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Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 15 : 39 PM [IST]

Climate, Game Changer for Tourism

Across the world, countries have realised the immense potential of tourism and the tremendous benefits it brings for its economies as well the local populations. As compared to the ammunition or electronic industry, it requires minimum investment, though the password for good arrival numbers is good infrastructure, cultural legacy and an amiable population. Racist behaviour as we all know drives tourists away as does robbing of tourists, harassment of women and rape.

Over the past few decades, tourist-friendly destinations like France, Switzerland and Singapore have overcome these obstacles making visitor experiences truly enthralling as well as seamless. Tourists are also reacting less to acts of terrorism on foreign lands they visit, showing newfound enthusiasm, courage and conviction to not abandon, but to embrace such destinations in times of such crises, as compared to earlier times when the affected destination was simply ‘struck’ off the list.

C limate though is a different cup of brew that destinations across the world are finding difficult to handle. It’s the unpredictability of the weather coupled with intense heat or cold that’s beginning to play on the nerves. Recently, we had a client who was in Dharamshala, mentioning the weather was almost similar to that of Mumbai (33+ degrees Celsius) and the best was to avoid the destination. Neighbouring Shimla is facing huge challenges with inadequate water supply. It snowed in Toronto, Canada in the first week of May, while volcanoes erupted in Hawaii and Guatemala, taking in its molten lava a couple of hundred lives and still counting.

Global Warming that began a few decades ago, thanks to increasing carbon emissions and wanton destruction of forests, has led to melting ice glaciers bringing on extreme heat waves in the sub-tropical and tropical regions. In the temperate and sub-arctic regions, we are beginning to hear of extreme and longer wintery seasons. Imagine having to visit a hill station in the tropics to escape from the plains during hot summers, only to realise the room air conditioning and car cooling cannot be switched off. Granted, people of today are more demanding, less condescending and literally want to `control the temperature’ around them with the press of a button. Call it instant gratification, lower tolerance or myopic shortsightedness, man has to shoulder much of the blame.

How does climate change augur for tourism? Firstly, unpredictable climatic patterns are playing a disruptive role towards holidaying and tourism. Hoteliers and home stays are incurring additional expenses in form of climate control conditioners to pander to client wants and satisfaction. Secondly, infrastructure takes a severe pounding whenever there are torrential rains, leading to flooding, mud slides and landslides. Humongous destruction takes place when tropical storms plunder low lying areas and beach facing locations. Then there is the issue of maintaining archaeological monuments, which takes a beating during dust storms, heat waves and smog as did happen a few months ago in the plains of Northern India. Finally, extreme temperatures lead to lower immunity levels, making both man and beast susceptible to epidemics and viruses. Both Nipah virus in Kerala and SARS in Toronto in early part of 2003 are indicators of the tremendous struggle mankind will need to endure in the coming years.

Over the last decade, the intensity of unpredictable climate has increased. Whoever imagined that fog and dust storms would settle over Delhi in the first week of November last year, when conventionally it `took over’ the city only during Xmas Week in December? Then we have the storms in the Caribbean that have been increasing in force and power over the years. Pretty islands lie in ruins after the battering it receives over a few days, far flung Australia has its share of `misadventures’ with the weather, each year. The tourist-friendly nation of France was struck by 147,000 lightning strikes during May this year, more than double the average. What next?

How will tourism vis-a-vis the climate pan out in the future? It’s unlikely the tourism industry nor the human species will take heed from the threat climate change poses. Barring a few countries having strict environmental laws, many will still follow the treacherous path. Bowing down to nature is something man will never take in its stride, because to many it hurts the ego, finance and most of all numbs greed and development. The latest rule of reducing the CRZ line in India from a distance of 200 meters to 50 meters, alongside the coastline is a case in point. In the name of increasing tourism arrivals and building hotels and resorts close to the ocean in a rapidly eroding shore line, is something that needs to be re-pondered and re-worked upon. It’s strange the proverb we learnt during early years of schooling holds so much relevance for tourism, ‘Don’t kill the Goose that lays the Golden Egg’. Better still – ‘The Fragile, Handle with Care’ – approach towards nature and climate will fetch us far greater rewards.

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
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