How extreme weather could force travelers to rethink their vacation plans – now and in the future

A recent trip to Europe marked a first for Amanda Jacobsmeyer as she traveled in the summer rather than a cooler time of year.

“It was very hot,” said Jacobsmeyer, a New Yorker who visited northern Italy, southern France and Monaco for eight days in July.

In Monaco, the mercury rose high enough that a fellow traveler in Jacobsmeyer’s party revealed she and her family would skip a week of their trip due to temperatures exceeding 30C.

“I’m way too cheap to cancel a vacation I’ve already paid for,” said Jacobsmeyer, who nonetheless sees the logic in having a limit on heat.

Europe has experienced several sweltering heat waves this summer, breaking records in some cases. Parts of the continent have faced severe drought conditions – and wildfires have ravaged forests and forced people to flee homes, campsites and resorts.

Travel industry experts say the continent has faced bouts of extreme weather in the past, but these challenges have the potential to change where and when people travel as they become more common in our country. changing climate.

Having to adapt

In south-west France this week, firefighters were trying to put out a major wildfire in the Gironde region – just as they were last month. The country is also facing the worst drought in its history this year and the fourth heat wave.

A red tint is visible in the sky in this image taken in the early morning hours of August 11, 2022, as a forest fire burns near Belin-Béliet in southwestern France. (Thibaud Moritz/AFP/Getty Images)

Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, said the country has dealt with wildfires in the past – particularly in the more fire-prone south – but not with the combined magnitude and frequency of the problems. This year.

“The consequences of these fires seem to be greater than ever,” said Dimanche, who is from France and follows the news there.

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He said it was too early to tell how tourists would plan their vacations in the future, but some tour operators are reporting they will be making adjustments.

Sunday heard an interview with the owner of a campground destroyed by a recent fire near Arcachon, France.

The owner planned to rebuild their facility, with a view to a more environmentally sustainable facility. But he was optimistic about the future.

“Never in this interview was there any talk of giving up,” Sunday said. “He’s still counting on people to come back next year.”

Heat, yes. Too much heat, no

Sunday said this part of France and the wider Mediterranean basin region attracts sun-seekers from other parts of the continent for holidays, whether traveling by car, train or plane.

And like their foreign colleagues, these vacationers are there to enjoy the heat.

“It’s pretty much sunshine – guaranteed for the whole summer,” he said.

A passenger on a sightseeing boat takes shelter from the sun on a hot day in Berlin earlier this month. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Mary Chao can testify to the strength of the sun in the south of France long before the official start of summer, such as when she and her husband traveled to the French Riviera in May.

“The afternoon was just scorching hot,” said Chao, a reporter who lives in New Jersey.

Chao said dealing with the kind of extreme heat that followed later in the summer would have made her “miserable”.

Climatologist Dominic Royé, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, said the wider Mediterranean region is warming 20% ​​faster than the global average.

“If you think about how weather-dependent tourist activities are, you can imagine the potential impact [on tourism]”Royé said in an email.

Tourists cool off inside a historic building in Plaza de Espana (Spain Square) during the second heat wave of the year, in Seville, Spain, July 13, 2022 (Jon Nazca/Reuters)

The European Travel Commission (ETC), which represents more than 30 national tourism organizationssays it does not have data on how the extreme weather conditions plaguing the continent are affecting tourist decisions this year.

“Sporadic adverse weather conditions are unlikely to affect the majority of tourists’ immediate travel behaviors,” the ETC executive unit said by email.

But if such conditions “persist for the long term”, ETC believes, there could be changes on the horizon – potentially in the form of people choosing to travel to other places or go on holiday at times of the year when the heat is Less intense.

In Italy this summer, tourists visiting Lake Garda, where water levels have dropped dramatically, are getting a taste of how extreme weather is impacting their travel and leisure.

Rocks that were previously underwater are now exposed and surround the Sirmione Peninsula, well beyond the normal shoreline. The water beyond is several degrees above its normal temperature, which is almost the average for the Caribbean Sea.

Garda Mayor Davide Bedinelli said the tourist season is going better than expecteddespite traveler cancellations during a heat wave in July.

“Drought is something we have to deal with this year, but the tourist season is not in danger,” he wrote on Facebook last month.

More attention to risk

Sunday stresses that people traveling abroad this summer have had to make their plans amid the continuing global pandemic.

Frédéric Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Toronto Metropolitan University, says people who traveled abroad this year had to consider the COVID-19 risks that came with their plans. That same risk assessment could become a bigger part of how people plan future trips, he says. (Submitted by Frédéric Dimanche)

He thinks the same thought process could become a bigger part of how people plan their trips in the future.

“I think increasingly we’re going to have to take into consideration the risk assessment of weather and climate change,” Sunday said.

This could also be a factor for tour operators and tour operators; Sunday said they will need to consider the risks their customers may face.

Víctor Resco de Dios, professor of forestry at the University of Lleida in Spain, sees forest fires as a specific risk area that needs to be addressed.

“The tourism sector must adapt quickly,” Resco de Dios, who sees growing threats to tourism as wildfires worsen, said in an email.

Resco de Dios said this was a particular concern for tourist destinations that border forests. Steps must be taken to mitigate fire risk, in part by reducing forest cover so there is less fuel for future wildfires, he said.

“I don’t think people know that their vacation spot can become a mousetrap under fire,” said Resco de Dios, who thinks governments should release maps indicating whether a place is safe or not.

“This way, tourists can make informed decisions about the risk they are taking with their vacation destination.”

Smoke is seen filling the sky over a Greek resort on the eastern island of Lesbos last month. (Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP/Getty Images)

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