IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Recreation and tourism

Climate change has major potential impacts on coastal tourism, which is strongly dependent on ‘sun, sea and sand’. Globally, travel to sunny and warm coastal destinations is the major factor for tourists travelling from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean (16% of world’s tourists) and from North America to the Caribbean (1% of world’s tourists) (WTO, 2003). By 2020, the total number of international tourists is expected to exceed 1.5 billion (WTO, undated).

Climate change may influence tourism directly via the decision-making process by influencing tourists to choose different destinations; and indirectly as a result of sea-level rise and resulting coastal erosion (Agnew and Viner, 2001). The preferences for climates at tourist destinations also differ among age and income groups (Lise and Tol, 2002), suggesting differential responses. Increased awareness of interactions between ozone depletion and climate change and the subsequent impact on the exposure of human skin to ultraviolet light is another factor influencing tourists’ travel choice (Diffey, 2004). In general, air temperature rise is most important to tourism, except where factors such as sea-level rise promote beach degradation and viable adaptation options (e.g., nourishment or recycling) are not available (Bigano et al., 2005). Other likely impacts of climate change on coastal tourism are due to coral reef degradation (Box 6.1; Section (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2000). Temperature and rainfall pattern changes may impact water quality in coastal areas and this may lead to more beach closures.

Climate change is likely to affect international tourist flows prior to travel, en route, and at the destination (Becken and Hay, undated). As tourism is still a growth industry, the changes in tourist numbers induced by climate change are likely to be much smaller than those resulting from population and economic growth (Bigano et al., 2005; Hamilton et al., 2005; Table 6.2). Higher temperatures are likely to change summer destination preferences, especially for Europe: summer heatwaves in the Mediterranean may lead to a shift in tourism to spring and autumn (Madisson, 2001) with growth in summer tourism around the Baltic and North Seas (see Chapter 12, Section 12.4.9). Although new climate niches are emerging, the empirical data do not suggest reduced competitiveness of the sun, sea and sand destinations, as they are able to restructure to meet tourists’ demands (Aguiló et al., 2005). Within the Caribbean, the rapidly growing cruise industry is not vulnerable to sea-level rise, unlike coastal resorts. On high-risk (e.g., hurricane-prone) coasts, insurance costs for tourism could increase substantially or insurance may no longer be available. This exacerbates the impacts of extreme events or restricts new tourism in high-risk regions (Scott et al., 2005), e.g., four hurricanes in 2004 dealt a heavy toll in infrastructure damage and lost business in Florida’s tourism industry (see Chapter 14, Section 14.2.7).