Will the extreme weather of this summer change the future of travel?
transport | 13/10/2023

Will the extreme weather of this summer change the future of travel?

Angus Boobbyer

Our expert research team has taken a look back at the extreme weather events of this summer and explored whether they may affect people’s future travel preferences. Senior Consultant Angus Boobbyer takes a deep dive into the results, suggesting businesses may need to reassess their long term strategies in light of what is to come.

There is something quintessentially British, perhaps European, about the ‘summer holiday’. It’s almost taken as a given that you have been away somewhere during the months of July and August. But where that somewhere is may well be changing.

This summer felt apocalyptic at times – you need only look at the wildfires in Rhodes and Hawaii or the severe flooding in Austria, Croatia and Skiathos. They are no longer ‘black swan’ events. On top of this, temperatures have continued to soar. Average temperatures for July and August were over 36 degrees in parts of Spain and Greece. The Acropolis in Athens shut when temperatures soared over 48 degrees. Tourists in Sardinia were forced to stay indoors. People were passing out while at the Colosseum in Rome. Indeed, one recent study suggested that by 2050, Madrid’s climate would resemble Marrakech, London will be more like Barcelona and Stockholm like Budapest[i]. This has significant implications for a number of industries, especially as Europe is the planet’s most visited region, welcoming 585m of the world’s 900m international travellers in 2022[ii].

Extreme weather protection?

Some have already started to respond. A US based weather company has stated they will soon be offering trip protection against extreme temperatures[iii]. TUI’s CEO suggested that in future people may look to holiday in other parts of Europe such as Belgium and the Netherlands[iv]. The media commentary on how climate change will hit holidaymaking has notably increased.

At Stonehaven, we recently commissioned polling looking at these trends and whether this summer affected how people view where and how they travel. It has offered some revealing insights:

  1. Nearly 3 in 5 people in the UK have been abroad on holiday in the last three years. While ‘staycations’ inevitably soared over the pandemic, there has been a notable return to travelling abroad. This has been reflected in the return to profit of airlines and travel companies. IATA has forecast net profits of $9.8bn for airlines in 2023[v].
  2. When considering travel, price (57%) and weather (34%)are cited as the most important factors for UK tourists. There is no doubt that the cost of living is playing a significant impact on people choosing where and when to travel.
  3. While it may seem a small figure, 5% of the UK public cite the environmental impact of travel as a reason for not going abroad. This is a figure we will continue to monitor closely as people become more conscious of their environmental impact.
  4. When considering ‘markers of value’ for UK holidaymakers, over two thirds of people state rest and relaxation as their greatest priority, while cultural immersion and adventure-seeking lag behind.
  5. Mediterranean destinations stand as the prime choice for UK tourists with nearly 70% selecting the region as their preferred holidaymaking location – far outpacing other notable holiday hotspots. This is arguably the critical point. Businesses have built up their assets where people love to holiday most. However, with the events of this summer in the Mediterranean region, this also poses a significant risk for business.
  6. This is especially the case as our results revealed that the rising global trend of extreme weather events concerns a majority in the UK. 68% of the public stated that the recent wildfires raised their anxieties about climate change, with 41% saying climate change might influence their next summer holiday choice. 57% of people also disagreed that the wildfires were a one-off event.
  7. Interestingly, when it came to choosing alternatives to the Mediterranean, holidaymakers ranked the Nordic destinations most favourably (38%), while Western Europe (37%) and the Balkans (23%) also emerged as alternative destinations.

Businesses need to look now to the future of travel

The impacts of climate change and changed travel habits are likely to be significant for businesses and governments operating in this space, whether they are airlines, travel agents and hoteliers, or tourism dependent economies.

In short this means:

  1. It is inevitable that where and when people will choose to holiday will change. Businesses operating in this sector therefore need to be thinking about their long-term strategy. Where is the Mediterranean of tomorrow? Do they need to diversify their assets? There is significant opportunity in this space for proactive leadership. Winners and losers will emerge, and businesses need to ensure they come out on the right side.
  2. Businesses need to respond to people’s environmental concerns. It is not just a case of setting out sustainability strategies with vague commitments but actively exploring how people might be able to travel more locally or by cleaner forms of transport for instance.
  3. Things will become intensely political. The Greek Prime Minister has already offered a free week’s holiday to those affected by the wildfires in Rhodes in a bid to lure people back. Economies depend on tourism – it is 26% of Croatia’s GDP, 18.5% of Greece’s, 13.6% of Spain’s and 10% of Italy’s. Those who take the lion’s share of the market will seek to protect, other countries will look to seize the opportunity.

At Stonehaven, we can help businesses navigate these changes. To find out more, please get in touch.

[i] Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues | PLOS ONE

[ii] How climate change will hit holidaymaking (economist.com)

[iii] Holidaymakers to be offered travel insurance against extreme heat | The Independent

[iv] Holiday in Belgium, says Tui boss, after scorching summer | Financial Times

[v] IATA - Airline Profitability Outlook Strengthens

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