Extreme Heat and Wellness Tourism Investment: Go Short on Shores, Long on Hills 

By Thierry Malleret, economist

This summer was the hottest one in history, with unprecedented heat waves engulfing most of the northern hemisphere. They will only become more intense and frequent, and will change everything. Wellness tourism will be impacted dramatically, with new destination winners and losers. The warm weather and beachy destinations that have defined wellness travel face a more uncertain future. By contrast, evidence already indicates significant growth for locations that are cooler, either in the mountains or at higher latitudes.  

June and July were the earth’s hottest months on record, with unprecedented heat waves engulfing much of the northern hemisphere. The burgeoning science of “extreme event attribution” shows that it is unlikely that such disasters could have occurred without climate change. As they become more intense and more frequent, they will impact everything.  

From an economic standpoint and all things being equal, extreme heat (1) drags down growth and (2) lowers productivity (by making it harder to work). The sectors most at risk with the highest cost of adaptation: tourism, construction, agriculture, transport, insurance and manufacturing. Therefore, investing in nature-based solutions to adapt to more heat and make our cities, homes, and workplaces more livable will explode. The greater the problem, the more intense the search for solutions.  

EXTREME HEAT, WELLBEING & WELLNESS TOURISMAt the individual level, rising extreme heat negatively impacts our mental and physical wellbeing in many ways, ranging from heat-related illnesses and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, to anxiety, depression and rising aggression. At the macro level (that of the wellness industry), the effects of rising temperatures are more complex. Some segments will benefit while others will suffer dearly.  

Wellness tourism will be impacted the most, positively and negatively. The warm-weather destinations that benefited most when post-pandemic travel picked up with a vengeance (in 2022) now face an uncertain future. It may well be that rising global temperatures could kill a version of wellness that has been thriving until now. By contrast, evidence points to thriving locations that are cooler, either in the mountains or at higher latitudes.  

Those who own the capital stock (the hotels, the houses, the cruise ships) cling to the hope that this summer is an aberration and next year will return to normal. But it won’t. Accordingly, many foresee a geographical shift in holiday destinations. For wellness tourism, with all the applicable caveats, “short shores, long hills” sounds like a potentially lucrative trade.  


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