Key messages

  • Tourism is a cross cutting sector that depends on several other sector developments. (e.g. water, agricultural) Therefore, adaptation in this sector requires a good connection and link to these other sectors.
  • Tourism and nature are often closely connected. Therefore, nature protection is an important adaptation measure which is most important for the tourism sector.
  • The increase of extreme events will hit the tourism sector in various ways: increased pressure on the tourism infrastructure, reduced availability of certain tourist attractions, or higher risks for guests for certain tourism activities such as skiing, hiking, sailing.
  • Several tourism areas might also benefit from climate change as guests more often may select cooler areas in summer or seasons may be extended due to an increase in favourable weather conditions.

Impacts and vulnerabilities

Since weather and climate have a decisive influence on the travel season and the choice of holiday destinations, the tourism industry is highly dependent on them. There is also a strong connection between nature and tourism, as well as between cultural heritage and tourism. Climate change can, for example, reduce snow cover, increase and prolong heat waves or change the patterns of annual rainfall. The effects of small-scale extreme weather events (storms, heavy rainfall, flash floods, landslides and mudslides) represent a major challenge. They pose an immediate threat to the tourism infrastructure. They cause increasing costs for the repair of building fabric and infrastructure facilities, lead to a discontinuation of means of transport and the closure of road connections, hiking or skiing areas. Stresses for the guest also result from a change in the biological conditions, especially due to an increase in harmful insects, increase in algae growth in warmed waters and by the spread of neophytes and allergenic plants.

There are also specific challenges arising determined by the particular characteristics of the European tourism sector. These are linked on the one hand to consumer models, particularly seasonal distribution and tourist movements, and on the other to production models, i.e. the value chain and tourist destinations. Tourist demand is currently concentrated very strongly on the months of July and August. Due to climate change certain destinations might become too hot during these times.

On the other hand, tourism might also profit from climate change. For example, higher (and thus cooler) areas might profit from increasing number of tourists avoiding hot cities.

Policy framework

The EU's competence in tourism is one of support and coordination to supplement the actions of member countries.

In June 2010, the European Commission adopted the Communication, Europe, the world's No. 1 tourist destination – a new political framework for tourism in Europe. This communication set out a new strategy and action plan for EU tourism. Four priorities for action were identified:

  • to stimulate competitiveness in the European tourism sector;
  • to promote the development of sustainable, responsible, and high-quality tourism;
  • to consolidate Europe's image as a collection of sustainable, high-quality destinations;
  • to maximise the potential of EU financial policies for developing tourism.

A regularly updated implementation rolling plan has been developed that outlines the major initiatives to be implemented as part of the strategy, in collaboration with public authorities, tourism associations and other public/private tourism stakeholders.

It is important to mention that several tourism activities or attractions are governed by other EU sector policies such as water management (e.g. ensuring clean bathing water), agriculture (e.g. ensuring certain landscape features), biodiversity and several more.

Improving the knowledge base

The study “Time is of the essence: adaptation of tourism demand to climate change in Europe” analyses the potential impact of climate change on tourism demand in the European Union (EU) and provides long-term (2100) projections accounting for climate adaptation in terms of holiday duration and frequency.

The Copernicus Service European Tourism provides a user-driven climate information system for the tourism sector.  By delivering critical pan-European climate indicators (snow conditions, climate suitability indices for tourism, forest fires index) the demonstrator aims to facilitate ongoing and long-term adaptation of the sector to a changing climate.  The demonstrator service offers interactive toolbox applications, building upon quality data and tools from the Climate Data Store (CDS). These are over different timescales including past climate (reanalysis data) and long-term (regional climate projections). Relevant information is available freely in various ways (mapping, download of climate impact indicators, download or graphics based on post-processed information), accounting for user-specific needs.

The Interreg Euro-MED programme provide funds for projects developed and managed by public administrations, universities, private and civil society organisations in the Mediterranean area related to sustainable tourism. The MED Declaration is the final policy document elaborated after six years of work and collaboration for a smarter and greener sustainable tourism ecosystem in the Mediterranean.

Supporting investment and funding

The European Commission has developed a guide that focuses on practical issues related to the most important EU funding programmes for the tourism sector. It is targeted, amongst others, to businesses, natural persons, SMEs and public authorities acting in the tourism sector. It can be found here.

Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that most of the funding for the tourism sector comes from the national or regional level.

Supporting the implementation

The tourism sector can certainly not adapt tourism offers alone, as other organisations often share responsibility for tourism-related activities. As an example, the water supply part of the basic services of communities or the flood protection task of the government are both adaptation areas that are essential for tourism. The same applies to a clean and healthy environment and ecosystem, which is essential for several tourism activities. Thus, the tourism sector needs to link and to connect with other sectors such as biodiversity, urban planning, disaster risk management, water management, agriculture.

To diversify the EU tourism offer, the European Commission offers co-funding through the COSME programme to sustainable transnational tourism products. These are thematic tourism products such as transnational itineraries, routes, trails focusing on different themes such as: environmentally friendly tourism, sports tourism, food and wine tourism, health and wellbeing tourism, nature tourism, or ‘slow tourism’ – travel which allows tourists to engage more fully with communities along their route. All these activities can also be used to adapt to climate change.

Language preference detected

Do you want to see the page translated into ?

Exclusion of liability
This translation is generated by eTranslation, a machine translation tool provided by the European Commission.