By Philippos Drousiotis*
Coastal erosion, rising sea levels, increased temperatures, sea disturbances, and storms, as well as the reduction of freshwater supply, are some of the consequences of climate change. Climate change affects environmental conditions, and it is the environmental conditions of a destination that attract tourists. Tourism is related to the environment and climate, so the tourism industry is highly sensitive to climate.
Does tourism affect the climate? It is estimated that 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions are due to tourism (expected to increase by 130% by 2035 if no measures are taken). Transportation accounts for 75% of all carbon dioxide emissions from the tourism sector. Air travel contributes to 40% of total emissions from tourism, and the accommodation sector is responsible for 21% of carbon dioxide emissions.
Tourism must take action now! The tourism industry must address climate change immediately if we want tourist destinations to exist for future generations of tourists and locals.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has embraced the challenge of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the tourism sector by creating partnerships among stakeholders, raising awareness, developing guidelines, and providing support.
Climate change is considered a major threat to society, the economy, and the environment. Climate change is likely to accelerate in the coming years if no measures are taken and could turn into a climate crisis. The global average temperature is projected to increase between 1.8°C - 4.0°C by 2100 if no action is taken.
The cost of taking action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be much lower than the economic and social costs that will arise from future actions to address climate change.
Climate determines the duration and quality of tourist seasons in different regions.
Climate directly affects various aspects of tourism activities that impact profitability (e.g., water supply and quality, cooling and heating costs).
Environmental resources that are key attractions for tourism, such as wildlife, biodiversity, water quality, snow conditions, etc., are highly sensitive to climate variability.
Climate affects the environmental conditions that can deter tourists from visiting a destination. For example, infectious diseases, fires, and extreme events such as hurricanes, floods, or heatwaves.
Climate is also a decisive factor in tourists' decision-making. Weather is a crucial element of the travel experience and also affects tourists' expenses and holiday satisfaction.
The cultural heritage that attracts tourists is threatened by extreme climate changes.
There are expenses for reconstruction due to natural disasters and higher operational costs due to emergency preparedness requirements.
Cyprus, as an island, will be directly affected by climate change. If international policies are implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we may see an increase in the cost of air travel. Additionally, environmental behavior may change, and tourists may choose to travel closer to their homes instead of traveling to distant destinations.
The impacts of climate change and adaptation to it will have economic costs. Climate change will also threaten future economic development and political stability in certain countries. Tourists are deterred by political instability and social unrest.
Sustainable tourism is the answer to climate change to minimize risks. Tourists are willing to pay a price for sustainability.
We must join forces to address the Climate Crisis, which is much greater than the COVID-19 crisis!
The climate is changing and will continue to change in the future. The climate crisis will have social, economic, and environmental consequences. The extent of these impacts will depend on how nations, industries, and individuals reduce emissions and adapt to the changes.
The tourism and travel sector has started to address the climate issue. UNWTO is fully committed to promoting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from tourism activities.
Tourism contributes to sustainable development, poverty reduction, and the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The timing is appropriate, especially after COVID-19:
- For governments and the public sector to invest in approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
- For the public and private sectors to advance innovative low-carbon initiatives that not only create jobs but also contribute to the economy.
- To promote sustainable tourism.
- To emphasize the quality of tourists rather than quantity.
- To "absorb" all tourism funds from Europe that are related to the green transition.
Any further delay will have consequences for the tourism industry and the people who depend on it. Cyprus is being fined by the European Union for not achieving sufficient reductions in emissions.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization clearly understands that any initiative to reduce the contribution of travel and tourism to global warming must take into account the role of the tourism industry in sustainable development and poverty reduction. Any discussion about emissions reduction must consider the least developed countries.
*Philippos Drousiotis is the president of the Cyprus sustainable tourism association.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]