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Climate change tops Tourism Month agenda

by Michael Appel
on 04 Sep 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

As the world struggles with changing climates, the tourism industry needs to face this challenge head-on, says Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

"We all know that the climate in the world is changing and need to start thinking how it will affect us here in our country and what are the implications for tourism? We know that the temperature is already rising.

"When we measured temperatures in South Africa over the last 40 - 45 years it has increased by just over 1 degree Celsius," said the minister, speaking at the launch of Tourism Month in the Bojanala District in the North West on Wednesday.

Mr van Schalkwyk posed the question "what will happen in a conservation heartland like the North West if over the next few decades the temperature changes by three of four degrees?"

"Think what will happen in Pilansberg Nature Reserve or the Kruger National Park ... it is going to change life as we know it now. We must plan for that.

"Most of the tourism we have in our country is environmentally based tourism, and although we have other kinds of tourism, that is basically our greatest draw-card.

"Now in the Kruger National Park, for instance, if we have a temperature change of two or three degrees, we will lose, most probably, about 30 percent of animal life that we have at the moment," the minister explained.

For those looking to invest in new lodges, start new initiatives and join in the growing tourism sector in South Africa, planning for the future is critical.

Those looking to invest in tourism, said Mr van Schalkwyk, need to be looking at what the future weather patterns would be like.

"Now in our country the following will happen, broadly speaking, from the western side it will become much drier, and from the eastern side we will get much more rain in the future.

"But the kind of rains that we are talking about is not what we are used to, but it is what you are starting to see on your television screens.

"There will be much more unpredictable rains and storms, which will most likely cause a lot of devastation," said Mr van Schalkwyk.

Changing sea currents is also going to play havoc with South Africa's very popular beaches and beach resorts and it could disappear within 10 - 15 years.

The tourism industry needs to be very sensitive and proactive to the changes in the environment in order to harness and tap into the growing global tourism market.

Tourism authorities and investors, therefore, need to know about these changes and how to plan for them, the minister said. - BuaNews


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