Role of Tourism Sector in Climate Change – A Perspective

Role of Tourism Sector in Climate Change – A Perspective


Undeniable evidences throughout the globe indicate that global climate has changed compared to the pre-industrial era and is expected to continue the trend by 21st century and beyond. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1 proven that global average temperature has increased approximately 0.76°C between 1850-1899 and 2001-2005 and it has concluded that most of the observed changes in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is ‘very likely’ the consequence of human activities that are increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the air.

As a consequence, we observe various manifestations of climate change including ocean warming, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns. extensive decreases in glaciers and ice caps and warming ocean surface temperature have contributed to sea level rise of 1.8 mm per year from 1961 to 2003, and approximately 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003.

The IPCC has projected that the speed of climate change is to accelerate with continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at or above the current rates. IPCC best calculate suggested that globally averaged surface temperatures will rise by 1.8°C to 4.0°C by the end of the 21st century. already with a stabilized atmospheric concentration of GHGs at the current level, the earth would continue to warm as a consequence of past GHG emissions in addition as the thermal inertia of the oceans.

Future changes in temperatures and other important features of climate will manifest themselves in different fashions across various regions of the globe. It is likely that the tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more harsh, with greater wind speeds and heavier precipitation. This will be associated with continuing increase of tropical sea surface temperatures. additional-tropical storm tracks are projected to shift towards the pole, with consequent changes in wind, precipitation and temperature patterns. The decreases in snow cover are also projected to continue.

The environmental and economic risks associated with predictions for climate change are important. The gravity of the situation has resulted in various recent international policy debates. The IPCC has come out with firm conclusions that climate change would hinder the ability of several nations to unprotected to sustainable development. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change found that the present cost reducing GHG emissions is much smaller than the future costs of economic and social disruption due to unmitigated climate change. Every country in addition as economic sectors will have to strive with the challenges of climate change by adaptation and mitigation.

Tourism is no exception and in the decades ahead, climate change will play a pivotal role in tourism development and management. With its close links to the ecosystem, tourism is considered to be a highly climate-sensitive sector. The regional manifestations of climate change will be highly applicable for tourism sector that demands adaptation by all major tourism stakeholders. In fact, it is not a far away future for the tourism sector since varied impacts of a changing climate are already apparent at destinations around the world.

As a flip side of the above story, tourism sector itself is a major contributor climate change by GHG emissions, especially, from the transport and accommodation of tourists. Tourism sector must play a proactive role to reduce its GHG emissions considerably in harmony with the ‘Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007’ which recognized that global emissions of GHG need to peak in the next 10-15 years and then be reduced to very low levels, well below half of levels in 2000 by mid-century. The major challenge ahead of tourism sector is to meet the international sustainable development agenda along with managing increased energy use and GHG emissions from enormous growth in activities projected for the sector.

The concern of the tourism community regarding the challenge of climate change has visibly increased over the last five years. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and other partner organizations convened the First International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in Djerba, Tunisia in 2003. The Djerba Declaration recognized the complicate inter-linkages between the tourism sector and climate change and established a framework for on adaptation and mitigation. A number of individual tourism industry associations and businesses have also shown great concerns by voluntarily adopting GHG emission reduction targets, engaging in public education campaigns on climate change and supporting government climate change legislation.

Direct impacts

Climate determines seasonality in tourism need and influences the operating costs, such as heating-cooling, snowmaking, irrigation, food and water supply and the likes. consequently, changes in the length and quality of climate-dependent tourism seasons (i.e., sun-and-sea or winter sports holidays) could have important implications for competitive relationships between destinations and, consequently, the profitability of tourism enterprises. As a consequence, the competitive locaiongs of some popular holiday areas are expected to decline, while other areas are expected to enhance.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that changes in a number of weather extremes are probable as a consequence of projected climate change. This includes higher maximum temperature and more hot days, greater storm intensity and peak winds, more intense precipitation and longer and more harsh droughts in many areas. These changes will have direct bearing on tourism industry by increased infrastructure damage, additional emergency preparedness requirements, higher operating expenses and business interruptions.

