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Last chance tourism: searching for threatened places is a trend, but travel requires attention

Climate change is happening across the planet. So much so that the last six years have been the hottest recorded since 1880, the year that marks the beginning of the industrial era. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates a probability of 20% that temperature rise will temporarily exceed 1.5°C from 2024 onwards.

As a result, several landscapes are suffering from drought or excessive rain, and from extreme heat or cold. This is the case of Antarctica, which even with compliance with the Paris Agreement – in which nations should reduce greenhouse gas emissions – has seen its glaciers melting since the 1990s.

These changes are stimulating so-called last chance tourism, that is, the search for places whose ecosystem is threatened. It is an opportunity for tourists to discover the fauna, flora, landscapes and culture of places that are no longer existing as we know them.

An example, still in Antarctica, is the 'little beach' of Neko Harbour, which was one of the destination's main tourist attractions and now suffers from constant glacial detachment. Currently, visitors should only stay in the highest parts of the site, as these events cause waves that can capsize boats.

Although there are those who just want to take a good photo, those looking for last-chance tourism tend to prefer an immersive experience. Whether it's to see a species at risk of extinction or a beach threatened by rising sea levels, what's important is to appreciate the opportunity to contemplate something that may never be seen again.

Sustainability and preservation

Last chance tourism generates debates about the controversy of increasing the number of visitors in places whose ecosystem is already at risk, as this could generate even more negative impacts. However, governments and serious tourism agents are betting on visits that prioritize sustainability.

Today, in addition to controlling the number of tourists who are in a given location at the same time, there is concern about conserving all biodiversity, developing low environmental impact practices and enabling tours with a reduced carbon footprint. An example is traveling by train between destinations, avoiding pollution caused by cars or planes.

The Galápagos archipelago, in Ecuador, is one of the destinations threatened by global warming. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) warns that the islands that form the Galápagos are one of the most vulnerable places to the impact of climate change. And tourism comes close behind as one of the threats to the place.

Therefore, it is essential that the country, state or city find a model of sustainable tourism development, generating employment and income for the local community, economic and financial results for the entrepreneur and strengthening the preservation of biodiversity.

When planning a trip, research whether the local government, tourism agents – whether companies or independent – and hotels have a plan to comply with the aforementioned requirements, avoiding further damage to a scenario that is already suffering from climate change. Remember all the stages of tourism, from the means of transport to the inputs used by the hotel and restaurant chain.

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