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Read the Editorial and Summary: What are the implications of climate change for the Caribbean travel and tourism industry?


Welcome to Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) volume 1, number 3. Our aim is to make a practical and theoretical contribution to the sustainable development of the worldwide hospitality and tourism industry. Each theme issue addresses a significant industry challenge – starting from a strategic question and leading to outcomes that are practical and implementable. To accomplish this task, theme editors assemble a team of academics who collaborate with industry practitioners in the analysis and development of possible solutions. The intended outcome of peer review is a themed collection of clear and concisely written, accessible articles that contain insights, analysis and authoritative responses to industry challenges.

This theme issue has been edited by Professor Anthony Clayton and Dr Carolyn Hayle of the University of the West Indies. Some years ago, I heard Tony speak about climate change and the implications for the Caribbean at an event in Jamaica. His talk had such an impact on the audience and on me that I came home with the feeling that a new type of forum was needed to facilitate interchange and collaboration between academics and practitioners. Thanks to Emerald, WHATT offers this opportunity and I should like to thank John Peters, Valerie Robillard, Joe Bennett and their colleagues at Emerald for supporting the WHATT concept.

Tony, Carolyn and their team of contributors have assembled a remarkable theme issue – it contains a stark warning about the reality and impact of climate change. I commend this theme issue to you – it is a compelling story that every practitioner, academic and student should read – while there is still time to respond. Thank you Tony, Carolyn and team for addressing the theme so clearly and effectively.

If you have a key industry challenge in mind that you would like to address via a WHATT theme issue, do please contact me.

Richard Teare
Managing Editor, WHATT

Editorial: What are the implications of climate change for the Caribbean travel and tourism industry?

This special theme issue looks at the role of the travel and tourism industry in climate change, and at the implications of climate change for the travel and tourism industry. There is a particular focus on the Caribbean, for three reasons. The first is that the Caribbean is currently the most tourism-dependent region in the world. A long-term contraction in the industry would cripple a number of Caribbean economies and cause a surge in poverty, which is likely to cause social chaos. The second is that most Caribbean tourists arrive by either cruise ship or air, both of which generate significant quantities of carbon dioxide and therefore make a major contribution to climate change. The third is that most of the Caribbean industry is based on sea, sun and sand tourism, which in turn means that most of the essential infrastructure is located at or near the shoreline, in areas that will be vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge. This combination of dependency and vulnerability makes the Caribbean a particularly pertinent and poignant example of how countries can come to rely on an industry that might prove to contain the seed of not only its own destruction, but also that of some vulnerable host economies.

These problems are not insoluble, but averting the worse-case scenario will require decisive action, and this is not currently much in evidence. There have been many meetings, reports, statements and commitments, but global carbon emissions are still rising.

This theme issue of WHATT contains five articles that address critically important aspects of this problem.

The first article ‘Climate Change and Tourism: the Implications for the Caribbean’, by Anthony Clayton, sets out the main issues.

The second article ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Tourism in Caribbean Small Island Developing States’ by Marlene Attzs, explains the vital economic role of the travel and tourism industry in the Caribbean. The article then examines the economic implications of climate change and the associated change in environmental risk profile for the Caribbean tourism industry, and considers the financial costs and benefits of the various policy response options, including response adaptation, anticipatory adaptation, catastrophe insurance and other models of risk management, risk sharing and risk transfer.

Climate change also has significant implications for both rainfall and saline intrusion in ground water, which could directly threaten both the tourism industry and other local livelihoods. Water shortages will be particularly critical in the Caribbean islands that are already water-stressed; at or near the limits of their available supplies.
In the third article ‘Climate Change Implications for Water Resource Management in Caribbean Tourism’, Kwame Emmanuel and Balfour Spence examine these issues, and outline possible strategic responses. They focus on Barbados, because Barbados has four critical factors that make it particularly sensitive and potentially vulnerable in this regard. First, Barbados is relatively small and flat, and has limited water flow. Second, it is the most densely populated country in the Caribbean.  Third, the economy is primarily driven by tourism, and has prospered as a result; the country is now ranked by the World Bank as ‘upper-middle income’. Fourth, Barbados is characterized as ‘absolute water scarce’ on the Falkenmark scale because of a per capita availability of freshwater per year of less than 500 cubic meters. Barbados has a water availability of just 306 cubic metres per capita per year, which makes Barbados the fifteenth most water-scarce nation in the world. Thus Barbados is critically dependent on a water-intensive industry, has limited options to expand the supply of the key resource, and now finds that the availability of this key resource might decline in future as a result of climate change.

In the fourth article, Anthony Hall reports on a series of interviews that he conducted with leading representatives of the travel and tourism industry in Jamaica to determine their level of awareness and planning on climate change and related issues.

Finally, in ‘Is tourism with a low impact on climate possible?’ Jonathan Chenoweth examines the impact of a range of different travel and tourism options, and quantifies the carbon-dioxide emissions resulting from international vacations, breaking down emissions categories into those resulting from transport, accommodation and recreation. Using this data, a range of possible vacation scenarios can then be examined for their relative carbon-dioxide emissions in order to compare the relative climatic impact of different forms of tourism and vacation options. The paper concludes that intercontinental flights and cruise ship travel are particularly carbon-intensive, which suggests that these two forms of tourism will be particularly vulnerable to any policy initiative to curb or price carbon emissions. The article ends by considering whether climatically responsible international tourism is possible, and outlines some low-carbon options.

