With temperatures consistently breaking all records, such as last week’s 30ºC in January, empty reservoirs and water restrictions in winter, the visible effects of climate change in Spain are hard to ignore.
Given Spain’s heavy reliance on tourism, this sector, in particular, is now facing a significant challenge. Urgent adaptation to climate change is necessary.
Key tourist destinations must adapt flexibly to this. How? This was the topic of discussion at Fitur in Madrid this week. According to reporters from El Confidencial who attended, the tourism fair is using a new language, infused with terms focused on sustainability, environmental awareness, and climate action. Within the tourism sector, these concepts are increasingly dominant in their efforts to address the consequences of the climate crisis that affect the tourism sector globally.
Spain and climate change
Spain is one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change in the coming years. This is particularly due to its heavy dependence on sun and beach tourism. The Mediterranean region is considered “Ground Zero” for climate change in Europe. High temperatures, like the 31 degrees in Valencia in January, are indicative of this problem. This is also evident in the increasing severity of wildfires that are growing in size because they are harder to extinguish, rising sea levels, and desertification due to a lack of rain.
The water cycle is particularly affected. Periods of drought are becoming more severe, extensive, and recurrent, followed by periods of extreme rainfall causing serious flooding. Another consequence of drought is the restriction of access to drinking water in the most affected municipalities. Last year, showers on the beaches of Catalonia remained closed to the public all summer. With reservoirs at a historical low, filling swimming pools is also banned.
Challenges on the Spanish coasts
Moreover, the rising temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is causing other problems, such as the increasing presence of jellyfish on Spanish beaches. Additionally, the sea level in the Mediterranean area is rising faster than expected, threatening the coasts of Spain, Italy, Greece, and France. It was recently revealed that a large part of the Mediterranean coast of France, Italy, Greece, and Spain is sinking. This increases sea encroachment. In a country like Spain, where almost the entire Mediterranean coast up to the beaches is built up, this is problematic.
Response of the tourism sector
The Spanish tourism sector and the government are trying to address these challenges. Although awareness and sensitization about the issues in the sector could be much better. Sustainable tourism and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and water usage are now being promoted in hotels. Tourists are also being advised to take their environmental responsibility.
Economic impact of climate change
Tourism is a crucial economic sector in Spain, accounting for about 12% of the GDP. The sector employs about 15% of the workforce. However, reports warn that climate change could reduce income in tourist destinations by up to 50%. Nevertheless, there is hope for a possible adaptation of the tourist offering, with an extension of the season beyond the summer months.
Sustainability as the norm
According to El Confidencial, it seems that an increasing number of operators have perfectly identified the enemy and are determined to confront it. The newspaper bases this on the sounds that reporters picked up during the fair. But the fact that Fitur has talked so much about environmental responsibility, climate action, sustainability, and the restoration and preservation of nature for everyone is good news.