Richard Turen
Richard Turen
Some facts are just uncomfortable though true. And some facts require action rather than mere acknowledgement.

Portions of Western and Central Europe have just ended their third summer season of record heat waves. Is it time to begin warning our clients of the possible dangers to both their health and their comfort if they travel in July and August next year?

I don't want to talk about global warming this week. It has finally boiled down to science vs. faith. There is still a portion of our population who believe global warming is a hoax, and there is no convincing them otherwise. You can never convince everyone of anything.

What I do want to have you consider is whether summer heat patterns have reached a point where the professional consultant, adviser, dream maker or whatever we call ourselves has an obligation to inform clients that they might be at some risk when they travel to Europe in the middle of the summer season. Let me present some observations that have led me to conclude that every July and August trip I plan for Europe in 2018 will come with a heat warning and a discussion.

The International Red Cross issued a warning that "this prolonged period of extremely hot weather is particularly dangerous for people with existing health problems, such as heart conditions, high blood pressure and asthma, as well as for older people and children."

So let's pause right here. Let me see if I might have any clients who have some current health issues, perhaps a heart condition, then add in those clients who have high blood pressure, the percentage with asthma and then my older clients and those families traveling with children. Actually, the vast majority of my clients might well fit into one of these categories, so a warning would seem to be both appropriate and necessary.

This past summer, European governments issued advisories for dangerous weather, referred to as orange alerts for Spain, southern France, Greece and much of the Mediterranean.

People in Italy, Croatia and Poland received the more dire red alert, which means that the heat and atmospheric conditions were deemed "very dangerous" and that "exceptionally intense" meteorological phenomena have been forecasted.

Europe has an organization called Meteoalarm, which consists of dozens of national weather services. This summer, they issued a warning that "major damage and accidents are likely, in many cases with threat to life."

Tourist boards never speak about this subject. I understand why. Summer season in Europe is a golden goose that keeps on laying. Why talk about negatives?

I can totally relate to the promotion of sun-scorched destinations and increasing levels of intense heat in July and August. I am the sole remaining full-time resident in Naples, Fla., during the summer months. I live on the western edge of a state that is, essentially, a sand bar just waiting for the floating island of ice the size of Rhode Island that is headed our way. It is the result of warming in Antarctica, and scientists can only speculate on how long it will take the ice floe to submerge Miami.

Just like Southern Europe in July, my state is filled with tourists who think a bit of bronze tan is well worth the proven dangers of going outside and swimming in the ocean surf. That surf is filled with jellyfish, and it laps up against one of the filthiest entities known to man: sandy beaches. Beach sand is analogous to bacteria factories on a massive scale.   

When I do venture outdoors in the summer I accept that there are certain calculated risks. The rains are torrential, the heat is oppressive, the sun -- on those rare days when it shines in the summer -- is nothing short of Deathrayville.

Also in my immediate vicinity you will find a rare breed of poison-spitting giant toads, an influx of Burmese pythons that are threatening the existence of our water moccasins and alligators that might very well show up at your front door.

Add to that the presence of off-season golfers, and you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would visit this place in the summer.

I am starting to wonder the same thing about travel to Europe. Will those in their right mind continue to visit Europe during the hottest months of the year?

Here is a brief list of the Continent's weather highlights from our just-completed summer tourist season:

• Beaches in parts of Europe popular with travelers on budget holidays have become so uncomfortable that tourists cutting their holidays short have clogged airports, causing massive delays.

• River cruise guests on the Rhine and the Danube have felt the heat when venturing ashore. The two sad polar bears at the Budapest Zoo have been standing on huge ice blocks placed in their enclosure by officials.

• The founder of the slow food movement, writing in the respected Italian newspaper La Stampa, reported that the country's "grape harvest risked being cooked by the sun and the burning heat."

• Tourists in Romania and Poland have been taken to local hospitals with sunstroke.

• The heat wave caused dozens of forest fires to burn out of control in the Balkans. Several countries, including Albania, found themselves begging the European Union for help in combatting the fires.

• Emergency hospital admissions grew 15% in Italy, with the Italian Health Ministry placing 26 cities and towns on a maximum heat alert. The heat became so severe that some Italians stopped wearing leather jackets.

• Air-conditioning systems throughout Europe found it difficult to keep up with the prolonged heat. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence had to shut down when its air conditioning gave out.

Conditions grew so serious in Italy that the locals decided to name this summer's heat wave "Lucifer," a term of endearment easily translated.

The stifling heat prompted the New York Times to ask its Europe-based correspondents to report on conditions there. Among other things, they reported on Aug. 6 that in Italy, temperatures in major tourist centers like Florence, Rome and Venice were exceeding 100 degrees over a period of several days. Firefighters could not keep up with the drought and burning farm fields. Chewing gum was melting in its wrappers and had to be removed from tabacchi shops.

Throughout Italy, locals taking trams sweated out air-conditioning-free rides. American tourists began to learn that Italians do not fully trust air conditioning. Doctors offices are rarely air-conditioned lest the doctor be accused of contributing to stiff necks or respiratory ailments.

Tourists were not comfortable riding in taxis, as many drivers believe that air conditioning contributes to the spread of illness and refuse to turn it on.

Times reporters revealed that France was also hit hard. Record temperatures included 104 degrees just outside of Nice. The government launched a campaign to get the French to hydrate by drinking water instead of other beverages. No word yet on how successful that was.

But one campaign reported by the Times made lots of sense. In Marseilles, the government hired a cadre of students to contact, by phone or in person, older residents who were living alone to make certain they were safe and had enough water.

On the other hand, London and large portions of Germany were able to escape most of the excessive heat. Moscow was unseasonably cool.

All of which brings me back to my original question: What do we owe our clients in terms of honest counseling about the likelihood of excessive heat in Europe if they travel midsummer? Or are we comfortable continuing to ignore the growing scientific evidence that the planet is warming and that summer in Europe is but one example?

After all, the vast majority of those we send away do manage to return.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI