Investigating tourism and climate change: the case of St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis

Grant, Bronwyn Caroline
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Climate change literature is growing rapidly, with increasing literature being produced on the relationship between climate change and tourism. Globally, tourism is very dependent on the climate and the impacts of climate change may alter tourism flow and demand. Developing countries are likely to be the most affected by climate change and its effects on tourism which is worrying as this sector is a huge contributor to their economy. South African tourism relies heavily on its environment to attract tourists and give a satisfactory travel experience; climate change is a threat to the environment and thus a major concern for South Africa. This thesis investigates the perceptions of climate change threats within the tourism sector by exploring how perceptions may influence behaviour and how the tourism sector will respond to a changing climate. Research was carried out in two coastal towns, St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis in the Eastern Cape Province. These towns are dependent on their tourism sectors to drive their economies. These towns are dependent on their local tourism sector to drive their economy. The results indicate that while both the tourists and tourist accommodation establishments are aware of the threat of climate change and are concerned about its impacts, there is very little adaptation being implemented. While the level of concern varies among the accommodation establishments, there appears to be no perceived significant relationship between the threat of sea level rise and their distance from the coastline. Tourism Climate Index calculations for the two towns suggest that the climate is worsening in terms of tourist comfort, and project that the towns will become less attractive for tourism based on their climate. A Digital Elevation Model developed for the towns however shows that the projected sea level rise for 2050 and 2100 will result in parts of the beaches and a protective artificial spit being washed away. The lack of climate change planning to deal with these impacts is directly linked to their perception. The tourist accommodation establishments do not believe they need to take major action and rather feel the government should respond to climate change. Overall, the results indicate that there is a need for further research into bottom-up approaches to climate change, to better plan and implement successful climate change mitigation and adaptation which can be done through educating individuals and businesses within the tourism sector.
A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science. Johannesburg, August 2015.