Mass tourism and climate change could lead to destruction of world's wonders

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The Independent Online

Gloomy predictions of extreme heat and destruction of some of the world's leading holiday destinations were made yesterday in a report assessing the impact of the dangers of mass tourism and climate change.

The Future of World Travel report found that by 2020 the natural features of some of the wonders of the world will be damaged by global warming, while other resorts will become seriously overcrowded.

It has predicted that in a little more than a decade global warming will erode Goa's beaches and lead to more hurricanes sweeping across the Everglades, while the increase in tourism would send an army of skiers into the once remote kingdom of Nepal.

In particular, the report warned that climate change will heat up many Mediterranean destinations, such as Athens, which it said would regularly swelter in temperatures of more than 40C causing "unbearably" hot and humid nights.

Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast in Italy will see more heatwaves, with an increase in dry days and a greater risk of fire. Southern Spain "may become a suitable habitat for malaria-bearing mosquitoes," said the report by Churchill Insurance.

The report, written with the help of the Centre for Future Studies think-tank, said the rise in mass tourism could result in popular destinations becoming swamped with visitors. Some of the world's most famous sites were likely to become so damaged by tourism that visits would have to be limited.

"Areas of environmental and historical significance such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Everglades or Kathmandu Valley, are likely to have reached visitor capacity by 2020," the report warned.

"Such destinations may opt to minimise visitor numbers by continually raising entry costs or by charging additional taxes. It is likely that some destinations will go as far as to introduce visitor capping where travellers will either have to 'win' or 'earn' the right to holiday in a particular place via a holiday lottery."

The report added: "Some tourist areas, particularly those which involve long-haul flights from the UK, may require travellers to store up "air mile credits" based on their personal needs and their overall energy use. Additionally, the social contributions that travellers put back into the communities they visit, may be considered before being granted visitation rights to a particular destination."

One of Britain's leading climatologists, David Viner, senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia, agreed that climate change would have a "profound impact" on tourism in the coming decades.

Dr Viner released his own study on changes to tourism in August, which predicted that by 2080 intense heat, forest fires and shoals of stinging jellyfish could be common on Mediterranean holidays. "In the summers of the 2080s, tourists in the UK and Germany will be able to find much better climatic conditions in their own country than in the Mediterranean," said the study he co-authored, which was published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Dr Viner said that some predictions in the Churchill report were already evident while others had been exaggerated.

"Suggesting there will be malaria in southern Spain by 2020 is overcooking it," he said. "Athens is already above 40C. Cruise ships are damaging coral reefs but there is a more profound impact from coral bleaching caused by climate change." But he added: "We can see from the summer of 2003 changes in tourism comfort - in southern Europe it was too hot."

He predicted that holiday patterns would change dramatically if Europe endured "back to back" heatwaves of the intensity that occurred in 2003.

At risk...

Puerto de Mazarron, Spain South-east region may become suitable habitat for malaria-bearing mosquitoes

Everglades, Florida Swamps, marshes and lakes "at risk" from increasing frequency of hurricanes

Taj Coral Reef, Maldives A rise in sea level would cause erosion, and much could become submerged

Kathmandu Valley, Nepal An "at risk" area which could be ruined if the Himalayan ski market booms

Cologne Cathedral, Germany Already considered "at risk", pollution may damage monument irreparably

Dalmatian coastline Croatia A boom in visitors may destroy the last unspoilt Mediterranean coastline

Great Barrier Reef Australia One of the world's largest marine ecosystems is at risk from cruise ships

Goa India Beach erosion and coastal damage are predicted from increasingly powerful cyclones

Athens, Greece Increases in summer temperatures to more than 40C will lead to more heat stress and associated deaths. Crete: The island ill be hit by a combination of high temperatures and dwindling water supplies, with desertification affecting many inland areas

Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, Itlay The number of heatwaves is forecast to increase, causing unbearably hot and humid nights. The region will be at increasing risk of fire, with at least 20 more dry days per year than experienced at present

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