Paris, the City of Lights, is going dark. To save energy, the Eiffel Tower is turning off its lights earlier at night—just one example of how tourist destinations are adapting to several pressures facing the travel industry this fall.
The iconic landmark, as well as municipal buildings in Paris, face a light curfew in part because of the war in Ukraine and the ongoing energy crisis in Europe. But disruptions and delays at airports, as well as extreme weather, will also force tourists to reconsider their destinations—and, once they’ve arrived, their itineraries.
The good news is there are ways to limit the chaos—here’s what you need to consider.
Heat Is Lasting Longer Into The Fall
Extreme weather events prompted by climate change were recorded everywhere this summer, extending the travel season well into fall. There have been wildfires in Greater London and a ‘monster’ fire near Bordeaux, in France, the world’s No. 1-visited country. The blaze first decimated the area in July, reignited in August and then again last week. Forget “winter is coming”—climate change has arrived, and will only continue to get worse.
As heat lasts longer into the fall, there’s a pull-effect happening. Just weeks ago, tourists found themselves snapping photos of wildfire flames along with Europe’s ancient buildings. One of the most defining images on TV in July was the burnt campsite at the foot of the Dune de Pilat, Europe’s largest sand dune—tents abandoned, diving board disintegrated, campers evacuated, ash everywhere.
Travelers have also been wary of navigating through nightmare scenarios of cancellations, lost luggage and airport worker strikes, and many put off their trips due to increased costs and inflation.
More people are also able to work more flexibly since the pandemic, and add to that cheaper airfares (although not as cheap as before the pandemic), and you have an extended summer season.
But here are some tips travelers can think about to help ease the chaos—whether that means adapting activities or locations.
Expect the Best, but Plan for the Worst
With so many issues impacting travel this fall, it makes sense to think about altering travel plans to to minimize the inevitable disruptions, and government responses to those disruptions:
Look for low-energy options. The cost of electricity is rising at alarming rates across the U.S, and Europe, so the price of running air conditioning and swimming pools can rapidly add up. Follow the examples of many Europeans if booking long-haul stays—book rentals in countries where the price of electricity bills is currently capped (France is one such example). This could make the cost cheaper if paying the bills yourselves but will also keep prices down for property owners managing rentals.
Re-think activities centered around water. Be mindful of bans that are in place to manage water consumption (an empty swimming pool is not as much fun as a full one, particularly if you’ve paid a premium for it). France, for instance, is currently banning people from refilling their private pools and considering closing public ones. Check water levels across lakes and rivers if you plan to hike or wild swim—even canoe and pedalo hire could be affected. Conversations are taking place across Europe about the morality of allowing golf courses to stay open when they use so much water.
Reconsider evening activities. As night lights are turned off in tourist cities, will evening strolls still hold the same allure? Paris and other major cities around France are now turning off the lights on all public buildings from the end of September onwards.
Have backup plans for alternative means of travel. Severe heat can mean that travel will be disrupted. As reported in The New York Times, planes aren’t allowed to operate in extreme temperatures and train tracks can buckle (stoking fears in London over the summer). Have you booked tickets that can be changed and/or refunded? If the train fails, you need to have other travel alternatives.
Consider visiting countries for different activities and outside of traditional peak times. Travel agencies that operate in Asia are reporting that clients are less fussy about taking trips based on the traditional weather patterns of monsoons, particularly when these weather patterns are proving less reliable. And across Europe, some hotels are not operating annual closures but organizing themselves around different activities instead—moving away, say, from kayaking holidays on increasingly unreliable waterways and moving toward wellness retreats offered throughout the year.
Seek out new destinations (that might be cheaper). As temperatures change across the world, new destinations will become more appealing. Think about places that people have cast aside in the past for reasons that are now more appealing. For example, search for locations with breeze, near the sea, or more northerly destinations in Europe, once considered too cold.
Travel at the end of peak fall. For years, savvy travelers to the south of France have visited in April/May or September/October, when all the tourists have parted, the weather is more congenial and the Mediterranean heat (and its prices) less intense. But it’s increasingly true that it isn’t just beneficial to travel at times that were once seen outside of the peak— it’s now crucial. That means prices are rising throughout fall and the traditional peak season now lasts longer.
The New York Times reported that hotels from London, England to Jackson, Wyoming, are reporting huge peaks in bookings for fall, even though prices might be twice as high as in 2019—so many hotels are keeping rates high until at least November. Likewise, Jonathan Farrington, executive director of Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau has noticed a big change at Yosemite National Park in Northern California. “Shoulder seasons are disappearing and peak seasons are not peak any longer,” he told The Times. “April through November is one season.” This means it will pay to visit at the end of this period.
Keep up-to-date with the news in your destination country. As the climate and energy situation becomes increasingly difficult, governments will be forced to act. In France, there are nightly conversations on news shows discussing the banning of personal swimming pools going forward. President Macron has asked his government for a working solution to reduce the number of private jets. Something has to give, and even the French public, according to a poll from 23 August, agree that climate change is France’s second-biggest issue after inflation. All of these factors might impact those travel plans you want to book this season.