“The likelihood is that Mediterranean summers may be too hot for tourists after 2020, as a result of too much heat and water shortages.”
This is one of the conclusions of a study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
As temperatures soar across Europe some northern Europeans travelling to Mediterranean beaches are finding the weather no warmer than at home.
But this could only be taste of things to come.
“Those conditions will become more prevalent in future,” David Viner, a senior climate scientist at the University of East Anglia in England warns.
Climate change could dramatically change the face of Maltese tourism in the next 20 years as traditional tourism flows are inverted with European tourists flocking to the UK to escape unbearably hot continental summers.
Weather changes may provide revival opportunities for northern seaside towns such as Blackpool but these could spell disaster for Malta and other Mediterranean destinations.
According to Dr Viner the heatwave across continental Europe in 2003 was a useful indication of the extent of climatic changes expected in the future.
“We are already seeing things change quite radically,” he said. “What we saw in 2003 we were not expecting to happen until 2050.”
With a similar heat wave raging this summer, the alarm bells are ringing.
Mediterranean beaches may simply get too hot for tourists this century because of global warming and northern Europeans will find the summer balmy enough to stay at home, researchers said last Thursday.
Scientists say that fossil fuels burnt in power plants, factories and cars are releasing heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, raising global temperatures.
The scientific panel that advises the United Nations says that temperatures are likely to rise by 5.8 Celsius by 2100, bringing more frequent heatwaves, floods, mudslides and helping spread disease.
Yet, according to shocking new evidence presented on BBC’s Horizon Documentary “Global Dimming” these forecasts have to be drastically revised upwards.
According to leading climate modeller Dr Peter Cox, a temperature rise of 4°C by 2040 could well be on the cards.
By the next century the UK could have a climate like that of North Africa while Malta would be practically uninhabitable.
Ironically short-term gains in tourist arrivals could only aggravate the situation in the long term.
Aircraft emissions are one of the principal causes of global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, aviation causes 3.5 per cent of man-made global warming. This could rise to 15 per cent by 2050 as the number of low-cost flights in Europe and Asia continues to increase.
The long term consequences of global warming could spell the death of mass sun and sea tourism in Mediterranean locations.
“In the summers of the 2080s, potential tourists in the UK and Germany will be able to find much better climatic conditions in their own country than in the Mediterranean,” says a British and Dutch study published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.
About 100 million people, mostly from northern Europe and led by Germans and Britons, visit the Mediterranean region every year where they spend almost US$100 billion.
Any shifts in their holiday habits could have a huge impact on Mediterranean economies including those of Malta, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Morocco.
“People don’t want to go looking for sun, sea and sand and be forced to sit in the shade because it’s too hot.”
Viner said that Mediterranean resorts would become no-go areas for holidaymakers in the summer months due to rising temperatures. As a result, tourists would soon be forced to shift further north for summer holidays, to regions such as northern France, the Baltic, Ireland and the UK.
“The Mediterranean has traditionally had the optimum conditions for tourists in terms of temperature and rainfall,” he said.
But this is not going to be the case for much longer.
“As a result of increasing temperatures, most of the Mediterranean coastal areas will become unsuitable for tourism during the summer months. Instead, tourists will find the perfect conditions further north.”
Apart from baking temperatures, the attraction of the Mediterranean might fade because the region could become drier, with more frequent water shortages and forest fires.
Viner’s study with a researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands said the Mediterranean climate would become more suitable for tourism in spring, autumn and winter.
Overall, Mediterranean nations’ revenues from tourism were likely to decline even if they were more spread over the year. Northern European resorts like Blackpool in England might stage a revival.
The report said Mediterranean countries could play to other strengths away from the beach such as food, landscapes and monuments left by the Greeks, Romans or Egyptians.
Dr Viner said that the tourism industry needs to become more aware of the impact of global warming, and measure the extent to which tourism is contributing to warming through major emissions of greenhouse gases, transport and local energy usage.