MaltaToday, 16 April 2008 | How Malta’s summers will soon turn people away


NEWS | Wednesday, 16 April 2008

How Malta’s summers will soon turn people away

Karl Schembri

Malta stands to be the net loser among European countries when, according to a bleak report on climate change and tourism just published by Deutsche Bank Research, climate change will drive tourists away to cooler countries in 20 years’ time.
In the study, Malta is singled out as the European country to be most seriously affected by global warming by 2030, when the most important industry for the island will be depleted of tourists who will be choosing Denmark, Germany, the Benelux countries and the Baltic States.
“Negative climatic consequences always have particularly serious effects if climate-sensitive tourism has major economic importance,” the authors report. “In Europe this applies to Malta, Cyprus, Spain, Austria and Greece. … The Mediterranean region, with its focus on seaside and beach holidays, loses attractiveness if there is an increased number of heat waves in the summer months.”
Written for the research arm of the leading and influential German bank, ‘Climate change and tourism: Where will the journey lead?’ maps out the changing tourist routes in the next two decades.
Higher temperatures and water shortages are expected to put off tourists in the high season. Malta’s high economic dependence on tourism, which places the industry as the number one contributor to national GDP, means the problem will be further aggravated.
The report also spells out the disastrous fate of countries which bank on golf courses as tourist facilities; as these already face longer, drier periods depleting their water supplies, while cultural and health tourism remain independent of climatic factors.
“While the classic summer package holiday in the Mediterranean tourist centres will noticeably suffer from rising temperatures, city trips, which are mainly enjoyed in the spring and autumn months, are generally independent of climatic changes. This is also true of cultural tourism, ‘wellness’ holidays and any other types of theme travel. One thing is fundamentally valid: the more the main reason for selecting a holiday destination is that the holidaymaker hopes for ‘good weather’ or favourable conditions for particular weather-dependent activities, the more impact – in both the positive and negative senses – the climate will have on the region concerned in the future.”
While Europe is the most important tourist region in the world, with around 55 per cent of all international tourist arrivals, or 461 million in 2006, southern Europe and the Mediterranean region rank also as the favourite holiday destinations in Europe.
Yet the long, hot and dry summers attracting millions will soon be turning people away as temperatures exceeding comfortable levels will become frequent in the future.
“It is estimated that, by 2030, the region will have a noticeable increase in the number of days with temperatures above 40 degrees C.”
The authors say the negative climatic consequences will have particularly serious effects for Malta.
“All things considered, the tourism industry is looking back at turbulent times,” the report says, adding that unlike natural disasters or terrorist attacks, climate change is not just a short-term effect that could be quickly forgotten. “Rather, climate change will permanently alter the attraction of some holiday regions”.
Outside Europe, the poor countries are prone to suffer most: while they are putting great hopes on tourism for their development, climate change will bring additional burdens leaving only Canada, New Zealand and the US as the only three countries outside Europe whose tourism will be on the winning side.

MTA cool about global warming
MTA spokesman Kevin Drake did not read the report but said the conclusions were “quite logical”.
“Both Malta and Cyprus are bound to suffer,” he said. A similar study published in the UK reached the same conclusions. “In 20 years’ time, summers in Scandinavia and Germany will be sought after due to global warming”.
Although the issue will have to be faced eventually, the MTA is more focused on the next couple of years ahead, Drake added, although he admitted that the entire strategy would have to be revised if the report’s scenarios do materialise.
“There are no hard facts confirming that this is exactly what will happen. There’s only so much one can do about global warming. In the event of knowing for sure that this is what is going to happen, then we would have to change our entire business model.”

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