Summers will simply become too hot for some holidaymakers. | Pilar Pellicer


The European Commission's Joint Research Centre, which provides independent scientific advice for European Union policy, has conducted a study of the impact of climate change on tourism at a regional level.

This study concludes that the Balearics will experience the greatest percentage loss of tourism among Spain's regions (the Canaries excluded) because of rising temperatures.

Base data for the study are tourist overnight stays between June and September 2019, the data coming from Spain's National Statistics Institute. There were 39,627,080 overnight stays in the Balearics during that four-month period.

Four levels of warming have been taken. These reflect the most optimistic and the most pessimistic projections as to increased temperatures - 1.5 degrees, two degrees, three degrees and four degrees. For all four, the study suggests losses for the Balearics - from 0.7% for 1.5C to 8.2% for 4C. These losses are all higher than other Spanish regions. At the most extreme, four degrees, this equates to a loss of some 3.2 million overnight stays*.

Losses and gains for Spain's summer tourism because of rising temperatures

The European Travel Commission has said that the effect of increasingly frequent heat waves and of the increase in fires in the Mediterranean is already being felt. "The number of tourists who planned to spend their holidays in Greece, Spain or Portugal between June and November of this year will fall by 4% this year."

The study examines the potential impact of climate change on tourism demand up to 2100, so this is a long time horizon, and compares this with tourism figures for 2019. It uses data from 269 European regions month by month for a period of 20 years. The overall conclusion is that "climatic conditions will significantly affect tourism demand, with coastal regions being the most affected".

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The 8.2% drop in summer overnight stays in the Balearics would be partially offset by an increase in tourist overnight stays at other, less hot times of the year. Estimates are that southern European destinations will receive around five per cent more visitors in spring, autumn and winter. "In addition to a geographic redistribution, the seasonal patterns of tourism are also expected to change considerably, as the summer months will become less attractive while the lower seasons will become more attractive as weather conditions improve."

The greatest losses in the Mediterranean (at four degrees) will be Greece's Ionian islands (-9.1%), northern Aegean islands (-9%) and southern Aegean islands (-8.6 %) followed by Cyprus (-8.2%). The biggest winner will be West Wales (+16%).

"The central and northern European regions are expected to become more attractive for tourism activities during all months of the year to the detriment of the southern and Mediterranean areas," the study states.

Tour operators and others in the tourism/travel sector are aware that they will have to address this situation. For this summer, they haven't noticed any real decrease in bookings for the Balearics due to the heat; figures may actually show an increase in tourist numbers. While heat alerts have been issued on a regular basis during the summer, there have only been two heat waves, both of them in July. There were three in 2022, two of which lasted longer than those this summer.

The regularity with which there are now heat waves contrasts markedly with the 1990s. For the whole of that decade there was only one heat wave.

* To provide some context, the average duration of stay is generally (and currently) around six nights. This is only a very rough estimate, but the loss at four degrees could amount to some 530,000 tourists. At 1.5 degrees, the loss of overnight stays could be in the region of 277,000, perhaps around 46,000 tourists.