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Tourism Sector

beach landscape
Image: Malcolmj

For many countries, tourism has become a major contributor to the local economy and one of the principal options for them to combat poverty.

However, this increasingly important sector is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate variability and change. Favourable climatic conditions at destinations are key attractions for tourists, especially in beach destinations. Mountain tourism or winter sports are also Highly dependent on specific climate and weather conditions.

Climate Change will have both direct and indirect impacts on tourism. Some impacts could have a positive effect on tourism such as longer beach seasons, and warmer and more favourable temperatures in the mid-latitudes might reduce the tourists’ motivation to travel to the tropics and to choose nearby destinations instead.


“WMO is (also) aware of the possibility of some potentially beneficial changes to  tourism owing to climate change, it is likely that the negative impacts will by far outweigh them. The provision of timely, reliable research-based information for planning should help to reduce the risks to the sector.”

Michel Jarraud
WMO Former Secretary-General (204-2015)


Some examples of negative impacts are:

  • Rise in sea levels - will eventually inundate small islands and coastal regions. Causing coastal erosion and loss of land. Many regions depending on tourism are under threat.‎
  • Ocean warming and acidification – will damage and potentially kill coral reefs, a major tourist attraction for many regions.
  • Desertification and water scarcity – can make regions less hospitable for both local communities and tourists and may lead to an increase risk of outbreaks and epidemics of infectious diseases.
  • Deforestation and the harm to biodiversity – affecting both the ecosystem and discouraging demand for such destinations. Deforestation also directly reduces the global carbon sink.
  • Melting of snow and glaciers –affecting mountains, ski resorts, and winter activities. This can lead to a  shift in destination demands. The melting of glaciers is also one of the causes behind rising sea levels.

WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NHMSs) of its Members  assist the tourism sector build resilience and increase adaptability, ensuring tourism remains a viable and safe industry for both tourists and their hosts.  

WMO therefore urges governments and the private sector to increasingly use the climate information, advice and services of the NMHSs, and to take additional steps towards incorporating climate considerations in tourism policies, development and management plans.

WMO’s commitment to explore the climate change-tourism relationship took on more momentum in November 2005, when the Commission for Climatology (CCL) established an Expert Team on Climate and Tourism, which has  contributed strongly to the publication Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges (UNWTO, 2007), developed jointly by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), UNEP and WMO.

[More in depth information] The publication: Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges can be downloaded here.

At the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, organized by the UNWTO, UNEP and WMO (Davos, Switzerland, October 2007) the Davos Declaration tied together tourism, climate and the environment, and development, and called for concerted government, industry and consumer action around the commonly agreed Kyoto (and post-Kyoto) framework led by the United Nations.

[More in depth information] The Full Davos Declaration can be down loaded here.

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