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‘High season’ could shift due to climate change, National Trust study warns

UK tourist destinations could experience significant shifts in visitor behaviour and ticket sales unless steps are taken now to mitigate the impact of climate change, the National Trust has warned in a new study.

The charity for the conservation of heritage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland assessed five years of visitor data between 2015 and 2019, which included 85 million visitors to 170 of its UK sites. It then plotted this against weather patterns such as temperature, rain and wind speed.

Whilst the research indicated that the optimum temperature for visitors and tourists was 24 degrees Celsius, it also showed a big drop-off in attendee numbers for days when temperatures reached 28 degrees. 

The UK’s Met Office, which forecasts weather across the country, has projected winters to be up to 30% wetter and summers to be up to 60% drier by 2070, with “more frequent and intense weather extremes”. Such scenarios, leading to travel disruptions, would inevitably affect levels of demand.

Lizzy Carlyle, head of climate and environment at for the charity, said: “What this data shows us is that we have a lot to do to prepare the UK tourist industry for the effects of climate change. 

“Much of the debate around tourism and climate change to date has rightly focused on international travel and the impact flights and foreign holidays is having. 

“But what hasn’t been fully addressed is what the domestic tourism industry could be facing unless we take drastic action to reduce emissions.” 

The charity said that one of the implications of rising temperatures and lower visitor numbers in the summer months could be a shift in high-season ticket sales to the spring and autumn in the future.

Some indoor attractions – where the optimum temperature to visit is 20 degrees, the study added – could close their doors due to sluggish attendance figures.

Carlyle added: “The challenge the tourism sector is facing to adapt to changes in the UK climate should not be underestimated.

“But while this data is stark it is certainly not all doom and gloom. It helps us as an organisation – and the sector as a whole – prepare for the future to ensure the nation’s heritage is protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Carlyle also called on the UK Government to provide support to the sector. 

She said: “Reacting to and meeting this challenge isn’t something the sector can do itself, and therefore Government will need to put more focus on identifying adaptation needs, finding meaningful solutions and supporting key sectors like tourism.”

Image: The National Trust