Tourism Futures, Sustainable Tourism and Climate Change

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Tourism is considered an important sector, especially for the development of the global economy; it contributes to global income creation and the generation of jobs. This is acknowledged by Cooper (2016, p. 5), who states that "tourism is an activity of global importance and significance and a major force in the economy of the world." Furthermore, the World Travel & Tourism Council's (WTTC) 2019 research revealed that the travel and tourism sector "accounted for 10.4% of global GDP ($8.8 trillion) and 319 million jobs or 10% of total employment in 2018". This illustrates the importance of the tourism industry and its influence on the global economy. In addition, the emergence of tourism also helped to stimulate the drive for infrastructure development within the destination and encourage a more developed society.

The report will examine the effect of climate change on the tourism industry and highlight the negative impact caused by climate change. Furthermore, the report will investigate the impact of technological advancement on hotels and the hotel industry's sustainable practices. Recommendations will also be made.

The challenge of climate change and tourism

Climate change is one of the most pressing concerns and issues confronting the world today. Many stakeholders, however, continue to oppose the issues. Since the late 1990s, climate change, and tourism have been largely debated regarding the relationship between tourism and climate and climate change (Reddy & Wilkes, 2012, p.3) and (Scott, Hall & Gössling, 2012, p.2). According to National Geographic (2019), climate change is defined as "the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place," causing weather patterns to be less predictable. Therefore, this results in frequent hurricanes, floods, downpours, and winter storms (National Geographic, 2019). This is also one of the issues that the tourism industry is currently dealing with in some areas.

Extreme weather events negatively impact the tourism industry. Creating a decline in tourists, loss of hotel revenue and occupancy, and decrease in retail sales in the city economy while destroying cultural heritage attractions and nature, Coastal tourism is particularly exposed to the vulnerable risks of severe storms, winds, waves, and rain causing disruption to the transport, power, and water supplies that the industry relies on (CISL, pdf, p. 8). In response, the destruction of infrastructure due to extreme weather will make it highly costly for the government to rebuild and reconstruct. For example, take the Bahamas, one of the most popular destinations but one that is extremely prone to hurricanes and tropical storms. In 2019, the island was confronted with Hurricane Dorian, experiencing 185 miles per hour wind, causing much destruction and damage to the local areas (Korten, 2019). According to The Washington Post (2019), "many tourists have canceled their visits," This illustrates that extreme weather can influence visitors' perception and desirability of visiting a particular destination due to health and safety concerns. Extreme weather can also cause local communities to migrate to different locations, affecting economic growth.

According to Inkson & Minnaert (2018), throughout the history of the Earth's climate in the last 650,000 years, "there have been only seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat," meaning that the previous abrupt ice age ended about 7,000 years ago. These climate changes only contributed to small variations in Earth's orbit, changing the amount of solar energy received by planet Earth (Inkson & Minnaert, 2018, p. 218). However, "current global warming is different, as it is the result of human activity since the mid-20th century," as stated by Inkson & Minnaert (2018, p. 218).

To support this argument, National Geographic (2019) also agreed that "the cause of current climate change is largely human activity," such as burning fossil fuels, natural gas, oil, and coal. Burning these materials releases greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. These gases trapped the heat from the sun inside the atmosphere and slowly increase Earth's temperatures, eventually causing global warming. In polar regions, the rise in global warming temperatures due to climate change has caused ice sheets and glaciers to melt. This contributes to the sea level rising in different areas of the planet, causing increased flooding and erosion along coastlines (National Geographic, 2019). For example, this caused nearly a third of Caribbean resorts to be less than one meter above the high-water mark. In response, the sea-level rise is estimated to damage about 49–60% of the region's tourist resort properties, contributing to the damage of 21 airports and around 35 ports (CISL, pdf, p. 6). Extreme weather and a higher sea level will accelerate the erosion of beaches, sand dunes, and cliffs. In addition, degraded beaches will reduce the attractiveness of destinations and will result in a decline in the desirability of those destinations amongst visitors. Therefore, this could reduce the prices that operators can charge for accommodation, causing an income reduction for the accommodation sector (CISL, pdf, p. 6).

