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Exploring Climate Change Threats to Beach Tourism Destinations: Application of the Hazard–Activity Pairs Methodology to South Africa

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  • 1 Institute of Geography, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, and Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Müncheberg, Germany
  • 2 Institute of Geography, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
  • 3 Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 4 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
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Abstract

Climate change poses significant threats to the sustainability of tourism economies globally. This is particularly true for beach tourism, which is highly dependent on the mean climate, daily weather, and natural setting of a destination to attract and satisfy tourists. This case study of the South African coastline provides new insights to the applicability of the vulnerability assessment methodology of hazard–activity pairs to the global south and specifically to sub-Saharan Africa. Through this method, tourists’ climate perceptions were analyzed and related to potential future impacts of climate change, creating hazard–activity pairs. Tourists’ perceptions of climate were captured by means of a questionnaire. Downscaled CMIP5 climate projections (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for six weather stations close to major beach tourism destinations were used to estimate changes in precipitation and temperature. This study reveals that future projections of a mean reduction in precipitation and increasing temperature may have positive rather than negative direct effects on South African beach tourism destinations because what tourists perceive as “comfortable” weather conditions are increasing in prevalence. Nevertheless, indirect and induced effects of an already changing climate, defining further hazard–activity pairs, must be considered in vulnerability assessments. This work endorses the applicability of the hazard–activity pair methodology to South Africa and the global south at large.

Corresponding author: Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, ghoogendoorn@uj.ac.za

Abstract

Climate change poses significant threats to the sustainability of tourism economies globally. This is particularly true for beach tourism, which is highly dependent on the mean climate, daily weather, and natural setting of a destination to attract and satisfy tourists. This case study of the South African coastline provides new insights to the applicability of the vulnerability assessment methodology of hazard–activity pairs to the global south and specifically to sub-Saharan Africa. Through this method, tourists’ climate perceptions were analyzed and related to potential future impacts of climate change, creating hazard–activity pairs. Tourists’ perceptions of climate were captured by means of a questionnaire. Downscaled CMIP5 climate projections (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for six weather stations close to major beach tourism destinations were used to estimate changes in precipitation and temperature. This study reveals that future projections of a mean reduction in precipitation and increasing temperature may have positive rather than negative direct effects on South African beach tourism destinations because what tourists perceive as “comfortable” weather conditions are increasing in prevalence. Nevertheless, indirect and induced effects of an already changing climate, defining further hazard–activity pairs, must be considered in vulnerability assessments. This work endorses the applicability of the hazard–activity pair methodology to South Africa and the global south at large.

Corresponding author: Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, ghoogendoorn@uj.ac.za
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