According to a new study by the JRC, southern coastal regions in Europe are expected to experience a decrease in tourism during the summer months under warming scenarios of 3°C and 4°C. On the contrary, northern European coastal regions can anticipate an increase in tourism demand. The study also projects a decrease in tourist interest in July and a growth in April across the continent. Despite these fluctuations, overall tourism demand in Europe is expected to rise according to the projections.

The study, which assesses changes in tourism demand under four climate futures, including the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5°C and 2°C, as well as higher warming levels of 3°C and 4°C, reveals that the impact on European tourism demand is expected to be positive overall. The highest warming scenario of 4°C is projected to result in a 1.58% increase. However, there are significant regional variations, with central and northern Europe experiencing increased demand while the southern regions experience lower demand.

Europe, being the most visited region in the world, heavily relies on tourism as a major economic contributor. With over half of all international arrivals and a direct contribution of 5% to EU GDP, tourism plays a crucial role. When considering the contribution of ancillary sectors, tourism’s contribution surpasses 10% of EU GDP. However, as temperatures rise and weather patterns become more unpredictable, it is necessary to take action to ensure sustainability in tourism.

This study is the first to explore the historical and potential future impact of climate change on European tourism demand at a regional level. It establishes a strong and consistent relationship between climate and tourism. Using data from 269 European regions over a 20-year timeframe, the study analyzes the current impact of climate conditions on tourism and simulates future impacts until the year 2100 using 10 climate models and four warming levels (1.5°C, 2°C, 3°C, and 4°C).

Under a 1.5°C warming scenario, approximately 80% of European regions are projected to be minimally affected by climate change, with tourist flow fluctuating between -1% and +1%. The results are similar for the 2°C scenario. However, the highest emissions scenario shows significant effects on coastal regions. For example, there is an estimated decline of 9.12% for the Greek Ionian Islands and an increase of 15.93% for West Wales in the United Kingdom. Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal project the largest losses exceeding 5%, while Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom show the highest gains above 5%.

The study also highlights the expected shifts in seasonality patterns, with various impacts across different regions. Northern European coastal regions can anticipate a more than 5% increase in demand during the summer and early autumn months. On the other hand, southern coastal regions may experience a loss of nearly 10% of summer tourists compared to the present, especially in warmer climate scenarios of 3°C and 4°C. However, this decline in summer demand may be offset by higher tourist visits in spring, autumn, and winter. Overall, the month of April is projected to experience the highest increase in tourist flows compared to the present, with a growth of +8.89% in a 4°C scenario. July, on the other hand, may witness the largest decline in European tourism demand, ranging from -0.06% in the 1.5°C scenario to -5.72% under the warmest climate scenario.

This analysis takes into consideration seasonality, geographical patterns, and regional typologies such as coastal and urban areas. The study reveals that a 1% increase in the Tourism Climate Index leads to a 0.57% increase in the monthly regional number of bed nights, which is a measure of occupancy in the hospitality industry. However, the impact varies depending on the specific tourism typology, with coastal areas being the most susceptible to climate conditions.

This study builds upon previous analyses that have examined the influence of climatic conditions on regional tourist flows and the number of nights spent on accommodations. It paves the way for future research on winter tourism demand, which plays a significant socio-economic role in Europe’s snowy and mountainous regions.

In order to maintain Europe’s position as a leading tourist destination, the European Commission initiated a roadmap in 2022, focusing on a twin transition to green and digital tourism and promoting resilience. This roadmap highlights the importance of making tourism more environmentally friendly and aligning with ongoing legislative initiatives regarding environmental protection and climate neutrality. The Council of the European Union has reinforced the call for sustainability and resilience in tourism as the 2030 EU Agenda for tourism is shaped.