The UK Climate Resilience Programme ran from 2019 to 2023

Climate change and the tourism sector: impacts and adaptations at visitor attractions

This project aims to investigate the relationship between weather/climate and visitation to heritage attractions under current and predicted future climatic conditions. It examines how climate change may affect visitor patterns and behaviours at attractions, with a view to the likely consequences for the visitor economy to 2050 and beyond.


Tourism is vital to economy, society and culture in the UK. It is also highly sensitive to weather and atmospheric conditions. Yet, there has been only very limited attention to the possible impacts of, and necessary adaptations to, future climate change for a multi-faceted form of human activity.

Technical reports for the third independent Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA3, June 2021) highlight this gap. Existing approaches concentrate on the impacts of climate change on locations where tourism takes place – for instance, on fragile coastal ecosystems or historic buildings.

To be more responsive, further understanding is required of the main climate risks to, and opportunities for, organisations delivering visitor experiences, especially in the key sub-sector of heritage tourism. This can be achieved by examining how visitor behaviour may change according to future climate predictions, and how organisations may have to adapt their operations as a result.


This project will partner Tim Coles from the University of Exeter Business School with the National Trust and Historic Environment Scotland. Being embedded with the National Trust for 12 months, Tim will develop a greater understanding of the relationship between visitor and climate data, as well as the implications of climate change for major heritage sites.


  • Pathway analysis – The project will develop a more detailed appreciation of how opportunities and risk may vary over time under the different predicted climate scenarios.
  • Thresholds – Using data for different types and settings of attraction (coast, countryside, historic sites) the project will explore whether there are different climate thresholds to visitor behaviour, and what this may practically mean for operations.
  • Transferable learnings for other types of tourism businesses and organisations on how to connect their visitor data with climate data to explore future risks and opportunities.