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ECU report explores climate, weather and tourism

GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Aug. 12, 2009)   —   Every day, vacationers decide where to travel and what activities to pursue based on a primary factor: the weather.

A new report by East Carolina University’s Center for Sustainable Tourism explores this relationship and recommends ways to mitigate the effects of climate change on the tourism industry.

The report, “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Bridging Science and Practice,” focuses on linking weather and climate research to the needs of the tourism industry, said Patrick Long, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism.

“I think we are realizing that we can use weather data to our advantage,” he said. “In terms of its impact on the industry, weather has always been a factor, but as with any discipline, we have grown more sophisticated in how we use it.”

Many tourism businesses can benefit from weather and climate information targeted to their unique activities. For example, research shows that beach-goers in coastal North Carolina are more influenced by wind and cloud cover than heat or humidity. By providing this data to tourists, beach businesses can more effectively advertise their product.

The ECU report recommends that business owners work with researchers to better understand the impact of weather on tourists’ experiences and destination choice. It also recommends the use of weather data for cost effective marketing and operating strategies.

“We’re proposing to identify more specific ways to help the tourism industry. We want to know, what is it that tourism businesses need to know and how can this information be delivered? Can the tourism industry, by using current technology and climate information, advertise differently to maintain or expand its market,” Long said.

While business success is important, the long-term viability of a destination is an even bigger concern that arises with climate change. Increased incidence of drought, rising sea levels, an expanding range of diseases and invasive species are some of the potential effects of the phenomenon.

“Climate change is going to affect the types of recreational offerings that locations will be able to provide. In some cases, they will have to change,” Long said.

To mitigate these effects, the report makes several recommendations, including the adoption of policies to reduce the carbon footprint of the tourism industry and initiatives to educate tourists about the connection between their contribution to climate change and the quality of future travel experiences.

Good for the environment can also be good for business, Long said. Already, many North Carolina businesses have embraced green practices, several of which are highlighted in the report. Many tourists, too, have changed their travel behaviors, he said.

“People are becoming a bit more selective about sustainability practices when they decide to return to a place,” Long said. “Businesses that don’t embrace responsible practices will be left out of the game.”

The report, “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Bridging Science and Practice,” is available now. In addition to Long, ECU geographers Scott Curtis and Jennifer Arrigo, and Ryan Covington, geography master’s student and graduate assistant at the Center for Sustainable Tourism, contributed to the publication.

For more information or to receive a copy, contact Patrick Long, 252-328-9469,


Contact: Pat Long | 252-328-9469