Joint press release by the German Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Drought, heavy rains and heat waves impact tourism

New study has evidence of how travel regions are adapting to climate change

überfluteter CampingplatzClick to enlarge
Climate change also harbours risks for tourism
Source: pwmotion /

Climate change in Germany is causing more heat, increased drought combined with water shortages and forest fires, less certainty of snow and an increase in heavy rainfall and flooding at the same time. A new study commissioned by the German Environment Agency (UBA) shows how these changes will affect tourism and what adaptation strategies are possible. The study recommends that tourism regions make preparations now in order to remain attractive to travellers. The proposed measures range from infrastructure adjustments to changes in the product range to contingency plans. For short-term weather events, action is urgent in the area of crisis prevention and crisis communication.

Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said, "Tourism is both a cause of and affected by climate change. About five percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide can be chalked up to tourism alone, which is more than one billion tonnes every year. The remedy is plain to see: opt for regional tourism and travel by train instead of car or plane. Energy-efficient hotels using green electricity are better for the climate and good for one's local tourism industry, too. The impact of climate change, for example floods and low water levels, mean serious losses of revenue. The people in regions where tourism is the sole source of revenue are especially hard hit. To help local authorities find good solutions in adapting to climate change, the federal government and its advisory services are at hand, also to provide funding for projects or adaptation managers."

President Dirk Messner of the German Environment Agency said, "Just like with climate action, there is no time to lose in taking action to adapt to climate change. This also applies for tourism regions, which must now modify their business models and gear them towards climate friendliness and offers that will work for the regions in future, too. The effects of climate change today are showing us clearly that tourist destinations must quickly develop strategies and concepts to become resilient to climate change."

The environmental impacts of tourism are manifold and often underestimated. These include, in particular, climate-damaging emissions from travel, but also the consumption of water, land and goods, as well as the generation of waste and the loss of biodiversity. 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in tourism are caused by air travel, 32 percent by car traffic and 21 percent by the lodging industry.

The travel areas of Germany are all affected by the consequences of climate change in very different ways. In the mountains, snow reliability is decreasing; at the seaside, coastal protection will become more important. Regions with rivers have to contend with floods and low water, both of which affects river cruises, ferry services and all water sports activities. With more frequent flooding, shoreline activities are at risk, such as tourism accommodation, restaurants, cycling and hiking. In individual cases, it will no longer possible to carry out these activities in the short to medium term.

Tourism regions can adapt by offering and promoting a broad range of weather-independent travel activities. The study also reports that it is becoming increasingly important for tourism to prepare for short-term extreme weather events. Evacuation and disaster communications plans must be changed and the requisite personnel must receive adequate training. As the conditions for tourism vary from region to region, so do the solutions which the regions must find. This endeavour must take into account not only geographic and climatic specifics but also the structure of the offers at the travel destination. The study's authors identify a number of precautionary measures which all tourism regions should take, which include identifying and monitoring at-risk regions, educating the population about weather risks and natural hazards, training staff on how to behave in crisis situations, adapting infrastructure to the given risks, and if necessary, steering visitor flows to reduce risk.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Printer-friendly version
 climate change  tourism