Tourism and climate change – two terms widely used across the world. In conversation, we often talk about these two separately. What we don’t often consider is how one affects the other, and the resulting consequences. Nowadays, it’s hard to bring up one without mentioning the other.
First coined as a term in the early 1980’s, ecotourism is currently defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (The International Ecotourism Society, 2015). By the early 1990’s, ecotourism became the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry worldwide. The main principle of ecotourism is to unite conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. Ecotourism strives to promote initiatives to merge sustainability with travel and tourism.
The Impacts of Climate Change on Ecotourism
One of the most significant aspects of climate change is global warming. Although global warming can influence tourism positively, such as creating longer beach seasons and contributing to the development of seaside tourism, the negative effects form a much bigger threat.
Perhaps one of the biggest effects associated with increasing global temperature is the rise of sea levels. As seawater heats up, it expands and takes up more space, causing the sea level to rise. Eventually, the sea will submerge smaller islands and thin strips of coastal regions that depend on tourism to support their economy. The melting of snow and glaciers also contributes to rising sea levels, by shifting the vacation destinations of tourists, moving them to more tropical locations and away from cooler locations, such as ski resorts.
In addition to the rising seas, a lack of water and desertification also comes as a product of global warming. Desertification is a deterioration of soils brought on by climatic shifts. The word itself literally means “loss of soil fertility.” With the temperature and weather swings associated with global warming, rising surface temperatures and lack of rain can take a toll on the water supply and dry out crops. These conditions make the land less hospitable for both local communities and tourists alike.
Is Climate Change affecting Ecotourism, or Vice Versa?
The discussion here is two fold. Perhaps the issue that comes to mind first is the way in which climate change is affecting tourism. Things like rising sea levels and desertification make it more difficult for tourists to venture to and stay at these remote locations for their vacation getaway. However, another discussion arises if we flip the issue around – we can also look at how tourism can contribute to climate change. Increasing numbers of tourists means increasing pressure on the transportation and accommodation sectors, which contributes to increasing carbon emissions.
These issues are hard to tackle because of the scale on which they exist. Although there are lifestyle changes we can make to alleviate the effects of climate change, we can’t completely stop nature’s path. Just as climate change can’t be stopped, we can’t single out the tourism industry in an attempt to lessen the effects from climate change. Where do we draw the line between saving our environment and supporting the tourism industry that keep small coastal towns alive?
Ways the Tourism Sector Can Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change
Although a difficult task, there are some ways in which tourists can adapt to the pressures of climate change. Diversifying tourist destinations and services associated with those destinations is one option. There are many tourist locations that require very specific climate conditions, such as beach or health-wellness areas and winter sport locations. Branching out and touring alternate locations that are not as climate dependent decreases the pressure brought on by these dramatic climate shifts. Although telling tourists to alter their preferred destinations and relocate to areas less dependent on climate isn’t necessarily completely feasible, this is an option to consider.
Another option is adapting tourist destinations to deal with the effects of climate change. This option is certainly a long-term plan. It involves the creation of new, environmentally friendly technologies, as well as altering the mindsets of both the local communities and the tourists. Instead of attempting to escape the effects of climate change, this option allows us to get to the source.
Ecotourism – https://ecocukurova.wordpress.com/
Impact of climate change on tourist destinations – http://www.climate-change-toolkit.com/tourism–climate-change.html
The effects of climate change – http://guyanachronicle.com/how-would-climate-change-affect-sids/