Indirect impacts

Since environmental conditions are basic resources for tourism, a wide-range of environmental changes due to climate change will have harsh negative impacts on tourism. Changes in water availability, loss of biodiversity, reduced scenery aesthetic, increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure along with increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees. Mountain regions and coastal destinations are considered particularly sensitive to climate-induced environmental change, as are character-based tourism market segments. Climate change related security risks have been identified in a number of regions where tourism is highly important to local-national economies. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest. Reduction in tourism need will affect many economies in form of reduction in income (Gross Domestic Product). This may consequence into social unrest amongst the people regarding dispensing of wealth which will rule to further decline in tourism need for the destination.

Tourists have great adaptive capacity with relative freedom to avoid destinations impacted by climate change or shifting the timing of travel to avoid unfavourable climate conditions. Suppliers of tourism sets and tourism operators at specific destinations have less adaptive capacity. Large tour operators, who do not own the infrastructure, are in a better position to adapt to changes at destinations because they can respond to clients demands and provide information to influence clients’ travel choices. Destination communities and tourism operators with large investment in immobile capital assets (e.g., hotel, resort complicate, marina or casino) have the least adaptive capacity. However, the dynamic character of the tourism industry and its ability to cope with a range of recent major shocks, such as SARS, terrorism attacks in a number of nations, or the Asian tsunami, indicates a comparatively high adaptive capacity within the tourism industry.

Measuring Carbon Emissions from Tourism

The tourism sector is not defined by the goods and sets it produces, but by the character of the consumers of a wide range of distinctive goods and sets. This indicates that tourism is defined on the basis of consumption instead of produc¬tion. Given that tourism is consumer-defined, it is important to define a tourist. World Tourism Organisation defines tourism as consisting of ‘the activities of persons trav¬elling to and staying in places outside their usual ecosystem for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.’ This method that business travellers and ‘visiting friends and relatives’ travellers are also considered to be tourists in addition as holidaymakers.

In context of accounting for energy use and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions, it is basic to discriminate between the direct from indirect impacts of tourism activities. Direct impacts are those that consequence directly from tourist activities, while indirect impacts are associated with intermediate inputs from second or third (or further) round processes. Becken and Patterson measured carbon emission from tourism activities in New Zealand. The methodology they opted was chiefly focussed on direct impacts. Their methodology focussed only on carbon dioxide emissions as the main greenhouse gas resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels and did not consider the emission of other greenhouse gases. This omission is permissible for fuel combustion from land-born activities (e.g. transport or accommodation) where carbon dioxide consists of the major greenhouse gas. It had been estimated that carbon dioxide accounts only for about one-third of the total emissions. consequently, a factor of 2.7 had been suggested to include effects from other emissions such as nitrous oxides etc.

Table 1: Energy Intensities and Carbon Dioxide Emission Factors

Transport Energy intensity (MJ/pkm) CO 2 factor (g/pkm)

Domestic air 2.8 188.9

Private car 1.0 68.7

Rental car/company car/ taxi 0.9 62.7

Coach 1.0 69.2

Camper van 2.1 140.9

aim (diesel) 1.4 98.9

Motorcycle 0.9 57.9

Scheduled bus 0.8 51.4

backpacker bus 0.6 39.7

Cook Strait Ferry 2.4 165.1

Accommodation Energy intensity (MJ/ visitor-night) CO 2 factor (g/ visitor-night)

Hotel 155 7895

b&b 110 4142

Motel 32 1378

Hostel / backpackers 39 1619

Campground 25 1364

Attractions/Activities Energy intensity (MJ/visit) CO 2 factor


Buildings (e.g. museums) 4 172

character allurement 8 417

Air activity 424 27697

Motorised water activity 202 15312

Adventure recreation 43 2241

character recreation 70 1674

Source : Becken and Patterson (2006)

