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The Impact of Climate Change on Tourism

Discuss about the Sustainable Tourism Survive Climate Change.

Tourism is a major contributor to the economic growth in many countries across the world. It presently employs over 10 percent of the world population indirectly and over 110 million people directly. Moreover, tourism currently injects over 7.5 trillion USD annually. The number of tourists grew significantly from just 520 million visitors in the year 2005 to over 1.2 billion visitors in the year 2016 and projections show that the industry may hit a target of around 2 billion tourists by the turn of the year 2030 (Statistica 2017).

Despite tourism being an anchor of economic prosperity for many countries, climate change has become a formidable variable that may impact on the sector in a number of ways (World Trade Organization [WTO] 2008). One question that arises is, what relationship does tourism and global warming foment? The bottom line is that tourism contributes to global warming and subsequently suffers the effects of climate change (Weaver 2011). While on one hand, tourism contributes to global warming by a margin of up to 5 percent, on the other hand, global warming affects many aspects of tourism such as ecotourism, tourism cycles, and life support for both tourists and wildlife (Scott 2011).

Contrary to perceptions in the industry, climate change doesn't necessarily mean a negative impact on tourism. It is however agreed among experts that the negative impacts far outweigh the positive ones (Hall & Gossling 2013).

Tourism contributes to climate change by a number of ways. To begin with, the collective transport mechanisms used by tourist ranging from air transport, water transport by cruise ships and other vessels, use of vehicles and trains account for over 75 percent of global carbon emissions in the tourism sector. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are major components of the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming (Gossling 2011).

Hotel, catering and accommodation activities such as using cooking gases and heating of rooms also release the carbon emissions. Refrigeration used in hotels releases chlorofluorocarbons which are the other major contributor to greenhouse gases that lead to global warming (WTO 2008).

The growth of tourism, especially in many cities, has led to uncoordinated organic waste management which has led to an increase in methane gas emission. This has contributed to the greenhouse gases that eventually lead to global warming (Su 2013).

Global warming leads to the rise of sea levels. This eventually leads to the submergence of tourism attraction sites such as barrier reefs, coastal lands, and islands. Tourists lose interest in the submerged areas dealing a blow to tourism (Dodman & Bicknell 2012).

Factors that Contribute to Global Warming

 According to Weaver (2011), global warming leads to drying up of water supply sources in many countries. This, in turn, makes it difficult for local communities and tourists to survive and hence lack an interest in the tourist attraction sites.

Climate change also leads to temperature rise in areas where it is predominantly cold, for instance, northern Europe, Canada, and some parts of Eastern Europe. The people in these areas find no need to travel to other areas to escape severe cold (Scott 2011).

High temperatures as a result of global warming lead to loss of biodiversity especially in Africa where wildlife is an important attraction to tourists. The tourists snub these areas leading to the loss of businesses (WTO 2008).

Hall and Gossling (2013) opine that climate change leads to shifting of tourism attraction site. As areas in the Caribbean, Asia-Pacific regions, and the Middle East become hotter, other areas such as Northern Europe, Alaska and Canada become more habitable pulling tourist from traditional markets in Asia-Pacific.

On a positive note, climate change leads to increased duration and frequency in summer activities, city travels, beach events and water sporting and skiing which leads to higher tourist numbers in countries such as Australia and New Zealand (Pickering 2011).

To begin with, climate change leads to degradation of ecotourism sites some tourist attraction sites such as national parks and reserves lose the biodiversity which is a key attraction for tourists visiting many countries (Weaver 2011).

Global warming leads to increased competition for tourism from non-traditional tourist attraction countries. As climate change makes traditional tourist attraction areas such as Asia-Pacific and countries in the Mediterranean experience high temperatures, other traditionally cold countries such as France, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries get warmer and attract more tourists hence may increase competition (Hall & Gossling 2013).

According to Reiss (2016), transport challenges emerge due to shifting in tourist interest from landmark areas to new areas of interest such as cities as a result of degradation of the landmarks by climate change.

Climate change leads to the spatial distribution of tourists. This is because it leads to shifting of tourists from traditional attraction areas to new areas of interest. For instance, many tourists are now shunning visiting the open country in favour of cities and beaches (Dodman & Bicknell 2012).

Climate change also leads to challenges in social-cultural events such as sports tourism, for instance, skiing. Due to the melting of snow and glaciers in many areas like Australia where such sports are possible, tourists have no option but to shun those areas (Pickering 2011).

