The tourist industry is heavily affected by weather and climate. A warmer climate extends the tourist season in Northern Europe, while southern parts of the Continent suffer heat waves and water shortages, which are extremely costly. Combined with changes in rainfall patterns and rising sea levels, future climate changes will have a considerable impact on the economies and social development in Europe’s cities.
According to the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, the tourist industry employs more people than major companies Ericsson, Volvo, Saab, Scania, Skanska, Telia Sonera, Sandvik, Astra Zeneca, ABB and SCA put together. If changes in climate do end up reversing the flow of tourists, then tourism will have an even greater strategic and economic significance, since there will be demands to be met both in terms of the expectations of tourists and the wellbeing of the local population.
The question is whether Europe and Sweden are prepared for this?
The heat buffering effect of cities makes them particularly sensitive to climate change, where global warming may intensify the cities’ heat islands. The fact is that temperatures in built-up areas are between 0.5 and 1 degree higher than in the surrounding, open landscape. This is because the city’s building materials absorb the sun’s energy, as well as heat radiation from cars and heated buildings.
The phenomenon is also apparent within the city: In Gothenburg, researchers measured a temperature difference of six degrees between the Slottskogen park area and the adjacent, densely built-up Linnéstaden. In Canada’s second city, Montreal, researchers have measured temperature differences of an incredible 12 degrees between city and park areas.
A European collaborative project, which will be coordinated from the University of Gothenburg, is now being initiated with the support of Formas, aimed at studying awareness of climate change and its impact on city tourism in several European cities.
The project will include research groups in Sweden, Portugal and Turkey, under the leadership of professor Ingegärd Eliasson at the Department of Conservation, University of Gothenburg:
“Sustainable city development requires increased awareness of the effects of climate change. The goal is to establish a database for analyses of the relationship between city tourism and climate change in the three countries in question,” says Ingegärd Eliasson.
The project, called “Urban tourism and climate change”, is interdisciplinary. The Swedish research group includes, in addition to Ingegärd Eliasson, physical geographer Sofia Thorsson from the University of Gothenburg, and psychologist Igor Knez from the University of Gävle.