How Will Climate Change Impact Tourism?

How Will Climate Change Impact Tourism?

By Indiana Lee

Tourism accounts for as much as five percentof the world’s carbon emissions, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. To combat this, many travel companies from hotels to cruise lines are making inroads to reducing greenhouse gases.

Adding emphasis to this gradual change is the Paris Climate Accord. Signed in 2015 by 195 countries, the Accord is ambitious in its scope, as it asks for worldwide cooperation in reducing carbon emissions to keep the temperature rise in this century to below two degrees Celsius. Many countries have taken this task to heart and are seeking to employ solutions to meet this goal. Included in this are travel companies who also want to reduce their carbon footprint left by tourism. 

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Adopting a green perspective

To accomplish this, many travel companies across the globe are using some unique technological advancements. Royal Caribbean, for example, installed an Advanced Emission Purification system in all of its cruise ships. These scrubbers remove 98% of the sulfur dioxide from the ship’s exhaust. Along with the scrubbers, each cruise ship has a sleeker design to maximize fuel efficiency.

Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada Mountains. Credit: Jeff Hopper.

Many popular destinations are also doing more to reduce emissions. Lake Tahoe, for instance, is a great destination for skiers and those who want to experience nature in its purest form. And because of its popularity, the city decided it was going to offer more public transportation options with half of its buses operating on natural gas

Another way companies are reducing their carbon footprint is by calculating how much carbon emissions they produce, then offsetting these by making investments in wind power plants, planting trees, and other environmentally-friendly initiatives. Furthermore, education also factors into how travel companies operate their business. Virtuoso launched a Sustainable Tourism initiative, which helps travel agents plan more eco-friendly trips and even suggests which companies are doing the most to reduce carbon emissions. 

However, while climate change has affected the way travel companies design their products and run their businesses, this is only one side of the equation.

Taking a bite out of your wallet

Climate change is expensive. Governments know this, and it’s why they raise their taxes to account for the ballooning costs associated with weather damage. In fact, the average millennial will now pay $126,000 over the course of their lifetime for climate change-related expenses. 

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, USA. Credit: Steven Wilcox.

Moreover, as the costs continue to rise, it will make travel more of a luxury that fewer people can take advantage of. While this might be better for the environment overall, there are ways you can enjoy the benefits of travel while keeping your carbon footprint low. 

Making eco-friendly travel choices

The other impact of climate change is how it changes the way you travel. With more information available on climate change, it’s important travelers are mindful of how their everyday decisions impact the environment. For example, along with choosing hotels, cruise lines, and other travel companies that adopt eco-friendly standards, there are other ways to make a difference, such as choosing low-impact transportation. Unless you drive a hybrid or an electric car, road trips mean more reliance on fossil fuels. Considering that as much as 14% of global emissions worldwide come from transportation, it’s important travelers find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. This can include:

  • Taking public transportation in lieu of driving, especially if the city provides electric or natural gas alternatives
  • Biking when in cities
  • Carpooling instead of using multiple vehicles
  • Using an electric car for shorter trips
  • Reducing the number of flights you take (and offsetting it when you do)
  • Keeping your vehicle’s engine well-maintained when you do drive.

These tips can help you enjoy traveling while reducing carbon emissions during your trip. Along with how you travel, climate change impacts where you travel.

Credit: Social Cut.

Natural disasters are becoming too common 

Climate change lends itself to unpredictable weather patterns that can have devastating results. When Hurricane Dorian swept through parts of the Bahamas in September, bringing with it destruction to parts like Marsh Harbour and Freeport, the damage was so extensive that Delta Airlines recently announced suspension of flights to Marsh Harbour and Freeport indefinitely. Unfortunately, this might become more commonplace among coastal areas that are prone to flooding and wind surge damage during hurricanes. 

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Further, the rising sea levels might make it difficult to visit coastal cities that are now popular vacation destinations. Because of this threat, it will alter where people travel. After all, if cities like Miami experience flooding on a regular basis, people aren’t going to want to — or even be able to — visit those places. 

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Ultimately, climate change is a higher consideration now thanks to global awareness brought on by activists such as Greta Thunberg and high-profile people such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore and Sir David Attenborough. While some travel companies are working hard to adopt environmentally-friendly options to reduce their carbon footprint, travelers themselves much also become more mindful of how their travel habits impact the environment — otherwise, worse case scenario, there may not be any safe places to travel to at all.

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Feature image via Unsplash.

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