Can California Tourism Survive Climate Change?
Hot and unbothered in Wine Country
One of the state’s hottest tourism spots, Napa County, drew 3.8 million visitors in 2018 (and some $50 million in occupancy lodging taxes), according to Visit Napa Valley, the region’s tourism group. But it’s getting hotter.
Instead of four days of extreme heat each year, it will see 36 — a ninefold increase — by the end of the century, projected Lisa Micheli, founder of the Pepperwood Foundation, a Sonoma County climate research preserve (which has burned, twice, since 2017). Roughly 42 percent of Napa County was consumed by fire in 2020: land, vineyards and some 1,500 structures were lost, including one luxury hotel (Calistoga Ranch) and much of another (Meadowood). More power shut-offs, rising electricity bills, decreasing water supply, increasing infernos: These are problems that will only persist, Dr. Micheli said. “Whatever is stressed now, is just going to get worse.”
The science is way behind, said Marshall Burke, an associate professor at Stanford University who studies the social and economic impacts of environmental change. “The rate of change has been so dramatic. If I was the California tourism industry, I’d be really worried.”