Weather and Climate for Coastal Tourism
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Weather and climate serve as an important travel motivator, influencing destination choice, the timing of travel, travel expenditures and overall trip satisfaction. Climatic resources are a defining factor in destination attractiveness and are a key element of the natural resource base of a destination that can be classified along a spectrum from ideal to unacceptable. A growing literature has sought to measure, evaluate and assess climate resources for tourism, both generally and for specific tourism market segments. A direct impact of climate change on tourism will be the global redistribution of climatic resources. This would change the length and quality of climate-sensitive tourism seasons, affecting both the temporal and spatial distribution of domestic and international tourism flows and spending. Studies have revealed a generally consistent temporal and geographical pattern of climate change impacts on global tourism. As the 21st century progresses, there is anticipated to be a pronounced shift in thermal comfort (and thereby tourism demand) towards higher latitudes and away from sub-tropical and tropical destinations. This would have a substantial impact on the tourism-intensive economy of the Caribbean, as the vast majority of the region’s attractions are based on weather- and climate-dependent 3S (sun, sea, sand) tourism. However, the assertion that major coastal tourism destinations, such as the Caribbean, will become seasonally ‘too hot’ for tourism has been questioned because the literature has not established what tourists to these regions perceive to be thermally unacceptable for coastal tourism activities. In addition, existing climate and tourism assessments do not account for the microclimatic conditions where tourism activities take place. With the inextricable dependency between 3S tourism and favourable weather conditions in the coastal zone, it is important to understand both how tourists perceive and evaluate climatic resources, particularly those conditions that are most preferred or avoided (i.e., trigger behavioural responses), as well as examine the adaptive climatic range tourists’ can experience within a coastal setting. Such information is a prerequisite if accurate projections are to be made about changes in tourism demand as a result of climate variability or future climate change. This dissertation proposes a conceptual framework that integrates the multiple facets known to influence tourists’ evaluation of climatic resources, as well as tourists’ responses to holiday weather conditions. The research advances weather and climate resource assessments for tourism by improving our understanding of the complex relationship between personal and meteorological parameters that influence tourists’ climatic preferences and thresholds for coastal tourism. This was achieved through concurrent meteorological measurements and in situ surveys with 472 beach tourists in the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Saint Lucia and Tobago. The results from this study reveal that tourists’ optimal and unacceptable climatic conditions are dependent on several interpersonal factors, with statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) found based on gender, age, and climatic region of origin. Thermal comfort expectations and perceived thermal control were also found to be key contextual considerations that enable beach tourists’ to not only be exposed to, but to prefer, thermal conditions that elicit strong to very strong heat stress. This indicates that conventional evaluation systems of thermal comfort (e.g., PET, UTCI) cannot be applied to 3S tourists without modification. This research also highlights the importance of microclimatic conditions when evaluating weather and climate for tourism, with thermo-physiological comfort varying up to 4°C within a coastal resort setting. The results from this research can be incorporated into existing climate indices and climate change assessments to allow for more robust projections of tourism demand, as well as used in various decision-making contexts by both tourists (e.g., plan best time/place to travel, plan appropriate accommodation, attire, transportation and activity schedule) and the tourism industry (e.g., marketing strategies, risk assessment, operational decision making, infrastructure planning and development).