By John Ensor •
Updated: 19 Aug 2023 • 12:15
Could the surge in extreme heatwaves alter the future of tourism in popular destinations? One expert has recently discussed the potential long-term impacts on holiday choices.
This year, heatwaves have led to the closure of tourist attractions and exacerbated forest fires. Claudia Gualdi, travel intelligence data team lead at Riskline, spoke to the Express on how this phenomenon could affect British holidaymakers’ plans in the coming years, highlighting countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain.
Heatwaves are increasingly common, forcing some travellers to reconsider their vacation plans. In certain European locations, temperatures have risen above 40C, leading to potential shifts in tourist preferences towards cooler destinations or holidays outside the peak season.
Claudia Gualdi said: ‘Recent data indicates that countries within Southeastern Europe such as Italy, Greece and Spain are the areas that have been most affected by heatwaves. Sadly, this trend is likely to continue. These areas are being exposed to temperatures exceeding 40C earlier and earlier every year.’
She believes that the intense heat may deter travellers from traditional hotspots. Claudia stated: ‘The weather has always been one of the criteria taken into consideration by travellers when choosing a summer destination, but current hot temperatures will play a greater role in travel plans. Northern areas of France or Spain, as well as Scandinavian countries, may become more popular in future summer plans.’
Despite the rising temperatures, Claudia sees potential in off-season tourism and alternative destinations. She added: ‘While it’s clear that, for now, tourists won’t stop booking trips to European capitals despite the hot temperatures, more travellers are opting for off-season tourism and choosing to enjoy bike-friendly rides in Nordic cities of Copenhagen, historic sites and Norwegian fjords and hiking trails in Iceland, which are all appealing alternatives to enjoy milder temperatures.’
Living in Athens, Claudia has first-hand experience with the sweltering heat, which even prompted local authorities to restrict access to renowned archaeological sites like the Acropolis. However, she managed to escape the city’s heat by spontaneously booking trips to nearby coastal villages or islands. Claudia emphasizes that despite today’s predictions, weather can still change on short notice, and this unpredictability might still motivate travellers to make last-minute decisions for their top destinations or explore places they hadn’t previously considered.
The shift towards off-peak season travel may not necessarily mean a decline in tourism but rather a redistribution of tourists throughout the year. The industry is also likely to adapt by offering attractive packages during cooler months, promoting indoor activities, and enhancing cooling facilities to ensure a comfortable stay for holidaymakers.
To illustrate this there is the recent example of well-known destination in Almeria. Mojácar, which is experiencing a significant increase in tourist numbers, a phenomenon that is raising concerns about the future of the city. A study conducted by Holidu, released on August 18, reveals that Mojácar is one of the top 10 Spanish cities facing tourist overcrowding, writes Diario de Almeria.
This situation led the Town Hall to an unusual solution last Christmas. Faced with an avalanche of visitors after winning the award for the ‘most beautiful village in Spain,’ the town had to extend the use of Christmas lights until the end of January.
When asked about the potential disruption to the tourism industry, many locals based in Mojacar held mixed views. One man named Clifford said: ‘Young families will stop going to Spain if the heat of the past few years continues.
‘We know families who have returned and haven’t enjoyed the experience. Will the demand for holiday homes decline ? No idea what the market is like. We are certainly changing our times we visit , but we’re retired so we can be flexible.’
Another interviewee named Geraldine, indicated that the biggest problem was not the heat: ‘It won’t be the weather it will be prices ..a lot of people now going to Greece & Turkey.’
Other comments suggested that the issue was blown out of proportion by the media. Many holidaymakers have said the weather was lovely compared to the UK and some said they were worried before they arrived because of what they had read online, but once they were here it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
One recent visitor commented that the UK news had painted a picture of people dropping like flies in the heat – but she had a lovely time and said the weather was brilliant!
The resilience and adaptability of the Spanish tourism industry should not be underestimated. While the heatwaves present challenges, they also open opportunities for innovation and rethinking strategies to keep attracting tourists. The allure of Spain’s rich culture, cuisine, and landscapes will continue to draw visitors, regardless of the weather.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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