Exploring climate change vulnerability of the South African tourism sector - a high resolution application of the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for Tourism (CVIT)

Smith, Tamzyn
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The impacts of climate change are already being experienced and are posited to intensify globally over the coming decades. Different sectors are likely to be impacted to varying degrees by the effects of climate change, with the tourism sector having been flagged as a particularly vulnerable sector. The Climate Change Vulnerability Index for Tourism (CVIT) is a composite index that uses 27 multidisciplinary indicators to quantify how sensitive a country’s tourism sector is to the impacts of climate change. The CVIT is composed of six weighted components which quantify Tourism Assets, Tourism Operating Costs, Tourism Demand, Host Country Deterrents, Tourism Sector Adaptive Capacity and Host Country Adaptive Capacity. To date, the CVIT has only been applied at a global scale, compromising on spatial resolution, and blurring heterogeneity in vulnerability at a subnational scale. The global CVIT assessment found the South African tourism sector to be moderately vulnerable to climate change, scoring between 77-88 on a scale of 27 to 135. South Africa represents a promising first known local scale application of the CVIT due to the marked heterogeneity of its tourism sector, climatic conditions, socioeconomic context and biogeographical landscape. To account for these local scale differences, this project downscales the CVIT to quantify differential climate change vulnerability for 18 locations distributed across South Africa. Indicator data source options for local application of the CVIT were scoped and refined based on data availability, quality, and relevance to local contexts. Standard, equal indicator weighting (W1) yielded CVIT scores ranging between 92.37 and 67.31, confirming the presence of local scale heterogeneity in vulnerability. Two alternative weighting approaches were assessed: adaptive capacity focused weighting (W2) which yielded scores not significantly different to W1, and a novel tourism asset focused weighting (W3) which yielded scores significantly different to W1. The final CVIT scores allowed for identification of locations most vulnerable to climate change, with Gqeberha and Cape Town found to be the locations with tourism sectors most vulnerable to climate change using all three weighting sets. Different drivers were found to be contributing most to vulnerability at different locations. Although data challenges were encountered, the applicability and suitability of the CVIT for local scale application is confirmed. The findings of this research are of importance because they can feed directly into the climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies of the South African tourism sector.
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022