A new report from Purdue University says Indiana’s recreation and tourism industry will need to adapt as the state’s climate continues to warm.
The report is the latest Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.
The series of reports explores climate change’s likely impacts on various topics affecting Indiana’s quality of life and the environment. So far, the detailed assessments have looked at changes to climate, health, urban green space, ecosystems and agriculture, with more such reports to come. Ten different climate models were used to look at Indiana’s future climate.
Tourism contributed more than $12 billion to the state’s economy in 2016, according to the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.
The new report notes that Indiana’s climate and geography make it an attractive place for outdoor tourism and recreation. This, in turn, could affect the businesses dependent on tourism and recreation, especially small businesses that have less flexibility to adapt, said the report’s author, Jonathan Day, graduate program director at Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
“I think this is a new conversation for the (tourism) industry here in Indiana, and actually lots of parts of the Midwest,” Day said. “It’s a conversation that has already been happening in some parts of the world and in states such as Florida where coast lines are disappearing.”
With Indiana’s winter season expected to shorten 20 to 25 days by mid-century, and spring and fall temperatures expected to warm 4-to-6-degrees Fahrenheit, timing of outdoor recreational activities also will shift, according to the latest report.
As Indiana warms and precipitation patterns change, however, there will be a variety of impacts on both the natural and human systems the tourism sector relies on, the report says. Temperature change could either decrease or increase tourism.
Extremely hot temperatures are likely to reduce the quality of warm-season visitor experiences, steering tourists and visitors to other places with milder conditions or driving them to seek indoor activities more often.
The appeal of warmer seasons for people interested in outdoor activity could be offset by increased precipitation.
Already, Indiana’s average annual precipitation has increased 5.6 inches, about 15 percent, in the past century. The assessment’s projections show annual precipitation could increase another 6 to 8 percent by mid-century and as much as 10 percent by the end of this century.
Day said he believes the tourism and recreation industry can continue to thrive if it plans for these conditions now.
“The value of this is to get it on the radar for people to start thinking about it,” he said.
Among the report’s findings:
- Indiana’s toursim and recreation businesses will face challenges from extreme weather conditions including increases in heat and flooding
- Changing rainfall patterns will affect safety of outdoor activities through increases in insect-born diseases, heat-related illness and impacts to air and water quality
- Winter recreation in Indiana, including ice fishing and skiing, will be negatively affected, as cold season temperatures warm and more precipitation falls as rain instead of snow
- Managing parks, trails and natural areas will be more difficult as intense rains, changing streamflows and warming temperatures shift habitat suitability for wildlife, and alter the timing of biological events that generate tourism.
- Indiana is projected to lose between three and four weeks of mild weather per year by mid-century. That is days between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the report. The frequency of hotter days is expected to increase substantially.
“Future generations are going to have a hotter experience,” Day said.