According to a report by the European Travel Commission, the Mediterranean’s popularity as a holiday destination may be on the decline due to repeated heatwaves and concerns about the climate crisis. The report reveals a 10% decrease in visitors to Mediterranean destinations compared to last year, while countries like the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Denmark are experiencing a surge in popularity as travelers seek out less crowded and milder temperature destinations.
The impact of rising temperatures and the climate crisis on travel decisions is becoming increasingly significant, with 7.6% of travelers acknowledging it as a factor in their plans.
In recent days, holidaymakers in Spain, Italy, and Greece have been escaping the sweltering heat by seeking shade and air conditioning, leading to health warnings advising people to avoid sun exposure. Even jumping into the sea offers little respite, as sea temperatures reach up to 30°C in parts of the Balearics and the east coast of Spain.
This week’s heatwave in Spain has affected not just the southern region but also areas like Figueres, which saw record temperatures of 45°C, and Barcelona, where temperatures reached 36°C alongside oppressive humidity.
Spain is still expected to attract 85 million tourists this year, two million more than in 2019, but the consecutive summers of temperatures over 40°C may deter even the most dedicated sunseeker.
Zoritsa Urosevic, the executive director of the World Tourism Organization, suggests that heatwaves are influencing holiday destination choices, as extreme temperatures become a disincentive for certain types of tourists. Climate change could potentially shift perceptions and preferences in the tourism industry.
To combat rising costs, many travelers are making advanced bookings to secure cheaper flights and accommodation, overlooking the uncertainty of weather conditions. It’s worth noting that holiday insurance policies typically do not cover heatwaves.
Spanish hoteliers are noticing an increase in visitors to cooler northern regions such as Asturias, Cantabria, and the Pyrenees. These areas offer less crowded alternatives to the bustling Mediterranean. A report by the Barcelona city council also highlights the overcrowding issue in the city as a common complaint among visitors.
Furthermore, the ongoing hot weather has exacerbated drought conditions, particularly on the Costa Brava in northeast Spain. With water becoming a limited resource, both agriculture and tourism may face restrictions, making the affected areas less attractive for tourists.
The European report indicates that rising costs are a significant concern for European travelers, with 24% stating it influences their travel plans. In an attempt to recover from pandemic-related losses, hotels and restaurants across Europe have increased their prices. In Spain, the average price of an overnight stay has risen from €135 to €158 compared to 2022, with a 32% increase in Madrid and 25.7% increase in Barcelona.
Tourism plays a crucial role in Spain’s economy, contributing €194 billion or 14.6% of the country’s GDP this year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.