Assessing the vulnerability of beach tourism and non-beach tourism to climate change: a case study from Jamaica

The Jamaican tourism industry is very climate sensitive, and, like most Caribbean islands, Jamaica's main tourism product is coastal, centered on “sun, sea and sand”. The island is susceptible to many risks posed by climate change, including sea level rise and extreme events, with resultant impacts such as beach erosion, flooding, saline intrusion into aquifers and general coastal degradation. This paper evaluates the relative vulnerability of beach versus non-beach tourism in Jamaica, using 43 pre-determined literature-linked indicators. These comprise bio-geophysical, social, technological, economical, technological and institutional factors. Four case areas are assessed using multi-criteria decision analysis to derive vulnerability scores for each area. The study finds that non-beach tourism operations should not be automatically perceived as less vulnerable than beach-based operations. Sustainable adaptation options are complex and numerous, and overall beach tourism businesses have better insurance, emergency savings, disaster plans and backup power facilities, among others. They also have the advantage of being in business longer than the inland resorts, a firmer business structure and an extensive marketing budget. In the long term, better adaptation and planning by inland businesses could change this balance.

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