Extreme weather risks Queensland tourism
QUEENSLAND could be deemed "unfavourable" for tourism with extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and bushfires, predicted to affect the viability of the state's booming tourism industry.
The United Nations has identified Australia as one of five tourism hotspots vulnerable to climate change. The nation's top attractions, including beaches, wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef and national parks, could be at risk from changing weather patterns.
The Climate Council will today reveal the extent of the threat to Australia's tourism industry from climate change, warning northern states such as Queensland are at highest risk of becoming "inhospitable" during peak tourism times.
Analysis for the United Nations found Australian tourism was particularly vulnerable due to hotter summers, warmer winters, water scarcity, marine biodiversity loss, sea level rise, an increase in disease outbreaks and an increase in extreme weather events.
"Analysis indicated that … much of Queensland, including key access points to the Great Barrier Reef such as Cairns and Townsville, could become inhospitable during substantial parts of the year, especially in the summer months, the peak season for international visitors," the report said.
"Brisbane and the Gold Coast are also projected to suffer substantial declines in climate attractiveness during the high season."
Lead author Professor Lesley Hughes said the effects were already being felt in Queensland as evidenced by coral bleaching, beach erosion, rising temperatures and the southern movement of Irukandji jellyfish.
The report said more than 60 per cent of Queensland's 12,276km of open coastline was susceptible to rising sea levels. Surveys revealed up to 23 per cent of travellers would respond to beach damage by switching destinations, a move that could strip $56 million a year from the Sunshine Coast.
"Both from a jobs and dollars perspective, tourism is a hugely important industry that we can't afford to risk," Prof Hughes said.
Researchers warned rising sea temperatures would see the deadly Irukandji jellyfish continue its spread further south, potentially as far as the Gold Coast.
"Climate change is not a future problem, it's a now problem, and it's just going to accelerate over the next few decades if something isn't done," Prof Hughes said.
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the Queensland Government was addressing climate change with $20 billion of projects under construction, planned and proposed and $247 million invested in improving Reef water quality.
"The Great Barrier Reef is worth $6 billion to Queensland's economy and supports more than 60,000," she said.
"The Prime Minister needs to get serious about climate change and the risk to the Reef."