Too hot to handle

How climate change will hit holidaymaking

Extreme weather will affect where tourists go and when

“ARRIVED IN BOLOGNA, Italy, today, now it’s off to Tuscany. The heatwave is spectacular here. If things continue like this, these holiday destinations will have no future in the long term. Climate change is destroying southern Europe. An era comes to an end.” This tweet in early July by Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s health minister, went down badly in Italy. The country’s minister for tourism, Daniela Santanchè, sourly retorted that she thanked Mr Lauterbach for picking Italy for his holiday, but the Italian government was well aware of climate change and that sustainability was one of the central elements of its strategy for managing tourism.

The industry is not just an important contributor to Italy’s economy. Europe is the planet’s most visited region, welcoming 585m of the world’s 900m international travellers in 2022. On top of this, domestic holiday-makers outstripped foreigners in terms of nights spent in tourist accommodation in the EU. Little wonder then that the sector directly generates 5% of the EU’s GDP and by some estimates indirectly accounts for more than 10%. Some countries rely heavily on travellers’ contributions both direct and indirect, including Croatia (26% of GDP), Greece (18.5%), Spain (13.6%) and Italy (10%).

Changes to the climate that lead to ever-wilder weather could deliver a nasty blow to the tourist industry. This year southern Europe has endured an abnormally turbulent summer.…