Addressing climate risks can improve tourism, communities and environment

A Griffith researcher has shown how systems thinking can aid tourism and climate change decision-makers in identifying and testing adaptation measures that will benefit tourism industries and destinations more broadly, including the local community and natural environment.

Johanna Loehr, a PhD candidate within Griffith’s Department of Tourism, Sport and Hotel Management and the Griffith Institute for Tourism, conducted the study into reducing climate risks destination-wide, which has been published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Informed by systems approaches and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change risk framework, which was extended with destination specific features, Loehr developed a Destination Climate Risk Framework, which was operationalized by creating the context specific Vanuatu Tourism Adaptation Systems, or Vanuatu TAS.

Vanuatu TAS comprises 51 interlinked variables that are divided into eight core categories:

  • the Risk Framework category summarises risk dimensions articulated in the IPCC framework.
  • The next three variable categories summarise the destination elements: Tourism & Development; Community & Culture and the; Natural Environment.
  • The interaction of the destination elements are influenced by socio-economic and political variables influencing system capacity to address climate risk, and can be grouped into Governance; Finance; Information & Education; and Human Psychology.

Tourist destinations in small island developing states are facing increasing risk from climate change, threatening not only tourism businesses but all destination elements including the community and ecosystems. Adaptation in tourism is not new. However, risk reducing approaches often take a reactionary approach and their consequences to other elements of the destination are rarely considered. Previous studies suggest that more work is needed to enhance climate change awareness and understanding within the tourism sector.

Ensuring the tourism sector plays a role in a response to climate change will be crucial to ensure it can act as a truly sustainable development option for SIDS, Loehr said.

“The system highlights economic, socio-cultural, political, and environmental variables, how they are interlinked and thereby influence climate risk to destinations in Vanuatu,” Loehr said.

“It provides a novel tool for understanding climate risk reduction within destinations as a holistic system and based on this understanding, destination trade-offs and policy recommendations of how these may be minimized are highlighted.”

Based on stakeholder feedback, Loehr believes that enhancing tourism and climate change decision makers’ holistic understanding of climate risk will improve collaboration, including the integration of projects and policies across sectors, and more generally improve the selection and implementation of adaptation interventions.

“This makes the potential to reduce climate risk destination wide more tangible for small island developing states (SIDS),” she said.

The paper ‘The Vanuatu Tourism Adaptation System: A holistic approach to reducing climate risk‘ has been published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

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