‘$40bn At Risk’ As Climate Change Threatens Tourism

The Australian

Tourist destination Twin Falls, seen from the air, in Kakadu National Park. Picture: Sam Earp/Tourism NT
Australia’s $40 billion tourism ­industry is in danger, with visitors likely to face more bad weather, deadly jellyfish and damaged beaches due to climate change, the Climate Council has warned.
Some of the nation’s most prized natural assets, such as Uluru, Kakadu and Ningaloo Reef, are most at risk from rising temperatures, while more than half of the continent could see conditions deemed “unfavourable” for visitors by 2080, the council says.
In a 70-page report out today, it warns nature-based tourism dominates the Australian market and cites a survey of Chinese visitors, more than half of whom said they would be inclined to go elsewhere if bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef continued.
Climate Councillor and ecologist Lesley Hughes said beaches, wilderness areas, national parks and reefs were most vulnerable, but wildlife could also be affected if climate change accelerated.
“Tourists travel across the globe to see Australia’s remarkable natural wonders. But these icons are in the climate firing line as extreme weather events worsen and sea levels continue to rise,” Professor Hughes said.
“Some of our country’s most popular natural destinations, including our beaches could become ‘no-go zones’ during peak holiday periods and seasons, with the ­potential for extreme temperatures to reach up to 50C in Sydney and Melbourne.
“Climate change is placing one of Australia’s most valuable and fastest growing sectors under threat. In 2016 alone, more than eight million international visitors arrived on our shores to see our natural icons, bringing in more than $40bn.
“In fact, tourism employs more than 15 times more people in Australia than coalmining.”
The council’s study highlighted Austrade research predicting a $150bn annual tourist spend by 2026-27 in the absence of limiting factors, saying tourism was Australia’s second-biggest export earner, just behind iron ore. It also warned of a 100-fold increase in major flooding in most cities if sea levels rose by 0.5m.
The red centre could experience more than 100 days above 35C annually by 2030, and more than 160 days by 2090, the study said, while the top end could see its number of hot days rise from a long-term average of 11 to 43 days annually by 2030 and 265 days by 2090. The council’s acting chief executive Martin Rice criticised Canberra’s Tourism 2020 plan for failing to address climate change.


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