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Climate Change and Its Impacts on Tourism
This report reviews the impacts of climate change for a wide range of international holiday destinations visited by UK tourists. Tourism as an industry is increasing in both volume and economic importance. Several places, that only a few years ago were inaccessible, are now becoming very popular holiday destinations. However, the ecosystems of many of these resorts are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Global and regional temperatures are rising. 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium and the 1990s the warmest decade. The four warmest years globally – in decreasing order of magnitude – are 1998, 1997, 1995 and 1990. Climate models suggest a future warming of 0.2 - 0.3°C per decade and sea levels are expected to rise at a rate of 4 to 10cm per decade. The impacts of climate change on tourism are likely to manifest themselves in a number of different ways according to local conditions. Many of these impacts will develop indirectly through increased stresses placed on environmental systems. The most serious impacts will result from the effects of sea level rise on small island states. The Maldives, which are an increasingly popular tourist destination, are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Climate change is expected to increase the risk of illness in several parts of the world and consequently discourage tourism. More frequent periods of extreme heat will cause discomfort in many resorts of the Eastern Mediterranean, where the number of days above 40°C is estimated to increase. Decreasing cloud cover in Australia will increase exposure to the sun's harmful rays and malaria is likely to re-emerge in Spain, the most popular destination for tourists from the UK. Winter tourism may also be affected, as the Alps and other skiing destinations experience less snowfall and shorter skiing seasons. These impacts will be especially pronounced in the lower-lying ski resorts, such as Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, and those resorts, such as in the Scottish Highlands, where commercial ventures are already marginal. However, the picture is by no means entirely negative. The attraction of many holiday resorts is the prospect of guaranteed sunshine and heat. A generally warmer climate will benefit those holiday destinations such as the UK where summer weather conditions are at present highly variable. With warmer weather a higher proportion of UK residents may be encouraged to holiday at home. We may witness not only an expansion in the domestic market, but an expansion in the inbound international market as the UK develops a more Mediterranean climate.