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Climate Change Will Wreck Maldives Investments, Worry Tourism Chiefs

The reality that tourism is a double-edged sword- an industry that both delivers monetary riches yet destroys natural resources, was highlighted at the ITB (International Tourism Bourse) in Berlin on Wednesday.

The day, deemed “Future Day”, was devoted to tourism in the years to come and was especially relevant for those interested in the Maldives.

Future Day was highlighted by an afternoon conference on climate change and the fundamental challenges it posed for the travel and tourism industry.

Hosted by Professor Roland Conrady, Scientific Director of the ITB Convention, the session’s panel of guests included: Dr Martin Claussen, Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteology; Dr Manfred Stock from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Dr David Viner from the Climate Research Unite, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

 Francesco Frangialli, UNWTO Secretary General, gave the keynote speech titled: Climate change and the tourism industry, in which he made it clear that tourism was both, “a victim and a factor of climate change.”

“The tourism industry has three main concerns,” said Frangialli when explaining why the industry was a victim, “retreat of glaciers and lack of snow, which affects the skiing industry, the destruction of ecosystems of small islands and the effect of climate change on fresh water supplies.”

Frangialli specifically mentioned a visit he made to the Maldives after the tsunami when he described what climate change could do to small island nations.

Climate change has been an increasingly hot topic for discussion over the last year, with many new reports being published that highlight the negative impacts it may have on some tourism destinations- including the Maldives, which is expected to be one of the first nations to feel the effects of rising sea levels and warming waters.

In a press release on climate change issued on Monday, the ITB forecasted that, “in [some] parts of the world, there will be more powerful and more frequent typhoons and cyclones, coral reefs will be destroyed and some low-lying islands - such and the Maldives - could simply disappear.”

 Latest predictions by the IPCC say that there is a “probable” chance of sea levels rising by 59 centimetres each century for the next 200 years.

With 80 per cent of the Maldives' 1,192 islands being no more than 1 metre above sea level it will take less than 100 years for many of the islands to become uninhabitable.

Endurance swimmer and environmental campaigner, Lewis Gordon Pugh, highlighted this fact two weeks ago, when he swam the breadth of the Maldives to raise awareness of the potential impact that climate change could have on the island nation.

The tourism industry seems to be getting the message.

“We all know that there are climate changes in our industry. And that there are climate changes in our environment,” said the director of the European Travel Commission, Robert Franklin, at last November’s Pisa Forum, “but do people really think enough about how closely these two are linked?”

Frangialli argues that people are aware of the strong connection, but says that the problem of climate change can not simply be solved by reducing flights.

He pointed out that the tourism industry brings roughly US$200 billion to the developing world each year and that there are many people in less developed countries who are currently dependent on the industry for their livelihoods.

“Tourism does contribute to climate change,” said Frangialli, “but it also contributes to poverty illimination. We have to find an adequate balance.”

Courtesy: By Phillip Wellman (Minivan News)
March 8, 2007


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