These articles make it clear that the nations of the Caribbean are facing a serious dilemma. Their hopes for development rest largely on tourism, especially as other sectors, such as traditional agriculture, continue to decline, and most of them are currently committed to expanding tourist volumes or margins or both. However, the increase in demand for travel and tourism is contributing directly to climate change, which is likely to have exceptionally serious consequences for the islands.

The Caribbean nations will have to respond to these existential threats. Their ability to do so will largely determine their future. The fate of the Caribbean may also serve as a harbinger for the future of the travel and tourism industry, and determine whether it too can adjust to the profound challenge of climate change.

Anthony Clayton and Carolyn Hayle
Theme Editors

About the theme editors

Professor Anthony Clayton is the Alcan Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development, Institute for Sustainable Development, at the University of the West Indies. He is also Visiting Professor at the Centre for Environmental Strategy in the School of Engineering at the University of Surrey, Visiting Professor at the Institute for Studies of Science, Technology and Innovation in the School of Social and Political Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Adjunct Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Business and Management, University of Technology, International Associate, Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research, University of St Andrew, and a Fellow of the Caribbean Academy of Science.
Contact: [email protected].

Dr Carolyn Hayle is Senior Programme Officer, Institute for Hospitality and Tourism in the School for Graduate Studies and Research, University of the West Indies, and lectures on sustainable tourism, marketing and tourism management in the Tourism and Hospitality Management MSc degree programme.  Dr Hayle was a member of the team that developed the Carrying Capacity Study component of Jamaica’s Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development.  She is an experienced consultant with many assignments in the Caribbean and abroad, including the development of guidelines for community tourism, market research on agro-tourism in Jamaica and strategic planning.  Her PhD is in sustainable development with an emphasis on tourism policy.  She is a Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board, Air Jamaica and the National Education Council of Jamaica, Chairman of Papine High School and a member of the Kingston College Board of Management.
Contact: [email protected]

Is tourism part of the problem – or part of the solution?

Anthony Clayton and Carolyn Hayle, Theme Editors

This theme issue has looked at the role of the travel and tourism industry in climate change, and at the implications of climate change for the travel and tourism industry. We have focused on the Caribbean for the reasons set out at the beginning, and explored in detail in this issue.

In summary:

• It is the most tourism-dependent region in the world.
• The travel involved in getting there adds a significant amount of carbon to the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.
• The region is vulnerable to many of the effects of climate change, which are likely to include sea level rise, salt water intrusion, fresh water shortages, hurricanes, storm surges, flooding and other impacts.
• The Caribbean tourism industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change; the product largely involves sea, sun and sand tourism, which means that most of the essential infrastructure is located at or near the shoreline, in areas that will be vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge.

The nations of the Caribbean are therefore facing a serious dilemma. There is no realistic possibility of the Caribbean surviving without the tourism industry, at least for the foreseeable future, as other sectors, such as traditional agriculture, continue to decline. However, climate change presents a real threat, not just to the industry, but to the island nations themselves. The issue, then, is how the travel and tourism industry can change from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

First, the situation is not hopeless. It is true that there has been little net progress to date. Many governments have failed to meet their own targets for carbon emission reductions, such reductions are there have been have been easily outpaced by increased emissions from countries such as China, and it is hard to justify the thousands of meetings that have been held to discuss the problem, as global emissions of carbon are still rising.

However, there are now a wide range of new technological solutions in development. Far more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, zero-carbon buildings, low-carbon energy sources, vehicles that run on electric motors, hydrogen or biofuels, and a range of similar ideas are all now attainable, although many of them are still at the prototype stage. The need now is to create the market conditions that will accelerate the development of these new solutions, and make them widely available at affordable prices.

This indicates one obvious role for the tourism industry, which is a major part of almost every economy and the core of some, including those in the Caribbean. The industry is, in many countries, the biggest consumer, the largest customer, the main constructor, the largest employer, the biggest building operator, and drives the procurement of many ancillary goods and services. This puts the industry in a uniquely powerful position. If the industry specifies that only the most energy and resource-efficient goods and services will be acceptable from now on, the rest of the economy will be relatively rapidly transformed.

A second role for the industry will be in the steps that it takes to ensure the survival of its own customers, in building hotels with a set-back from the sea, with roofs and windows that can withstand category 5 hurricanes, protecting reefs and encouraging reef regeneration.

Finally, a third role for the travel and tourism industry, which has significant political influence in many countries, would be to encourage its host governments to implement some of the policy measures described in this theme issue.

If the industry can make these three positive contributions, it would help to ensure its own survival, provide a profound public service to many nations, and, perhaps, help to keep the world safe for humanity.

Corresponding authors: Anthony Clayton can be contacted at: [email protected] Carolyn Hayle can be contacted at: [email protected]