. Furthermore, British tourists who would have previously gone to Italy may consider summer holiday destinations closer to home.
Malta and Cyprus: Summers in Cyprus are warm to hot and extremely dry, with virtually no rain from mid-May until October. With rising sea levels increasing prospects for the intrusion of saline waters into coastal aquifers, however, and with the climate expected to continue to dry out, water will remain a perennial problem. In Malta, there are real problems with increasingly poor quality of water derived from boreholes. This will be exacerbated as sea levels continue to rise, requiring further investment in desalination plants or the importation of water. At any one time, Malta is reported to have, at present, emergency water stocks for just 2 days. As elsewhere in the Mediterranean, both Malta and Cyprus can expect to be increasingly vulnerable to flash floods arising from more frequent extreme rainfall events, from more intense Mediterranean storms, and from beach erosion due to increased wave heights and rising sea levels. United States:
Florida: The state is extremely low lying, with much of the south, in particular, close to sea level. Without the construction of coastal defences, a sea-level rise of between 7 and 25 cm could result in the sea making inroads of between 100 and 400 m inland. This would ensure the loss of Florida’s typically low-gradient beaches along both coasts, and also seriously affect the coastal ecosystems of the Florida keys. Increasingly, the Everglades would suffer due to seawater infiltration, higher tides and bigger storm surges, especially if the protective mangrove barrier is lost as sea levels rise. With levels forecast to continue to climb, perhaps by 1 – 2 m this century, measures to protect the Florida coastline are probably not sustainable in the long term, and cost estimates suggest that up to US$8.8 billion would be required for protection against a 40 cm rise. A direct hit on Miami by a powerful hurricane could be expected to cost in excess of US$100 billion in damage. With Atlantic sea-surface temperatures set to climb progressively upwards in the run-up to 2030 and beyond, the Florida coastline may well face a battering from ever-more powerful hurricanes. Serious coastal flooding will become far more frequent, through a combination of sea-level rise and storm surges of 5 m or more that accompany the more powerful hurricanes. A trend towards ‘wetter’ storms, carrying more rainfall, will also lead to more inland flooding. Florida of 2030 will also face other climate change challenges with the potential to affect tourism, including increasing wildfires and the loss of coral reefs due to higher sea temperatures. As a consequence, Florida is likely to become less popular with foreign tourists at peak times, but may host more arrivals at other times of the year. The shift in holiday patterns may see Britain experiencing increased levels of visitors during the summer months when conditions will be warm but still comfortable.
The Caribbean Islands: The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, including Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia and others, are especially vulnerable to climate change. The islands have poorly developed infrastructures, limited natural resources, economies that are sensitive to external shocks, and high exposure to natural hazards. Forecast rising temperatures are unlikely to have a major impact on tourism to the region; instead, the main threats are likely to come from an increase in more powerful hurricanes, coastal inundation and erosion, saltwater penetration of freshwater aquifers, damage to coral reefs and other ecosystems, and the emergence of vector-borne disease. A number of factors are likely to lead to the Caribbean Islands becoming less attractive to visitors. Energy and water resources will be strained, due to higher temperatures (increased need for air conditioning), aquifer contamination, and a predicted slight drying of the climate, perhaps leading to power losses and water shortages. Bleaching of the coral reefs will lead to a falling demand for dive tourism, and beach erosion and inundation due to hurricane-related storm surges and rising sea levels are likely to make beach holidays less attractive. The decline of Caribbean's beauty hot spots could see tourists seeking alternative sight seeing resorts. This could be an opportunity for Britain to put its idyllic coastal resorts and countryside back on the radar for holidaymakers.
Australia: Queensland Tourism is one of Australia’s biggest and fastest-growing businesses. Here, the 345,000 square km Great Barrier Reef alone, attracts nearly 2 million tourists a year, who contribute over Aus$5 billion annually to the nation’s economy.
Whilst it is predicted that the temperatures around the East Coast could become 1-1.5°C warmer it is likely that the lure of Australia's beauty will keep visitors flocking down under. Queensland is also expected to become drier as a consequence of decreased rainfall and increased evaporation, increasing the likelihood of drought and water shortages.
The most devastating impact of climate change on the state of Queensland is reserved for the jewel in its crown – the Great Barrier Reef. If the water around the reef gets too warm, the corals expel the tiny, symbiotic algae that live within them, leading to bleaching and ultimately to death. A global average temperature rise of just 2° C may be sufficient to kill off 90 percent of the world’s reefs.
North Africa: Morocco and Tunisia A combination of heat and humidity already makes places like Marrakech, in particular, extremely uncomfortable, and this situation will be far worse in 2030 and beyond. The beaches of both Morocco and Tunisia will suffer increasing erosion as sea levels rise, while the threat of desertification is also great. Seventy-five percent of Tunisia is under threat of desertification, and every year more communities vanish beneath the marching sand dunes. This will be compounded in the future by the higher temperatures and by significantly reduced rainfall.
India and the Indian Ocean: Goa, Kerala, Maldives, Seychelles The main impact of climate change on Goa will result from rising sea levels, with this very flat, low-lying area extremely susceptible to even the smallest rise. By 2030, beach erosion and inundation of shoreline properties is likely to be a real problem. Kerala is also low-lying and susceptible to rising sea levels, and is likely to encounter similar problems, although due to its size less people will be affected. Nevertheless, the coastal zones that support much of the tourist trade will suffer increasingly from beach erosion and inundation in the run-up to 2030 and beyond.
Both Goa and Kerala are within the Indian Ocean’s cyclone belt, and will be affected by the increase in the number of more powerful cyclones predicted to occur due to climate change; a trend that may already be apparent. This will raise the probability of wind damage and coastal flooding due to storm surges, exacerbating further the problems caused by rising sea levels. Climate change may also result in a more unpredictable Monsoon, leading, on the one hand to severe flooding, and on the other to periods of extended drought, causing water shortages.
Maldives and Seychelles The big problem for the Maldives is undoubtedly rising sea levels, with most of the 200 or so inhabited islands rarely rising more than 1 – 2 m above sea level. By 2030 sea-level rise will certainly have caused major beach erosion, and at worst may have started to submerge substantial areas of the islands. Salt-water intrusion of aquifers is likely to make individual islands uninhabitable, while the loss of coral reefs due to rising sea temperatures will mean the death of dive tourism. By the end of the century, the Maldives could be largely submerged and uninhabited, and their tourist industry destroyed. Loss of its beaches and coral reefs will also take a serious toll on tourism in the Seychelles, but the higher topography – up to 900 m in places – will at least ensure that the country does not vanish beneath the waves.
The changing impact of the tourist trade could have a marked impact on local and global economies . The industry represents 3.6 per cent of the planet’s total GDP, in 2005 was estimated to employ 243.4 million people, providing 8.7% of the world’s employment.
David Rochester concludes: "Climate change will affect everything that we do, including when and where we go on holiday. Perhaps we are on the brink of a new golden age for British tourist resorts as people from Southern Europe start to come here in summer to escape the heat back home."
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