IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

11.4.9 Tourism and recreation

Tourism contributes 4.5% of Australian GDP and represents 11.2% of exports (Allen Consulting Group, 2005), and even more in New Zealand (about 5% of GDP and 16% of exports). The main tourism centres are the Gold Coast and tropical north Queensland in Australia, and Queenstown and Rotorua in New Zealand. Most tourism and recreation in Australia and New Zealand rely on resources of the natural environment. In Australia’s Wet Tropics, the value of ecosystem goods and services, including tourism, is about US$132 to 148 million/yr (Curtis, 2004).

Few regional studies have assessed potential impacts on tourism, but elsewhere there is evidence that climate change has direct impacts (Agnew and Palutikof, 2001; Maddison, 2001). Some tourist destinations may benefit from drier and warmer conditions, e.g., for beach activities, viewing wildlife and geothermal activity, trekking, camping, climbing, wine tasting and fishing. However, greater risks to tourism are likely from increases in hazards such as flooding, storm surges, heatwaves, cyclones, fires and droughts (World Tourism Organisation, 2003; Scott et al., 2004; Becken, 2005; Hall and Higham, 2005; Becken and Hay, 2007). These adversely affect transport, personal safety, communication, water availability and natural attractions such as coral reefs, beaches, freshwater wetlands, snow, glaciers and forests. Changes in species distribution and ecosystems in National Parks (see Section 11.4.2) are likely to alter their tourism appeal. Tropical Australian destinations are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts (Allen Consulting Group, 2005). Queensland tourism is likely to be negatively affected by more intense tropical cyclones and by degradation of the Great Barrier Reef (see Section 11.6) and beaches (PIA, 2004).

Skiing attracts many tourists to New Zealand and south-eastern Australia. For the full range of SRES scenarios, by 2020 in south-east Australia, there are likely to be 5 to 40 fewer days of snow cover per year, a rise in the snowline of 30 to 165 m, and a reduction in the total snow-covered area of 10 to 40% (Hennessy et al., 2003). By 2050, the duration of snow cover reduces by 15 to 100 days, the maximum snow depth reduces by 10 to 99%, the snowline rises 60 to 570 m and the total area of snow cover shrinks by 20 to 85%. Similarly, in New Zealand, changes in seasonal snow cover are likely to have a significant impact on the ski industry. The snow line is likely to rise by 120 to 270 m based on scenarios for the 2080s (Fitzharris, 2004). Tourist flows from Australia to New Zealand might grow as a result of the relatively poorer snow conditions in Australia. Numerical modelling of the Franz Josef glacier reveals that temperature is the dominant control on glacier length for New Zealand’s maritime glaciers (Anderson and Mackintosh, 2006). Noticeable shrinkage and retreat is very likely for even small temperature increases (Anderson, 2004; Anderson et al., 2006), and is likely to reduce visitor flows through tourism-dependent towns such as Fox and Franz Josef.