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Climate Change and Tourism in Northwestern Europe: Impacts and Adaptation
Each summer millions of northern Europeans have historically escaped the unfavorable weather conditions in their countries in search of the traditional "sun, sand, and sea" vacation in the Mediterranean region. Climate change may alter this longstanding tourism flow, however. Based on combination of a series of scientific climate change scenarios with the Tourism Climatic Index (TCI), a method of evaluating a location's climate for general tourism activity, this article examines projected changes in climatic suitability for tourism in northwestern Europe. Under all the scenarios considered, peak season conditions throughout northwestern Europe are projected to improve over the course of the coming century. In addition, the length of the peak season is also projected to increase in many regions, encompassing not only summer, but extending also into spring and autumn. Our findings suggest that projected climate change could considerably enhance northwestern Europe's competitive advantage relative to the Mediterranean in the summer season. Such shifts in climatic suitability could potentially have substantial impacts on the volumes, spatial distributions, and timing of travel within and to Europe. Together, these alterations to tourism activity have profound implications for the operation of the European tourism industry, from the planning, location, and development of new accommodations, transportation routes, and attractions, to the staffing and operation of existing enterprises. As discussed further in the article, the ability of tourism businesses to successfully adapt to these new conditions is likely to depend heavily on their recognition of climate change as an issue (i.e., the adoption of a proactive rather than reactive stance); to their organizational flexibility; and to the mobility of their capital investments.