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Thursday, 25 March 2010 00:00

Climate change and tourism

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Climate change refers to the variation in the Earth's global climate or in regional climates over time. Such variation occurs on very different time.

It is very well known that tourism in Spain is an essential economic activity, not only because of the employment it creates, but also for the business activity it generates around it (hotels, apartments, travel agencies, car rental, shops, restaurants, bars, laundry services, airports, banks, food, etc.) We are also aware of the big climate changes occurring all around the world. It is interesting to think about the impact of such climate changes on our economy and mainly with regard to tourist activities, which is a sector that, in the Canaries alone, received around 8 million tourists in 2009.

Different surveys and university reports point to new climatic variables in the next decades, namely an increase in the average temperature, a decrease in rainfall, and an increase in the sea level. These effects could result in direct consequences such as the loss of beaches, a decrease in biodiversity, a reduction of hydraulic resources, and also cause heat waves, droughts, floods and sea storms.

An increase in the average temperature could bring changes to tourist seasons and also cause their extension into longer seasons and changes in supply and demand. It also seems that tourist flow, as a result of global warming, could make tourists move towards the North seeking comfort.

There are some EU surveys stating that Spain and other countries in the South of Europe are running the risk of no longer being the preferred destination of European people for the next few decades; these tourists would choose to spend their summer vacations in the North of the continent where the effects of climate change would be less devastating. Such surveys state that the Mediterranean coast will have major droughts in the future, as well as a loss of agriculture activity and other problems derived from global warming. The surveys carried out reveal that beach tourism, where people currently spend summer vacations all along the Mediterranean coast because of the excellent conditions, will move to other latitudes, such as the North Sea or the Baltic Sea.

Some areas in the North of Spain, such as the Cantabrian coast, the Basque country and Galicia could become more prominent tourist destinations as other tourist destinations in the North of Europe, although currently they aren’t in direct competition, they could become so in the future. Another issue regarding beach tourism which we will have to deal with is the increase in the sea level. Climate change deeply affects European coasts and seas and one of these effects could be the temperature increase of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, also causing an increase in the sea level, which during the last century changed 1 to 2 mm every year, has increased by 3 mm a year since the 90s.

As a summary of climate change and its repercussion:

• Climate change has become the main threat for tourism in Spain (increase in temperatures, sea level, less rainfall, less snow, etc.)

• Some surveys state that during the period from 2011 to 2040, an average temperature increase around 2 degrees per year will occur, as well as a decrease in total rainfall and an increase in the sea level.

• A temperature increase in the Mediterranean could raise competition with the Northern regions, where temperatures are cooler or at least less stifling.

• According to Greenpeace, Spain is the most vulnerable country in the EU when it comes to temperature increase, sea level increase, impacts on its flora and fauna, and water shortage. For this reason, the organization is asking the government to become aware of these problems (which could arise in the near future) and take measures against them.

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