Adapting to climate change impacts in an industry that is considered vulnerable and highly climate-sensitive could be difficult and complicated. Tourism may be an ideal industry for assisting with climate adaptation. Ideal in the sense that it is a diverse industry with numerous opportunities to engage and involve. And this has the potential to be a very interesting and significant positive.
Tourism policies that promote adaptation, both directly and indirectly, with smaller tourism destinations to better understand their potential roles in supporting adaptation strategies. Tourist attractions should consider increasing resilience to facilitate adaptation, as well as expanding tourist activities that promote the concept of adaptation.
It is critical that tourist attractions consider ways to improve resilience so that climate adaptation has a better chance of success. In cases where adaptation may be a difficult issue, it may also indicate the emergence of interesting opportunities. Opportunities to engage the informal sector and those who would otherwise be excluded from the benefits of tourism growth.
The Carbon Footprint of Tourism
Tourism is not only a victim of global warming; it also contributes to it. Tourism alone accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions. This footprint is only growing as more people travel each year. When we travel, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While flying is the most significant source of these emissions, other activities, such as using air conditioning in hotels or taking a boat ride, also emit CO2. Aside from these direct emissions, tourism development can cause CO2 emissions by degrading ecosystems that act as carbon sinks.
Tourism’s carbon footprint must be reduced and the industry must operate more sustainably, with the resulting impacts on the environment and human life.
Impacts of Climate Change on Tourism
Many countries that are vulnerable to climate change are popular tourist destinations. Climate change is affecting tourism-dependent destinations, resulting in the loss of jobs, homes, lives, and hope.
Climate change impacts, such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and hurricanes, are particularly severe in coastal areas, mountainous areas, and the Polar Regions. While the tourism industry in the Arctic may benefit from reduced sea ice due to global warming, tourism destinations in the tropics are expected to see a decrease in visitor numbers due to higher temperatures and increased storm frequency and intensity.
Summer tourism in Europe will be redistributed away from Southern Europe and towards higher latitudes, with warmer regions experiencing a temporal tourism shift from high to shoulder seasons. Because of its interdependence, the tourism industry will be among the first to suffer when disasters strike; venues will become shelters, and tourism will come to a halt in the event of an emergency.
Despite this, the travel and tourism industry is one of the most polluting in terms of carbon emissions, contributing to global warming and natural disasters.
Tourism’s Contribution to Climate Change
The tourism industry accounts for approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to:
- aviation (40%),
- transportation (30%), and
- consumption of goods and services (30%), including food and lodging.
Tourism is tackling climate change
The tourism industry is extremely vulnerable to climate change. At the same time, tourism contributes to the release of greenhouse gases (GHG), which contribute to global warming. Accelerating climate action in tourism is therefore critical for the sector’s resilience.
Climate action is central to the Vision, which calls for monitoring and reporting CO2 emissions from tourism, promoting the adoption of science-based targets, hastening the decarbonization of tourism operations, and involving the tourism sector in carbon removal. Understanding your carbon footprint is the first step toward decarbonization. Understanding the emissions from your own business, such as any fuel or electricity use, or any coolant release from air conditioners, is the bare minimum.
Travel companies and hotels are investigating ways to reduce food-related emissions, such as reducing food waste, utilizing local produce, and promoting more vegetarian and vegan options, which typically have a lower carbon footprint.
Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies
Community Engagement and Empowerment
Tourism is a cross-sectoral industry that thrives on community engagement and participation, so it is critical that travel companies, tourists, and local residents all participate in tourism development. By involving members of the local community in tourism planning and supply chains, we can ensure that development strikes a balance for mutually beneficial outcomes.
Conservation and Protection of Natural Resources
Conserving energy, water, and waste is as simple as using less of them. By participating in responsible resource management and reducing or upcycling waste, you can demonstrate to guests that you are serious about reducing your environmental footprint, all while protecting your local ecosystem and lowering your energy or water bill costs.
Destination Planning and Management
To guide development in a way that promotes economic growth, environmental preservation, community development, and visitor satisfaction, clear goals and objectives must be established. Effective destination planning and management ensures tourism destinations’ long-term sustainability and competitiveness, making your business more appealing to visitors.
The carbon footprint of tourism is heavily influenced by transportation. The combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles, ships, and especially airplanes emits greenhouse gases, resulting in significant carbon emissions depending on the point of departure and destination.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Businesses in the tourism industry should monitor and evaluate their environmental impact on a regular basis, including carbon emissions and waste flows, in accordance with milestones (Key performance indicators, KPIs) that aim to achieve measurable but ambitious goals. Monitoring and evaluation allow you to measure and track your company’s performance while also identifying areas for improvement and growth.
Climate change has the potential to both contribute to and mitigate the effects of tourism. In doing so, it is critical that the industry recognizes the gravity of the situation and takes a cautious approach. While it has the ability to shape economies, cultures, and landscapes, it also has the potential to exert significant environmental pressure. This will necessitate a collaborative effort on the part of all stakeholders, including governments, tourism organizations, businesses, and travelers themselves. We must prioritize renewable energy sources, reduce transportation-related carbon emissions, promote sustainable lodging options, and engage in responsible and respectful tourism practices.
Education and Awareness
It is critical to raise awareness about what you are doing for sustainable tourism among tourists, industry professionals, and local communities. You can concentrate on encouraging responsible travel behaviors like reducing waste, preventing littering, respecting local cultures, and supporting environmentally and socially responsible businesses. By doing so, you can incorporate sustainable tourism into your business practices and brand identity, resulting in a positive cycle of responsible tourism practices that contributes to the long-term preservation of your destinations and local resources.
Climate adaptation will almost certainly be one of the issues addressed by many tourism destinations in their planning. Various strategies for dealing with contemporary tourism issues (such as mass tourism) will be linked to adaptation and resilience building. Transportation-related carbon emissions, energy-intensive hotel operations, and the strain on natural resources all contribute to the tourism industry’s carbon footprint. Our decisions as tourists and members of the tourism industry. We can contribute to a more sustainable tourism sector by supporting environmentally conscious businesses, respecting local communities and cultures, and seeking out authentic and sustainable experiences.
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Homes, W. (2020) The link between tourism and climate change, Sea Going Green. Available at: https://www.seagoinggreen.org/blog/the-link-between-tourism-and-climate-change (Accessed: 10 August 2023).
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Combat climate change (2023) Sustainable Travel International. Available at: https://sustainabletravel.org/our-work/climate-change/#:~:text=Tourism’s%20Carbon%20Footprint,-Tourism%20is%20not&text=Tourism%20alone%20is%20responsible%20for,are%20generated%20throughout%20our%20trips (Accessed: 10 August 2023).
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