A hand holds up a sign reading "It's getting hot in here" at a climate change rally.

How Will Climate Change Affect the Future of Travel and Tourism?

Climate change is the topic of the day. Turn on any news channel, and you’ll hear a story about its effects on our planet and communities. But how are climate change and tourism connected? We dissect the answer in this article. 

Keep reading to learn about climate change and its effect on the future of travel. We look at how it might change things such as transportation and the economy. 

Let’s dig in!

A hand holds up a sign reading "It's getting hot in here" at a climate change rally.

What Is Climate Change? 

Climate change is a shift over time in global and regional climates. It’s different from the weather in that weather changes day to day. In contrast, the climate is the typical weather of any given place. For example, the Arizona desert’s climate in the summer is usually hot and dry.

Climate change is a disruption or shift in the typical weather of a region. It could look like a difference in an area’s usual amount of snow or rain, or it may trigger extreme weather or natural disasters.

This ongoing process can be caused on its own or by humans. For example, driving cars and putting oil and gas into the air affect the climate and ultimately change the weather. 

But this can also come down to how we use our resources. Overwatering and agricultural practices can make rivers run dry and impact severe droughts.

How Will Climate Change Affect Tourism?

Tourism may not be going anywhere, but climate change will affect where people travel. Destinations that tourists used to flock to in the summer may see hotter temperatures causing more unpleasant beach vacations. 

And places like northern Michigan, which usually has a lot of snow in the winter for snowmobilers and skiers, see less snow every year.

Additionally, many places in the West suffer from severe droughts that deplete reservoir levels. The water has gotten so low in some lakes that boats can no longer launch. These climate changes cut the tourism seasons short, and small businesses that rely on them suffer.   

What Is Voluntourism? And Why Is It So Harmful?

How Have Natural Disasters Affected the Travel and Tourism Industry?

Natural disasters have always happened. However, due to our global and advanced societies, they have a greater toll. They greatly affect the travel and tourism industry.

From supply shortages to destroyed businesses and job losses, a natural disaster can cause long-term damage to the industry and economy. The disaster’s impact on the local communities and economy is devastating to the point where some never recover. 

The increased costs of visiting such places deter some people from visiting. Everything from the cost of food to transportation can hinder visitors on a budget.

Travelers also feel more hesitant to travel to places that experienced natural disasters. Fear of it happening again or the distrust that the destination has recovered will keep people away. 

When a tourist’s budget and time away from work are at stake, they want to ensure the place they visit will meet their expectations. If the area has yet to recover from a flood, volcano, etc., it’s not as appealing for a vacation.

However, according to an article from the NCBI, some locations that experienced certain natural disasters, such as wildfires and storms, actually saw an increase in tourism.

How Does Climate Change Affect Transportation?

Climate change is affecting transportation and will continue to in the future. With more storms, flooding, and natural disasters, more infrastructures can be damaged and shut down some transportation systems long term. 

It can disrupt the travel and tourism industry in significant and costly ways. For example, floods recently washed out roads in Yellowstone National Park as you can see in the video above. It caused a massive loss for the national park, as visitors weren’t allowed to enter. 

And incidents like this can trickle down to local businesses, hotels, campgrounds, and attractions that would gain business from the tourists.

How Does Climate Change Impact Our Economy? 

Climate change intertwines with the economy. It suffers when a natural disaster shuts down businesses, national parks, or attractions. 

Many destinations around the world rely on tourism. For example, one of Greece’s main industries is tourism. They have an increase in wildfires yearly due to climate change, which directly affects their economy. 

Or consider small towns throughout North America that rely on seasonal tourism. If they lose a season due to weather changes, that could cost their livelihood for the entire year.

Can the Tourism Industry Survive the Climate Crisis?

Most of the tourism industry will survive the climate crisis, but it will take a hit. Small businesses and small towns will likely suffer the most. People may start to travel to different places based on weather, natural disasters, and the economy.

A camp of tents for tourists in the desert in Jordan.

On the flip side, tourism also contributes to the climate crisis. Approximately eight percent of global emissions are due to humans traveling. To keep the tourism industry alive, we also need to do our part to prevent the climate crisis from worsening.

Is Travel Still Worth It? 

Travel is still worth it. Climate change is ongoing. Certainly, helping to prevent it is one of our responsibilities, but in the midst, we can also contribute to the tourism industry through travel.

Consider how you help the local economy when you travel. Instead of just being a tourist coming through for a short period, think about how your footprint impacts the place.

Planning your travel around the type of climate and weather you enjoy may be trickier in the future. But it’s still possible. Do your research and consider destinations out of the box from where you normally go.

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