How extreme weather could force travellers to revamp their vacation plans — now and in the future
A recent trip to Europe marked a first for Amanda Jacobsmeyer as she traveled in the summer instead of at a cooler time of year.
“It’s very hot,” said Jacobsmeyer, a New Yorker who visited northern Italy, southern France and Monaco for eight days in July.
In Monaco, mercury levels had risen enough that a friend of Jacobsmeyer’s tour group revealed that she and her family would be skipping a weeklong trip due to temperatures lingering past the 30C mark.
“I’m too cheap to cancel a vacation I paid for,” says Jacobsmeyer, who nonetheless sees logic in having a limit when it comes to heat.
Europe has seen several sweltering heat waves this summer, top profile in some cases. Parts of the continent had to face severe drought conditions – and wildfires ripped through forests and forced people to Escape from homes, campsites and resorts.
Tourism industry experts say the continent has faced extreme weather events in the past, but these challenges are likely to change where and when people travel as they return. should be more frequent in light of our changing climate.
In southwestern France this week, firefighters were trying to put out a large forest fire in the Gironde . region – like they were in last month. The country is also facing Its worst drought ever and the fourth heatwave this year.
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Frédéric Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, said the country has dealt with wildfires in the past – especially in the more combustible south – although not must be with the size and frequency of the combination of problems. This year.
“The consequences of those fires seem bigger than ever,” said Dimanche, who is originally from France and stays up to date there.
He said it was too early to say how travelers would plan to go on holiday in the future, but some tour operators were signaling that they would make adjustments.
Dimanche listened to an interview with the owner of a campsite destroyed by a recent fire near Arcachon, France.
The owner has been planning to rebuild his facility, with the goal of moving towards a more environmentally sustainable setup. But he is very optimistic about the future.
“In this interview, there was never anything about giving up,” says Dimanche. “He’s still looking forward to everyone coming back next year.”
Heat, yes. Too much heat, no
Dimanche says this part of France and the wider Mediterranean basin attract sun seekers from other parts of the continent for vacations, whether they come by car or train. or airplane.
And like their other tourists from abroad, vacationers are there to enjoy the heat.
“It’s pretty sunny – guaranteed for the whole summer,” he said.
Mary Chao could demonstrate the power of the sun in the south of France before the official start of summer, as when she and her husband headed to the French Riviera in May.
Chao, a journalist living in New Jersey, said: “In the afternoon it was just scorching hot.
Chao said fighting the extreme heat that persisted into late summer would make her “miserable”.
Climate scientist Dominic Royé, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, said the wider Mediterranean region is warming 20% faster than the global average. .
“If you think about the extent to which tourism activities depend on weather conditions, you can imagine the potential impact [on tourism]”Royé said in an email.
The European Tourism Commission (ETC), representing more than 30 national tourism organizationssays it has no data on how extreme weather is affecting the continent is affecting holidaymakers’ decisions this year.
“sporadic adverse weather conditions are unlikely to affect the majority of travelers’ immediate travel behavior,” the ETC operator said by email.
But if such conditions ‘remain in the long run’, the ETC believes, there could be change ahead – potentially in the form of people choosing to travel to other places or to travel. off at times of year when temperatures are less intense.
In Italy this summer, tourists visiting Lake Garda, where water levels have dropped dramatically, are understanding how extreme weather can affect their tourism and leisure activities.
Rocks that were once underwater are now exposed and surround the Sirmione Peninsula, far beyond the normal coastline. The water outside that level is a few degrees above normal – roughly in line with the Caribbean Sea average.
Garda Mayor Davide Bedinelli said The tourist season is going better than expecteddespite the cancellation of visitors during the July heatwave.
“Drought is a reality we have to deal with this year, but the tourist season is not at risk,” he wrote on Facebook last month.
More focus on risk
Dimanche pointed out that those traveling abroad this summer had to carry out their plans amid the continuing global pandemic.
He believes the same thought process could become a more important part of how people plan their trips in the future.
“I increasingly think we are going to have to look at the risk assessment due to weather and climate change,” says Dimanche.
That could also be a factor for travel and tour operators; Dimanche said they will have to weigh the risks their customers may face.
Víctor Resco de Dios, a professor of forestry at the University of Lleida in Spain, sees wildfires as a specific area of risk that needs to be addressed.
“The tourism industry must adapt quickly,” said Resco de Dios, who sees growing threats to the tourism industry when wildfires get worsesaid in an email.
Resco de Dios says it’s a particular concern for border-forested tourist destinations. He said: “Steps need to be taken to reduce fire risk, in part by reducing tree cover, so there is less fuel for future wildfires.
“I don’t think people are aware that their accommodation can become a mousetrap under fire,” said Resco de Dios, who believes governments should publish maps showing whether a place Is it fire safe or not?
“This way, travelers can make informed decisions about the risk they are taking with their holiday destination.”