Effects of Climate Change on the Tourism Industry

Global warming is a threat to many economies. In countries such as Australia where tourism contributes over 42 billion USD in revenue, climate change may result in low tourism hence loss of revenue for many tourist companies (Weaver 2011).

According to Statistica (2017), tourism offers employment to over 111 million people worldwide and about 10 percent of Australia workforce directly or indirectly. Climate change can lead to low international and local tourism interest (WTO 2008).

Firstly, a shift in tourism from traditional landmark areas to cities has led to overcrowding in many cities, for instance, Bangkok, major cities in China, Paris and other urban areas particularly in Asia-Pacific. This has led to decreased quality of tourism services (Scott 2011).

As a result of a sudden increase of tourists in many urban areas globally, transport problems emerge. To cope up with the challenge, the urban administration comes up with temporary measures such as enrolling more vehicles to cater for the tourists. This leads to traffic jams and environmental pollution (Dodman & Bicknell 2012).

Lack of interest in traditional ecotourism sites leads to loss of jobs. This is because as tourists shun areas affected by climate change, the local industries such as hotel and catering sector suffer which leads to job losses (Hall & Gossling 2013).

Loss of foreign exchange for many countries where tourism is a key sector contributing to economic growth. This leaves many countries with loss of income, budgetary constraints and balance of payments (WTO 2008).

A shift in tourism interest to major cities has resulted in a rise in the number of tourists which has led to infrastructural constraints in many cities. This has led to problems in city planning (Dodman & Bicknell 2012).

Overcrowding of tourists in new areas of interest such as beaches and cities has resulted in environmental degradation, pollution, and waste management problems which threaten the biodiversity in those areas (Su 2013).

As a result of the shifting of tourists from traditional landmark areas such as major ecotourism sites, governments, and private sector management have to adapt and focus on other economic activities which require massive capital (Weaver 2011).

To alleviate the loss of jobs from a decrease in tourism, governments and private sector management can shift to other economic areas or develop new tourist attraction sites (Dodman & Bicknell 2012).

Climate change is a problem that must be collectively tackled by all countries, to stem the rise of greenhouse gases, governments can invest in green-energy initiatives, increase carbon credit trading and low carbon emission transportation (Gossling 2011).

To address the rise of tourism in major cities the private sector management and governments can contribute financially to enhance infrastructural development to cater for the tourists (Reiss 2016).

To prevent environmental degradation from overcrowded ecotourism sites such as beaches, barrier reefs, and public parks, the government and private sector can regulate the flow of tourists in such areas and develop waste management initiatives such as reducing, recycling of plastic waste, and carbon credits trade (Su 2013)

The government can diversify into other tourism interests to prevent the loss of income. This can be achieved by developing neglected tourism attraction sites and supporting social tourism events like sports and cultural events (WTO 2008).


From the foregoing, it is evident that there is a close relationship between tourism and climate change where tourism is a big contributor to global warming and a victim of the adverse effects of climate change. The report has explored the challenges occasioned by climate change globally by both the private sector and governments. The impacts of the challenges have been discussed at length. Finally, appropriate remedial strategies have been recommended to alleviate the challenges.


Dodman, D. and Bicknell, J. (2012). Adapting Cities to Climate Change. 3rd ed. London: Earthscan Publishers, pp.2-54.

Gossling, S. (2011). Carbon Management in Tourism: Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Change. 3rd ed. Abingdon, Oxon, England: Routledge, pp.5-17.

Hall, C., Scott, D. and Gossling, S. (2013). The Primacy of Climate Change for Sustainable International Tourism. Sustainable Development, 21(2), pp.112-121.

Pickering, C. (2011). Changes in demand for tourism with climate change: a case study of visitation patterns to six ski resorts in Australia. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(6), pp.767-776.

Reiss, R. (2016). Travel Leaders Reveal What's Next For The $7 Trillion Global Travel Sector. [online] Forbes Welcome. Available at: [Accessed 1 May 2018].

Scott, D. (2011). Why sustainable tourism must address climate change. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(1), pp.17-25.

Statistica (2017). Global tourism industry - Statistics & Facts. [online] Statistica: The statistics Portal. Available at: [Accessed 1 May 2018].

Su, Y. (2013). Carbon management in tourism: mitigating the impacts on climate change. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 21(8), pp.1248-1249.

Weaver, D. (2011). Can sustainable tourism survive climate change?. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(1), pp.5-15.

World Tourism Organization. (2008). Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges (2nd ed., pp. 4-36). Madrid: UNWTO.

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