Projections for the 21st century of the climate potential for beach-based tourism in the Mediterranean

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ABSTRACT

Climate is a primary resource for beach-based tourism. It defines the length and quality of the tourist season and plays a major role in destination choices and revenues. The Mediterranean is coincidentally one of the most visited tourist destinations and sensitive areas to climate change worldwide. Social, economic and environmental adaptation to climate change in this region should necessarily evaluate the Mediterranean and European climate resource for beach-based tourism as well as its projected changes. To this end, the second-generation climate index for tourism (CIT) has been adopted. ERA-Interim reanalysis have been used as the regional observed baseline, thus providing daily atmospheric data to derive CIT. For projections, meteorological variables have been obtained from a set of regional climate models (RCMs) within the ENSEMBLES European project. A quantile–quantile adjustment has been applied to the CIT cumulative distribution functions based on each individual RCM output to properly correct biases at regional and local scales. Furthermore, an ensemble strategy is adopted to further cope with uncertainties arising from RCM errors and boundary conditions. The spatial distribution of present climate potential confirms the Mediterranean coast as the most suitable region in Europe for carrying out beach leisure activities. Excellent climatic conditions prevail in most of this coastal region during summer. However, the optimal climate asset is projected to noticeably deteriorate in summer across the Mediterranean, whereas only slightly improving in northwestern Europe by 2075–2094. On the other hand, a general enhancement of ideal climate potential is expected for the shoulder seasons in the former region. That is, optimal climatic conditions may shift from the present peak demand season to spring and autumn. These potential impacts might lead to important drawbacks for the current strongly seasonal-adjusted beach-based tourism industry in the Mediterranean. Therefore, main tourism stakeholders will likely need to face these challenges through adaptation and mitigation strategies.

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