The Tourism of Doom

Kenneth Shapiro With summer just around the corner, I’m sure many of your clients are busy finalizing their travel plans. This summer, in particular, I’m predicting that we will see the beginning of a trend toward “climate travel” to destinations such as the Canadian Rockies, the subject of this issue’s c

By: Kenneth Shapiro

With summer just around the corner, I’m sure many of your clients are busy finalizing their travel plans. This summer, in particular, I’m predicting that we will see the beginning of a trend toward “climate travel” to destinations such as the Canadian Rockies, the subject of this issue’s cover story, “Peak Interest” (page 18). Certainly, there is plenty to recommend a trip to Canada’s western mountains, as you’ll read in the story, but one thing that wasn’t mentioned may affect many of the world’s destinations for years to come.

It seems that a growing number of travelers are choosing destinations based on the perceived future effects of global warming. My brother-in-law, for instance, just got back from Patagonia. An avid backpacker, he wanted to hike in the shadow of the region’s glaciers now “before it was too late.” Another traveler I met recently was planning a trip to Greenland, because “that place is melting so fast, it will be totally decimated in 10 years.” Maybe you’ve heard similar stories from clients about areas such as the Alps, the Andes, the Himalayas, Africa and, of course, Alaska. Lately, I have even been getting spam e-mails suggesting now is the time to buy a timeshare in Alaska before the housing boom due to climate change. (Nevermind what a population surge there might do to the environment. Not exactly what Al Gore has in mind, I think.)

I believe there’s little doubt that the current environmental crisis will have significant long-term effects on the travel industry and in ways people might not anticipate. However, I think it makes the most sense to encourage travelers to enjoy these natural wonders, not because they are doomed, but because they deserve to be appreciated, period. Even better, concerned travelers could seek out ways to assist in efforts to stop some of the destruction we’re seeing.

It shouldn’t take the thought that we might destroy the world’s natural treasures to motivate people to visit these places. They deserve that respect all on their own. K.S.

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