July 27, 2006

Mediterranean beaches may get too hot for tourists: report

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Mediterranean beaches may get too hot for
tourists this century because of global warming and northern
Europeans will find the summer balmy enough to stay at home,
researchers said on Thursday.

"In the summers of the 2080s, potential tourists in the UK
and Germany will be able to find much better climatic
conditions in their own country than in the Mediterranean,"
according to a British and Dutch study in the Journal of
Sustainable Tourism.

About 100 million people, mostly from northern Europe and
led by Germans and Britons, visit the Mediterranean region
every year where they spend almost $100 billion.

Any shifts in their holiday habits could have a huge impact
on Mediterranean economies including those of Spain, France,
Italy, Greece, Turkey and Morocco.

"People don't want to go looking for sun, sea and sand and
be forced to sit in the shade because it's too hot," David
Viner, a senior climate scientist at the University of East
Anglia in England and co-author, told Reuters.

Beaches in northern Europe, from Ireland and northern
France to the Baltics and southern Scandinavia, could become
more attractive to holidaymakers in summers in coming decades.

A heatwave in Europe this year means that some northern
Europeans are traveling to Mediterranean beaches and finding
the weather no warmer than at home.

"Those conditions will become more prevalent in future,"
Viner said. Many scientists say that fossil fuels burned in
power plants, factories and cars are releasing heat-trapping
gases into the atmosphere, raising global temperatures.


Apart from baking temperatures, the attraction of the
Mediterranean might fade because the region could become drier,
with more frequent water shortages and forest fires.

Viner's study with a researcher at Maastricht University in
the Netherlands said the Mediterranean climate would become
more suitable for tourism in spring, autumn and winter.

Overall, Mediterranean nations' revenues from tourism were
likely to decline even if they were more spread over the year.
Northern European resorts like Blackpool in England might stage
a revival.

The scientific panel that advises the United Nations says
that temperatures are likely to rise by 1.4-5.8 Celsius
(2.5-10.4 Fahrenheit) by 2100, bringing more frequent
heatwaves, floods, mudslides and helping spread disease.

The report said Mediterranean countries could play to other
strengths away from the beach such as food, landscapes and
monuments left by the Greeks, Romans or Egyptians.

And in the long term, sunbathing might go out of fashion.