Unprecedented Heat Wave Causes Shift in Popular Tourist Destinations
CNN has reported that record-breaking high temperatures and extreme heatwaves in various parts of the world are prompting significant changes in popular tourist destinations. According to data from the European Travel Commission (ETC), increasingly hot weather has led travelers to seek cooler alternatives, favoring northern and eastern Europe over traditionally favored Mediterranean regions like Italy and Greece.
Shift in Travel Preferences
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “avoiding the heat” has emerged as the most prominent travel priority during the first full summer holiday season. Consequently, there has been a notable increase in the demand for travel to northern and eastern European countries, which experience milder temperatures compared to the scorching Mediterranean areas.
CNN’s survey revealed a 10% decrease in the number of tourists planning to visit Mediterranean destinations this summer compared to the previous year.
Historically, coastal regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as southern France, Italy, and Greece, have been the go-to holiday spots for Europeans. However, as temperatures continue to soar, southern Europe is witnessing a decline in tourist numbers.
ETC emphasized the rising popularity of comparative (northern) latitude countries like the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Ireland, where travelers can find relief from the scorching heat. Consequently, there has been a shift in preferences towards central and northern Europe.
Forward Kiss, a travel data company, reported a 4 percentage point decrease in flight searches from the UK to southern European countries during the peak summer season (July and August), while searches for Nordic countries like Denmark increased by 3 percentage points since the previous month. According to the company’s analysis, although there is still a greater interest in southern European countries, the trend of choosing northern travel destinations is gaining momentum.
Extreme Heatwave Impacts Southern Europe
On the 18th, Rome experienced a scorching temperature of 41.8 degrees Celsius, breaking all previous records. On the same day, Athens, Greece, and Madrid, Spain, witnessed temperatures reaching 39 degrees Celsius. The entire southern European region is currently under the grip of a severe heatwave, with the Italian Meteorological Society dubbing it ‘Cerberus’, after the gatekeeper of hell described in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’.
Giuseppe Napolitano, head of Rome’s Civil Protection Agency, has expressed concern over the increasing number of tourists collapsing from heat strokes. He specifically highlighted incidents involving British tourists who fainted near the Colosseum on the 18th. Another tourist visiting the Acropolis in Greece also suffered from heat exhaustion and had to be rushed to the hospital on a stretcher.
Government Measures and Tourism Advisories
Countries experiencing extreme heatwaves are taking measures to minimize casualties by issuing tourism advisories. The Greek government has decided to close major outdoor historical sites, including the Acropolis, from noon to 5:30 pm on multiple days to protect tourists from the intense heat.
In response to the heatwave, the Italian government declared a red heat warning in 23 cities, including popular tourist destinations. The city of Rome promptly deployed ‘heat volunteers’ to distribute free water bottles to tourists and assist them in coping with the scorching temperatures. A red warning signifies the highest level of weather warning, indicating that heatwaves pose a health threat to everyone, not just vulnerable individuals.
Unconventional “Heat Wave Experience Tourism”
Despite the extreme temperatures, the United States is witnessing a rise in the phenomenon of “heat wave experience tourism”. The Guardian reported on the 22nd that tourists are flocking to Death Valley in California, where temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees Celsius. This destination gained further attention after two seniors, aged 65 and 71, recently succumbed to the heatwave.
Abby Winder, a spokesperson for Death Valley National Park, explained that some tourists intentionally visit the area to witness potentially record-breaking temperatures. The news reports about the possibility of breaking temperature records in Death Valley have sparked curiosity among adventure-seeking tourists.
The Role of Global Warming and El Niño
Experts attribute this year’s unprecedented heatwaves worldwide to global warming caused by fossil fuel consumption and the recurrence of the El Niño phenomenon. If water temperatures rise by more than 2 degrees, it is classified as a “Super El Niño.” There is speculation among experts that there is a possibility of a Super El Niño occurring this year.
As tourist preferences shift due to the soaring temperatures, the global travel industry is witnessing a notable change in popular destinations. Travelers seeking respite from extreme heat are increasingly opting for central and northern European countries, signaling a potential long-term shift in travel patterns.
CNN reported on the 21st (local time), citing data from the European Travel Commission (ETC), that unusually hot weather has occurred in various parts of the world and that ‘all-time high’ temperature records continue to be broken, leading to changes in popular tourist destinations favored by travelers.
On the 21st, the citizens of Athens, the capital of Greece, cool off in a fountain.
As “avoid the heat” emerged as the most important keyword during the first full summer holiday season after the Corona 19 pandemic (a global pandemic of an epidemic), the demand for travel to northern and eastern Europe, which is relatively less hot, has increased instead of Mediterranean regions such as Italy and Greece, where tourists have grown.
According to CNN, in the survey, the number of tourists who answered that they had plans to visit Mediterranean destinations this summer decreased by 10% since last year.
Traditionally, the most popular holiday destinations for Europeans have been coastal areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, southern France, and Greece. Recently, days in parts of southern Europe continue to rise in temperature around 40 degrees, and the number of tourists is falling.
ETC noted that “comparative (northern) latitude countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Ireland have increased in popularity,” and that “travelers looking for milder temperatures are turning to central and northern Europe.”
Forward Kiss, a travel data company, saw a 4 percentage point drop in search rates for flights from the UK to southern European countries during July and August, the peak summer holiday season, while searches for Nordic countries such as Denmark increased by 3 percentage points since last month. An official from Forward Kiss analyzed, “There are still more searches for southern European countries, but the choice of northern travel destinations continues to grow.”
On the 18th, the Rome Meteorological Office reported that the maximum temperature in Rome rose to 41.8 degrees Celsius that day, breaking the record. In Athens, Greece and Madrid, Spain, the temperature rose to 39 degrees on the same day, and all of Southern Europe was suffering from heat waves. The Italian Meteorological Society even calls this heat wave ‘Cerberus’, after the name of the gatekeeper of hell in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’.
Giuseppe Napolitano, head of Rome’s Civil Protection Agency, urged tourists to be careful about the heat wave, saying an increasing number of tourists were collapsing from heat stroke, including British tourists who fainted in front of the Colosseum on the 18th. On the 14th, a tourist visiting the Acropolis in Greece also collapsed from heat exhaustion and was taken to hospital on a stretcher.
The streets of Dublin, the capital of Ireland. /EPA Yonhap News
Countries with very hot weather are trying to reduce human casualties by issuing tourism advisories. The Greek government closed major outdoor historical sites such as the Acropolis from noon to 5:30 pm on the 20th and 23rd following the 14th to the last 16th.
The Italian government issued a red heat warning on the 18th to 23 cities, including major tourist destinations, and the city of Rome urgently deployed ‘heat volunteers’ to help cope with the heat, such as handing out free water bottles to tourists. The red warning is the highest of the four weather warning levels, meaning heatwaves are a health threat to everyone, not just the vulnerable.
In the United States, where the hot weather continues, more and more people are going on ‘heat wave experience tourism’. The Guardian, a British daily, reported on the 22nd that tourists are flocking to Death Valley, California, USA despite the temperature being over 50 degrees. This is where seniors aged 65 and 71 recently died one after the other due to heat waves.
A spokesperson for Death Valley National Park, Abby Winder, explained to The Guardian, “Some tourists come on purpose to commemorate the ‘highest temperature’ after seeing the news that ‘the temperature in death valley could break a record’.”
Global warming, which is known to have been caused by the use of fossil fuels and the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon which occurred in four years, has been cited as the cause of the hottest weather on record around the world this year… If the water temperature rises by more than 2 degrees, it is called ‘Super El Niño’, and experts believe that there is a possibility that a Super El Niño will occur this year.
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