According to the European Travel Commission, an association of European tourism organizations based in Brussels, the number of European tourists planning to travel to Mediterranean destinations during the summer and autumn has decreased by 10% compared to the same period last year.
“This can be attributed to travelers looking for less crowded destinations, and milder temperatures,” the association said.
This summer’s extreme temperatures follow last year’s blistering heat. Bad news for Mediterranean countries, especially those whose economies are heavily dependent on tourism, which would favor more cooler holiday destinations in the coming years.
Last year, the travel and tourism sector accounted for 18.5% of the Greek economy and more than 10% of the Italian economy, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Pleasant weather remains the most important factor for Europeans when choosing where to go on holiday, according to the ETC survey, with 7.6% of respondents saying the possibility of bad weather during their European trip was their biggest concern.
A spokesperson at ForwardKeys, a travel data company, told CNN that “there is a shift in preference towards colder, more northerly destinations” among UK travelers as a result of the heat waves in continental Europe this month.
“It appears that increased awareness of heatwaves has encouraged British travelers to seek last-minute destinations with milder temperatures this summer,” the spokesman said.
Olivier Ponti, senior researcher at ForwardKeys, said online searches in the UK for flights to southern Europe in the peak holiday months of July and August accounted for 58% of all flight searches at the start of July, down from 62% in the previous month. Meanwhile, online searches for northern European destinations increased by 3 percentage points to 10%.
Heatwave ‘just started’
On Tuesday, the surface temperature of the earth – that’s how hot the earth feels to the touch – reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in Rome, and 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in Nicosia, Cyprus, and the city of Catania in Sicily, Italy, according to the ESA.
“As climate change takes hold, heat waves like this are likely to become more frequent and more intense, with far-reaching consequences,” the ESA said in a statement.
Tourist hotspots are already having to make adjustments due to the sweltering heat.
Southern Europe is still popular with Brits
Despite the rocketing temperatures, countries in southern Europe are still hot spots for many holidays.
A spokesman for UK travel agency Thomas Cook told CNN the company had seen “no difference at all” in the number of customers traveling to Mediterranean countries.
“Customers are happy to go on holiday across the Med, and recently bookings have been as strong as they were at the start of the year,” said the spokesperson.
Sean Tipton, a spokesman for ABTA, an association of UK travel agents which covers about 90% of the industry, told CNN that its members had seen “zero evidence of cancellations” and that people were eager to take their holidays, which they had booked well in advance.
Spain, Greece and Turkey are still “the most popular [destinations],” he said, which “hasn’t changed at all.”
— Barbie Latza Nadeau and Chris Liakos contributed reporting.