How climate change is already changing our world’s oceans and beginning to impact the tourism industry

 In the world economy, tourism is the largest business sector. Tourism accounts for 35 percent of the world’s export services, 10 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and one in 12 jobs globally. To thrive and continue to grow, the tourism industry will need destinations to be clean, healthy and sustainable for years to come.

This blog is one of a four part series to address four major environmental impacts that are destined to have major impacts on tourism:  climate change, ocean acidification, pollution, and inadequate fishery management.

Climate change is rapidly changing the ocean’s ecosystem. The impacts are beginning to be felt, in fact, much sooner than scientists had predicted. The water is warmer and more acidic, and the circulation patterns are changing in unpredictable ways. The resulting damage to oceanic plants and animals is widespread and deadly. In addition to losses in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 80 percent of the coral reefs have been lost in the Caribbean over the last three decades. Multiplied by damage from pollution and overfishing, the reefs are at risk of not being able to function in their key role in the oceanic ecosystem.

Coral reef destinations are often a desirable attraction for travelers seeking water-related vacations. People depend on reefs to protect the shoreline and to provide a source of food. The human consequences of damaged reefs, to the food supply and the ecosystem, are very dire to coastal residents. Tourists often desire local seafood, which could compound an existing possible local shortage. A lack of such a food supply could impact local employment and tourism, of special concern in highly dense populations in developing countries where food supply alternatives are limited.

To mitigate these concerns, the Blue Community Program has created 12 strategies to protect coastal habitat and marine environments.  Encouraging trends in ecotourism, sustainable tourism and sustainable development provide hope for making progress toward reducing the negative environmental impacts of travel.  With the necessary reduction of carbon emissions, coupled with tourism industry and consumer awareness and action, hope can exist for a healthier ocean.