Table 2: Average travel behaviour by six international tourist

International tourists 2001 Coach tourist VFR Auto tourist Back¬packer Camper Soft comfort

Number of tourists 429,159 343,577 247,972 131,419 84,195 42,966

Transport in km

Domestic air 755 436 281 241 186 431

Rental car 153 180 1483 748 856 743

Private car 8 529 25 298 104 61

Coach 756 53 173 310 68 264

Camper van 0 6 5 4 1579 35

Scheduled bus 25 77 22 491 62 120

aim 35 17 10 40 20 215

Ferry 10 11 32 63 64 35

backpacker bus 1 16 1 471 11 8

Cruise ship 12 1 4 1 0 0

Accommodation in nights

Hotel 7.5 1.0 2.4 1.3 0.7 3.3

Motel 0.2 1.2 9.1 0.4 0.9 1.2

Home 0.2 35.7 1.4 2.1 2.5 2.5

backpacker hostel 0.2 1.2 0.2 23.3 1.6 2.2

Campgrounds 0.1 0.6 0.2 1.2 20.4 0.3

b&b 0.0 0.1 1.1 0.1 0.1 17.3

Total energy per tourist (MJ) 3538 3649 3440 3657 6306 5035

Source: Becken and Cavanagh (2003)

Table 3: Total energy use of the New Zealand tourism sector (transport, accommodation, attractions) for 2000

Tourists Trips 2000 Energy use 2000 (PJ) CO2 emissions (kilotonnes)

International 1,648,988 7.59 434

Domestic 16,554,006 17.76 1,115

Total 18,202,944 25.35 1,549

Source:Becken (2002)

In another recent study by an international team of experts, which was commissioned by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations ecosystem Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in order to provide background information for the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism (Davos, Switzerland, 1-3 October 2007), emissions from global tourism had been estimated. The study suggested that emissions from three main sub-sectors International and domestic tourism are estimated to represent 5.0% of total global emissions in 2005 (Table 4). The study also suggested, as apparent from Table 4, that transport sectors generated about 75% of the total CO2 emissions from global tourism activities. Air travel alone accounted for 40% of the total CO2 emissions.

Table 4: Emissions from Global Tourism in 2005

Source CO2 (Mt) % to Total Emission from Tourism

Air Transport 517 39.6

Other Transport 468 35.8

Accommodation 274 21.0

Other Activities 45 3.4

TOTAL 1,307 100

Total world emission 26,400

Tourism’s proportion (%) 4.95

Task ahead

In the last UNFCCC negotiations (Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007), it was recognized that global emissions of GHG need to be reduced to well below half of the levels in 2000 by middle of this century. consequently, mitigation of GHG emission of particular importance to tourism sector also. However, the mitigation strategies must also consider several other dimensions along with the need to stabilize the global climate. These issues are the right of people to rest and retrieve and leisure, attaining the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, growth of the economies and the similar ones. Along with these, the mitigation policies need to target different stakeholder groups, including tourists, tour operators, accommodation managers, airlines, manufacturers of cars and aircraft, in addition as destination managers. Mitigation Instruments need to address different meaningful issues in different regions.

There could be four major mitigation strategies to address greenhouse gas emissions from tourism- 1) reducing energy use, 2) improving energy efficiency, 3) increasing the use of replaceable energy, and 4) sequestering carbon by sinks. In recent past, climate change and its impacts on various sectors have already been recognised a meaningful area of research in India. However, till date there has not been any research on impact of tourism on climate change or measuring the GHG emission from tourism activities. In view of the growth in tourism activities in domestic in addition as international market, It is important that the government, research community and other applicable organisations take initiative to understand the current position regarding tourism’s contribution to GHG emission in the country. This would permit the policy makers to opt for necessary steps towards mitigating emissions without creating hindrance to the sector’s growth which is crucial for the country’s economy.

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