By Thierry Malleret, economist
Environmental and tourism analysts often focus on the most visible aspects of climate change; but effects that are, for the moment, much less spectacular will have an even stronger impact on the travel/wellness travel industries in the medium- and long-terms. First, many regions of the world will simply become too hot at certain times of the year to remain hospitable for humans. The recent 45+ degrees Celsius in Sydney is a perfect example of that. Discussing long-term investment plans in hot regions (like NEOM, Saudi Arabia’s current, vast desert megacity project) that fail to factor climate change into their business model is senseless.
Second, many analysts fail to understand the second-round effects of climate change. In a manner that is less noticeable than extreme weather events, climate change is exacerbating episodes of wet weather and droughts. Cape Town, for instance, is at risk of becoming the world’s first major city to run out water. At current projections, “Day Zero” – the day when taps will have to be turned off because the dams drop below 13.5% – will occur on April 29, 2018. Then, residents will have to line up at 200 checkpoints across the city to collect water allocations under military and police supervision. The effect on the hospitality industry (which contributes almost 10% to economic growth in South Africa) is already felt and could become dramatic, in particular for the wine tourism industry.
This is a taste of things to come, meaning that going forward, the issue of sustainability in travel and tourism will become an imperative. As shown by the example of water restrictions in Cape Town, it starts with small things, such as closing down pools, steam rooms and hot tubs.