Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing global economic sectors. It is a significant contributor to national and local economies around the world and is increasingly promoted as having an important role in contributing to the UN Millennium Development Goals, particularly the alleviation of poverty in Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The interface between climate and tourism is multifaceted and highly complex. The tourism industry is characterized by considerable diversity, consequently extensive differences exist in climate sensitivity and the abilities of tourism operators worldwide to incorporate climate services into decision making. Weather and climate have broad significance to tourist decision making and the travel experience, significantly influencing travel patterns and expenditures worldwide. For the tourism industry and tourists alike, climate represents both a vital resource to be exploited and an important risk to be managed. Consequently, it is expected that the effects of climate change will have profound impacts on consumer travel demand and tourism businesses and transform destinations. Demands for accurate and increasingly detailed climate information are therefore anticipated to increase substantially in order to the challenges posed by climate change in the decades ahead.
Despite the growing global economic importance of the tourism sector and the complex interactions between climate and tourism, there has been very limited evaluation of the extent to which climate information is used within the tourism sector or how climate information is being integrated into the specific decision-making processes of tourists or the tourism industry. Knowledge of how different tourism sub-sectors and specific businesses are influenced by weather and climate is still relatively unexplored and has hindered the development of specialized climate products and the use of financial instruments to reduce climate risk (weather derivatives and insurance) within the tourism sector. A systematic assessment of climate services needs within the sector has also not been undertaken. Tourism is also virtually absent from the growing literature on the economic and non-market value of climate information and forecasts. There has been limited evaluation of what sources of climate information tourists and tourism operators utilize, or the effectiveness of different communication pathways and formats.
Meteorological networks do not adequately represent the climatic conditions in many mountain, coastal, and island tourism destinations, particularly in developing nations, encumbering climate change adaptation and the development of climate risk management products. Climate information represents a double-edged sword for the tourism sector, for while accurate climate information can be invaluable to the tourism industry, inaccurate climate information that deters visitation is a lament heard often from the tourism industry. The emergence of new specialized climate products for the tourism from private meteorological companies represents important progress, but thus far lacks the transparency needed to properly evaluate their rigor and validity in the international travel marketplace. Improving the provision and use of climate information in the tourism sector is a challenge that will require close collaboration between the climate and tourism research communities (both physical and social scientists), NMSs, government tourism authorities and the tourism industry at the regional level.
The following recommendations are intended to address the key knowledge gaps and facilitate the collaboration that would provide new capacities to enhance decision-making that would reduce climate risk and enable climate change adaptation in the tourism sector.
• Investment is required to strengthen climate monitoring networks in areas where the tourism sector is vital to local economies, specifically rural areas and many developing countries (particularly SIDS), in order to improve climate risk management and climate change adaptation in the tourism sector.
• With the risk of permanent loss of historical climate data in developing countries, which has potentially high value for managing climate risk and informing climate change adaptation, action is urgently needed establish a coordinated international data rescue initiative.
• Strengthening of climate monitoring networks is required to support the development and access to innovative financial products (weather derivatives and index insurance) to manage climate risk in the tourism sector.
• The development of regionally and locally specific climate change scenarios is required to facilitate effective climate change adaptation by the tourism industry and tourism dependent communities. The refinement of near term climate change predictions (covering the next 25-30 years), that are most relevant to business investment and government policy timeframes are particularly encouraged.
• Support is required for the fundamental multi-disciplinary research needed to understand the salience of climate (both in source markets [push factor] and destinations [pull factor]) in different travel decision-making contexts, cross-cultural climate preferences for major destination types, the affect of weather on holiday satisfaction and future travel choices, and the climate sensitivity of major tourism activities.
• Developers of specialized climate products for the tourism sector, whether the private sector, universities or governments, are encouraged to disclose the scientific methodology or market testing results to demonstrate validation in the tourism marketplace.
• The tourism sector, in collaboration with NMS, private meteorological companies, and university researchers, are encouraged to develop accepted standards for specialized climate products, to ensure consistent and accurate communication of climate information to international travellers and to facilitate objective destination comparisons and marketing claims in a global tourism marketplace.
• Collaboration between governments, universities, communities, and the private sector (tourism businesses, meteorological service companies, financial services), must be strengthened to drive innovation that connects climate information to the needs of the tourism sector and tourism dependent communities.
• Greater effort be made to consult with major tourism end-users about their needs for climate information. This consultation must be done regionally in order to adequately represent specific information needs and the capabilities of regional providers.
• The active collaboration of the tourism industry is required to support the development of climate services to improve outcomes for the sector, and they are strongly
encouraged to provide increased access to sectoral data, consult on specific climate information needs and constraints to its use, provide expert review of specialized products and create effective strategies to communicate weather and climate information to tourists.
• An interdisciplinary initiative be established to evaluate the economic and non-market societal value of climate information for decision-making by tourists and tourism operators.
Recommendation: An interdisciplinary evaluation of best practices for communication of climate information, particularly specialized products and forecast uncertainty, to tourism end-users is encouraged.
• A series of multi-objective, capacity-building workshops be initiated in major tourism regions around the world, in order to foster the direct interactions and partnerships between climate service providers and tourism user groups needed to make significant progress in the application of climate information in the tourism sector.
• Training the next generation of tourism professionals to utilize climate information to reduce climate risks and adapt to climatic change in the decades ahead is a priority and it is urged that a ‘Climate Risk Management’ training module be created for use by tourism and hospitality schools around the world.
This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.