Exclusive Feature: During the current summer, we have been experiencing the phenomenon of a drastic heat wave in Europe.
Record temperatures hitting 48 celsius were measured in Sapin and Portugal, but not only there. Northern European countries, such as England, Scotland, and Ireland, have also suffered from record high temperatures.
A decade and two decades ago, who would’ve thought that summer temperatures in the Baltic sea region could reach 38 celsius?
The economy in southern European countries such as Portugal, Greece, Italy, and Turkey, is strongly based on summer mass tourism. Assuming that global warming will continue and will be intensified in the future, what will happen with all the tens of millions of northern Europeans going to southern countries for beach holidays?
I estimate that many Northern European people would prefer to stay close to their homes.
What is the point of flying over 3 hours to southern Spain, or Portugal for a sweltering summer holiday, with average temperatures of over 40 Celcius, when one can stay in a lake or take a short drive to the Baltic or the northern sea?
The two main phenomenas we shall remember from this summer are:
- The chaos at the airports and massive flight cancellations
- The historic heatwave that broke all records around Europe.
Which are the key factors we should take into consideration when assessing the expected changes in the future?
- The demographic changes within Europe
- Physical infrastructure
- Environmental sustainability and ecology
Demographic Changes in Europe
The Covid-19 recovery was characterized by changes in the consumer habits of many Europeans. Some of them simply ran out of savings during the pandemic, some went on extended unpaid leave, while others simply lost their jobs.
Many Millenials needed financial support from their parents and some even returned to living with them. When the pandemic started to fade away, a huge shortage in manpower, especially in the hospitality and aviation industries was created. A lot of Millenials don’t want to work in those industries, because they got fired at the early stages of the pandemic, and they’ve already found other jobs.
Other Millenials just don’t want to work in service-oriented jobs. Let’s take Britain as an example: Britain was hit not only by the pandemic but also by Brexit. A large part of the people employed in the hospitality sector were EU citizens and Brexit made many leave Britain.
The younger generations in many European countries can’t cope with the increased cost of living and therefore they prefer to stay single and not have children. This is a phenomenon we’ve seen in Japan, but now also in Europe.
The outcome of the long Covid-19 pandemic and the war raging in Ukraine has hit the European economy hard. Global closures during the pandemic especially impacted the supply chains of many factories. The war in Ukraine creates an increased rise in energy costs, and the shortage of Russian gas supplies hits the manufacturing capacities of numerous factories, which will one day force the factories to reduce production and even force factories to shut down.
Inflation is rising in a way Europe has not witnessed for decades, and the availability of funds for vacations is decreasing.
The substantial rise in energy cost and increased demands for vacations after the lifting of most traveling restrictions have pushed up hotel accommodation prices, as well as alternative accommodation suppliers, such as Airbnb.
Flights were also affected by the high demand, as well as the increased cost of fuel. Car rental companies doubled, and even tripled their rental prices, due to the high demand and lack of supply of new cars for the companies.
Assuming that tourists from northern and western Europe would prefer to stay close to their homes in the next summers, this would impact the occupancy and the average rates of hotels in southern Europe. It will also harm the real estate value of all businesses related to the tourism industry. A large number of employees who are employed in hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, and tourist attractions, will be negatively affected.
The chaos at the airports showed us how sensitive the infrastructure is to changes. Large European airports are simply experiencing a meltdown. They cannot cope with the high demand, following an over 2 years pandemic, some of the major airports in Europe needed to limit the number of daily passengers going to the airports.
Major European airlines needed to cancel thousands of flights each during the high summer season of July and August, which will negatively affect their third quarter financial reports. The travel chaos reaches more aspects other than airports and airlines. Thousands of flight cancellations all around Europe forced holidaymakers to search for transportation alternatives.
Many took their cars to reach their holiday destination, which increased traffic and caused major traffic jams. The train's infrastructure still has a long way to go.
Old railway tracks needs to be changed to the new system that allows electrical ultra-speed trains, connecting Europe. Hyperloop systems will allow much faster transportation between cities in Europe, without creating additional traffic congestion on conventional roads.
Hotel infrastructure needs to be upgraded. During the pandemic, numerous hotels shut down, while others operated in a limited capacity, most hotels didn’t do renovations and did not invest in physical upgrades.
Many of the hotels in Europe were built over 20 years ago. Those hotels had air conditioning systems that were suited for the average temperature over 20 years ago. Since then, the average European temperature increased and the air conditioning systems simply couldn’t keep up with rapidly increasing temperatures.
The move toward electric cars will force the hotels to install charging systems for guests’ cars and would require the hotels to increase their electricity infrastructure capacities.
Environmental Sustainability and Ecology
The age of mass tourism in the previous decade has brought different European cities to understand that the added value of mass tourism, in many cases, is much lower than its economical value. We could take as an example 3 destination cities that decided to cap mass tourism in several ways: Venice, Dubrovnik, and Amsterdam.
The first two have put limitations on cruise ships that are visiting those cities. Some of these cruise ships carry 5000 to 6000 passengers, they arrive in the city for a few hours, and basically “lock” the city. Those cruise guests don’t utilize the city’s tourism infrastructure.
Low-cost flights, combined with short-term rentals, have created cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam as cheap, party destinations.
This type of tourism has very little added economical value to the local city economy. Those party-seekers bring with them cheap alcohol and food in the trunk of their cars. They hardly spend any money while staying in those cities. The huge number of tourists visiting those cities is creating a situation where the city’s infrastructure, which is supposed to serve mainly the local population, is near collapse.
Many cities in western Europe are now considering forbidding car entry to city centers unless you’re a city resident. In the years to follow, cars that use fossil fuel will be completely forbidden from entering the cities.
France already prohibits short-haul flights within France, and this is going to be the standard in most EU countries. If you wish to travel short distances, use high-speed trains or electric vehicles.
The environmental awareness of the Europeans is gaining traction and has increased in recent years. This brings a new style of intra-European travel.
Slow travel is, in a way, similar to a gastronomical field that has penetrated our lives, and is called “slow cooking”. Travelers prefer to leave a much smaller carbon footprint.
In Scandinavia, there’s a trend not to fly for vacations, and if one decides to fly, they pay extra to redeem the air pollution that their flight produced. The money that they pay is used to plant new forests. Hotel operators in Europe are joining the trend. They are reducing the housekeepers’ visits, the change of linen, they install soap and shampoo dispensers instead of miniature shampoo bottles and soap bars, and single-use products are being taken out and replaced with recycled and “environmentally friendly” products.
Some hotels stopped stocking minibars, others took the refrigerators out of the rooms, to reduce electric consumption.
The combination of the extended Covid-19 pandemic period together with the changes in global weather, and of course, the war in Ukraine, are acting as catalysts to processes that would’ve probably taken a decade, and now are happening much, much faster.
Humans will adapt themselves to the changes, however, nature won’t adapt.
Joseph Fischer is the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - An international lodging & hospitality consulting firm. He is a veteran hotelier with over 30 years of extensive management experience in the global lodging Industry.
A strategic “out-of-the-box” thinker, visionary, with plenty of tangible and ready-to-be-implemented ideas. Joseph is a frequent contributing writer on 4Hoteliers.com global new portal.
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