From alpine ski slopes to the lapping tidewater of the ocean, climate change has a growing impact on resort operations, visitation and profits. How will owners and their guests cope?
Climate change is the measureable change in temperatures, rainfall, wind and other physical conditions on earth over a long time period. There are natural and manmade causes of climate change.
Natural causes (variations in Earth’s orbit, increased solar activity, volcanic eruptions, and meteor strikes) have been active for hundreds of millions of years, and will continue intermittently.
But the genie out of the bottle is manmade causes of climate change. Since the Industrial Age (beginning in the early 20th century), the concentration of heat-storing “greenhouse gases” has increased in the atmosphere. The warming is accelerating, as seen in changing weather patterns, spreading drought, melting of continental glaciers and polar ice caps, rising sea level, and beach erosion.
Tourism leaders should pay close attention. Resort success depends on good weather, good water quality, plentiful outdoor recreation, vibrant local communities and visitor demand. Climate change impacts all these. Climate change is real, measurable, predictable and widespread. And climate change is checking in to our resorts and hotels for a long stay.
When Nature plays Rough
From Venice to Ventura Beach, and Miami to Madrid, the travel tourism industry depends inspiring natural resources, venerable cultural sites and pleasant weather. These are the distinct the brand assets that attract visitors. Now dynamic locations with beaches, forests, old-growth habitat, rare wildlife, and seasonal recreation are vulnerable to climate change:
- Rising sea level and ocean storms are chewing away popular beaches and impacting seaside towns.
- A few degrees in latitude shift of the Jet Stream has been implicated in the prolonged drought parching resorts in the southeast, hardening golf fairways and lowering lakes, steams, and aquifers.
- Colorado’s ski industry faces a shrinking snow pack, and is planning long-term for alternate recreation such as mountain biking.
- From low-lying beach communities to the city of Venice the already measureable rising sea level endangers beaches and waterside property. What can be done?
The Call for Leadership
Climate change is the ascending threat and yet, the supreme opportunity for the tourism industry. Resorts and their interdependent communities are vulnerable, but not helpless. Vulnerable sites must adapt now: building farther back from the sea, developing resistant landscapes for storm protection and drought, investing in new recreation, developing climate-change-sustainable infrastructure, and working with communities to plan now for the long term. This is how the tourism industry can lead the way and protect its bottom line.