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Sunday, August 29, 1999 Published at 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK


Global warming threatens tourism

Holiday playground: What happens to the Maldives when the seas rise?

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

The BBC's Robert Pigott: "Beaches could be washed into the sea"
A report commissoned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (UK) says heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, flash floods, forest fires and disease "could turn profitable tourist destinations into holiday horror stories".

WWF asked the climatic research unit at the university of East Anglia to analyse the potential impact of a changing climate on 10 top destinations.

They are the Maldives, the European Alps, the eastern Mediterranean, southern Spain, Scotland, the European lakes, South and east Africa, Australia, Florida and Brazil.

Staying away

The WWF's Ute Collier: "It could paradoxically get even colder in Britain"
The senior research scientist at the unit, Dr David Viner, said: "Areas like the Mediterranean could become unbearable during the traditional summer holiday season. As temperatures begin to soar, many tourists will stay away."

Dr Ute Collier, WWF head of climate change, said: "The tourism industry could be faced with huge costs as global warming begins to influence decisions about when and where people are going to go on holiday."

[ image: Less alpine snow will mean fewer tourists]
Less alpine snow will mean fewer tourists
The unit's report, Climate Change and its Impacts on Tourism, uses Meteorological Office research on probable temperatures and sea levels in the next century.

By next year earnings from global tourism are expected to have reached $621bn.

The total is forecast to reach $1.5 trillion by 2010. Tourism already accounts for as much as 20% of some countries' gross domestic product.

Problems the report says could hurt tourism include:

  • more days in eastern Mediterranean resorts when the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Centigrade
  • thinner cloud cover in Australia, meaning a higher sunburn and skin cancer risk
  • the probable re-emergence of malaria in Spain, the most popular destination for many package holidaymakers from Northern Europe
  • less snowfall and shorter skiing seasons in the Alps, with lower-lying resorts likely to be especially affected
  • damage to coral reefs, and rising sea levels
  • new pressures on the wild animals and plants that tourists want to see, and on the places where they live.

[ image: Australia's sun is set to get hotter]
Australia's sun is set to get hotter
Tourism is itself contributing to the very process that threatens it. Air travel is the fastest growing source of emissions of the gases causing climate change.

In 1996 there were 594 million international travellers. By next year, that number is likely to have reached 702 m.

By 2010, the number of travellers is expected to top the one billion mark, and one decade later could be as high as 1.6bn.

WWF's recommendations include introducing an aviation fuel tax throughout the European Union, and preferably worldwide.

It also argues for a shift from fossil fuel use to renewable energy sources, and for improved energy efficiency in new buildings, including tourist resorts.

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