The future of Caribbean tourism: competition and climate change implications

Purpose This conceptual paper examines the Caribbean tourism sector, its growth, performance, importance and its vulnerability to climate change. The purpose of this paper is to serve as an introduction to the on-going conversation around climate change and the socioeconomic impacts likely to be experienced in tourism-dependent Caribbean territories. Design/methodology/approach The Caribbean is used as the context of this work. A broad perspective was adopted to paint a picture of the wider implications. The region is represented by a multiplicity of country profiles, both in physical and socio-economic characteristics; this warrants a broad assessment of the issues examined here. Findings This work shows that the Caribbean tourism sectors face significant future threats related to both competitiveness and climate change impacts. For a region so heavily dependent on coastal- and marine-related tourism attractions, adaptation and resilience are critical issues facing Caribbean tourism. An effective approach to building resilience to climate change requires extensive regional cooperation. Research limitations/implications While there is much published on the matter of climate change implications in the general global context, there is considerably less published work specifically examining the likely effects climate change will have on the special socio-economic features of the Caribbean and on the tourism industry in particular. Practical implications The lack of extensive and ongoing research dedicated to climate change implications for Caribbean tourism, while limiting the scope of this work, does highlight a gap and open the door for future work that examines, in greater detail both collectively and on an individual country basis, the climate change implications for tourism industries throughout the region. Social implications Climate change vulnerabilities in the region present a significant threat to economic development, employment and food security among others. Coastal flooding, infrastructural damage and the potential displacement of coastal communities present significant impediments to the quality of life of Caribbean nationals. The social implications necessitate further in-depth study to inform the development of adaptation strategies that may secure the tourism industry and the livelihoods and lifestyles of the people. Originality/value This work is original in its evaluation of the viewpoints of climate change vulnerability specific to the Caribbean tourism sector.

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