Soaring temperatures may signal the decline of Mediterranean summer holidays

 Saturday, July 22, 2023

Repeated heatwaves and growing fears about the climate crisis may spell the beginning of the end for the Mediterranean as a holiday destination, according to a report published by the European Travel Commission.

Mediterranean destinations have seen a 10% drop in visitors aiming to travel there from last year, the report says.

On the contrary, destinations like the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ireland and Denmark are experiencing a surge in popularity.

This can be attributed to travellers seeking out less crowded destinations, and milder temperatures.

A further 7.6% said that worries about climate crisis and rising temperatures are now a factor when making travel plans.

Over the past week, holidaymakers in Spain, Italy and Greece have fled the beach in search of shade and air conditioning as governments have issued health warnings advising people to stay out of the sun.

Jumping into the sea isn’t likely to bring much relief either, with sea temperatures reaching up to 30C in parts of the Balearics and the east coast of Spain.

In Spain, this week’s heatwave hasn’t just hit the south of the country.

The town of Figueres, only a few miles from the French border, saw record temperatures of 45C, while it reached 36C in Barcelona, with crushing humidity making life unbearable.

It’s estimated that Spain will receive 85 million tourists this year, two million more than in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Although the beaches of the Costa del Sol continue to attract visitors, two consecutive summers of temperatures over 40C may prove too much for even the most ardent sunseeker.

Zoritsa Urosevic, executive director of the World Tourism Organisation, said that heatwaves are having an impact on the choice of holiday destinations.

The extreme temperatures are a disincentive for some types of tourists to travel to the Mediterranean. Climate change may lead to a change of perception of tourism.

Faced with rising costs, many travellers are booking their holidays far in advance in search of cheaper flights and accommodation, long before they know what the weather is going to be like.

Heatwaves are not, in general, covered by holiday insurance policies.

The Spanish hoteliers’ association reports an increase in visitors to the country’s cooler northern regions, including Asturias, Cantabria and the Pyrenees.

These areas are also much less crowded than the Mediterranean region. A report by Barcelona city council found that visitors’ most common complaint about the city was that there are too many tourists.

The exceptionally hot weather has also brought prolonged periods of drought, especially on the Costa Brava in northeast Spain.

With agriculture competing with tourism for a dwindling resource, water, restrictions may affect hotel swimming pools and golf courses, making tourism in the area less attractive.

According to the EU report, rising costs are European travellers’ biggest concern, with 24% saying it influences their plans.

Throughout Europe, hotels and restaurants have increased prices in an effort to recoup some of the losses incurred during the pandemic.

In Spain the average price of an overnight stay, from campsites to hotels, rose from €135 to €158 compared to 2022, according to a hotel booking website.

Hotel prices in Madrid rose by 32% and in Barcelona by 25.7%.

Spain’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, accounting for €194 billion or 14.6% of GDP this year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

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