Can California Tourism Survive Climate Change?

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This summer Lori Droste, the vice mayor of the city of Berkeley, and her family have faced a series of doomed trips. In July, they booked a cabin near the McCloud River in northern California, but had to cancel due to smoke from the salt and lava fires. In early August they traveled to Serene Lakes in the Sierra – but because of the Dixie fire they were “basically confined to the Airbnb because the smoke was so bad,” she said . They have planned a rerun, over the Labor Day weekend. “But then Caldor was raging.” They canceled.

California is often presented in the media as an object of disaster, as Tom Hale pointed out to me. Mr. Hale is the founder of Backroads, the Berkeley-based travel company, which has organized bicycle and outdoor trips to the United States and 54 other countries for four decades. It deals with the fallout of it all, from hurricanes in Baton Rouge to flooding in Berlin. As we all know, climate change is not a problem specific to a state or a country.

And in California, 2021 was Backroads’ best year yet; 2022 is also well booked.

“I don’t think natural disasters have a permanent impact on demand,” Hale said. “Unless the whole the state is on fire, which is not the case. As much as the newspapers claim.

Still, he acknowledges that there have been some differences.

“Wine country was our bread and butter,” Mr. Hale said, “but we’ve seen bookings decline over the past five years.”

A study from Utah State University, published in September, found that changing climatic conditions are likely to affect the recreational use of public lands across seasons and regions of the United States. California public lands are expected to experience a decline in attendance, primarily in summer and fall. What people do there will also be change.

These results hint at what is bound to happen beyond parks – in small towns and large hotels; family restaurants; “Taco trails” and hiking trails. “When you put all of this together, the patterns of tourism will change quite significantly,” said Emily Wilkins, lead author of the study.

A change is already discreetly, anecdotal, underway. In northern California, light snow, early melt and high winds forced travel agency Shasta Mountain Guides to cancel its most popular route on Mount Shasta in April. Yet Casey Glaubman, a guide, offered words of superior wisdom. “Part of mountaineering is being flexible; it’s about adapting and adjusting plans, ”he said. “Things change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of everything. “


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