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September 3, 2009

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Time for tourism to insure against bad weather

INSURANCE is an under-used way for the tourism industry to manage the risks of climate change, with existing offers ranging from a "perfect weather guarantee" by Barbados to ski resorts promising deep snow, experts say.
"Insurance products ... have a huge potential for tourism," Daniel Scott, chair of a team on tourism and climate for the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization, said at a climate conference in Geneva.
"It's coming but it's been under-utilized. Many operators do not even know about it," said Scott, who works at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
The 150-nation conference in Geneva, which runs from Monday to tomorrow, is seeking to boost the flow of climate information to help nations adapt to shifts such as droughts, storms or rising seas that will affect everything from farming to health.
A UN-commissioned survey led by Scott of weather-related insurance in recent years includes Barbados' guarantee, refunding travelers if daytime temperatures are below 26 degrees Celsius or there is more than 5 millimeters of rain.
Some ski resorts in Europe and North America offer a refund if snowfall is inadequate. Bombardier Motor Corp in Canada promised a partial refund on new snowmobiles if snowfall was less than 50 percent of a three-year average.
One PGA Golf event in North Carolina bought insurance against too much rain that would keep spectators away. Some holiday operators offer insurance against rain on holiday.
And a chain of wine bars in London took insurance for every Thursday and Friday when temperatures did not reach 24 degrees, reckoning chilly days keep drinkers away.
"Much more should be done to mainstream climate considerations into tourism policy," said Alain Dupeyras of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Experts say the tourism industry is one of the most exposed to climate change, which is set to disrupt rain patterns, push up sea levels that could wash away beaches or warm the oceans and damage coral reefs.
Developing nations find it hard to get access to insurance because of a lack of historical weather data on which to calculate risks. Those risks are changing with global warming.


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