Rising temperatures are linked to ocean acidification, which can affect marine habitats and organisms, especially coral reefs. Reefs provide shelter for marine life, help absorb wave energy, and contribute to environmental protection through the reduction of coastal erosion (Coral Guardian, 2019). Furthermore, reefs are important to tourist attractions by attracting divers and contributing USD 11.5 billion annually to global tourism revenues (CISL, pdf, p. 7). Rising temperatures are also a major cause of ocean acidification. Eventually, decreases in the availability of calcium carbonates for reef-building corals will contribute to the degradation of coral reefs (CISL, pdf, p. 7). Tourism in Australia, the Caribbean, and other small island states, will suffer the consequences of coral reef degradation due to global warming if actions are not taken by governments. According to CISL, pdf, p. 4, stress that "rising temperatures will shorten winter sports seasons and threaten the viability of some ski resorts." Creating financial risks for ski resorts and potentially losing future investors

Tourism heavily depends on the environment. Therefore, many destinations are popular because of their natural assets (Inkson & Minnaert, 2018, p. 217). However, environments are fragile, and therefore sustainable practices need to be strictly addressed by governments to protect tourism products and services so they can last for future generations. However, there are some positive impacts of climate change on the tourism sector. For example, allowing new geographical regions to become more attractive to tourism in Northern Europe, Scandinavia, and Alaska are likely to become more popular with visitors as temperatures rise (CISL, pdf, p. 8). Climate change also creates travel trends like 'last-chance' tourism, encouraging tourists to travel to regions and natural destinations that are at risk in a warming world, e.g., glaciers, Antarctica, or low-lying islands (CISL, pdf, p. 8).

Technology Development and Hotels

Due to rapid climate change, the tourism industry is relying more on technology development to improve the climate. Many hotels are now becoming more sustainably aware and are willing to adopt sustainable business practices. Consumers' demand is also a stimulant factor that drives the hotel industry to become more sustainable due to a high-demand market for a sustainable experience. Globalnews (2019) stated that "over half (52%) of global travelers say they now alter behaviors to be more sustainable while traveling." This illustrates the demand for a sustainable market for the hotel industry. Technology is a huge contributor to hotels developing sustainable approaches. For example, there are four ways that technologies can enhance hotels and help them become more sustainable.

Eco-friendly heating and energy

Many hotels will have heating systems such as radiators, water boilers, and air conditioners to keep guests comfortable. However, in some hotels, keeping a constant, comfortable temperature throughout the building is a must. This can cause over-energy expenditure and contribute to a hotel's carbon footprint. With the development of technology, hotels can now implement building energy management systems (BEMS) to overview energy consumption throughout their premises. BEMS is a computerized system that helps to monitor and control energy-related systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and other power systems (Designing Buildings, 2019). According to British Gas, this helps to "reduce energy consumption by up to 10%" and reduce carbon emissions whilst being cost-effective for hotels as well (Green Hotelier, 2016). However, BEMS will have associated costs, such as installation, operation, and maintenance costs. In addition, BEMS will require skilled operators to ensure maximum efficiency (Sustainability West Midlands, pdf). Therefore, some hotel businesses are not yet willing to adopt sustainable practices due to costs.

Waste reduction technology

According to WRAP (2018), hotels and other hospitality businesses dispose of more than 600,000 metric tons of food waste annually. This means more food is disposed of in landfills, later producing methane (a more powerful GHG than CO2), which contributes to climate change. To minimize this problem, hotel companies like InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) partnered with the tech company Winnow to help hotels reduce food waste. Winnow Vision AI technology allows hotels to track and measure the amount of food wasted to increase sustainability in restaurant and bar operations (Wisse, 2019). This technique helped hotels reduce food waste by 30% (Wisse, 2019).

Sustainable laundry

For the hotel industry, providing fresh towels and laundered linen can be very demanding. This will result in high energy consumption and the cost of electricity used to wash sheets and towels, particularly in large hotels. Again, this contributes to hotels' carbon footprints. Technology development, such as bead cleaning, is another approach that can help hotels become more sustainable. Bead cleaning technology helps to reduce energy consumption and water usage. According to Physics Today (2014), the Xeros or bead cleaning process uses up to 90% less water for laundry. Hilton also uses Xeros washing machines to reduce water usage and hotel costs (McGrath, 2018). However, adopting this strategy can be expensive, especially for smaller hotel companies.

Lighting technology

Most hotels have corridors and other public areas where lights are often switched on 24 hours a day without being used (Green Hotelier, 2016). Meaning more electricity is wasted, leading to global warming. However, due to technological development, many hotels now have installed occupancy sensor lights around hotel corridors or other premises that have fewer human interactions. It's a simple way to ensure that lights are turned on when needed (Green Hotelier, 2016). LED lights have also been considered by many hotels to reduce energy expenditure. These lights are cheap to install, so this can significantly reduce energy usage and carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

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Tourism Futures, Sustainable Tourism and Climate Change. (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved May 21, 2024 , from

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