Recreation and leisure tourism are by definition activities undertaken by choice during 'free time.' As such, tourists-recreationists have a great degree of freedom to choose the activities they wish engage in, as well as where and when they will do so. Spatial, temporal and activity substitution provide tourists-recreationists with tremendous adaptive capacity.
Tourists are easily able to adapt to climatic conditions or climate-related impacts at any given destination by simply going elsewhere. Giles and Perry (1998) found that the exceptionally warm and sunny summer of 1995 in the UK resulted in a drop in outbound tourism as travellers opted for domestic holidays. Extreme events regularly influence traveller decisions in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico. The four hurricanes that struck the State of Florida in 2004 caused thousands of cancellations as travellers went elsewhere and a marketing survey found that 25% were also less likely to visit Florida during hurricane season in the future (Pack 2004).
Tourists-recreationists are able to select when climatic conditions are suitable to engage in chosen activities or visit a destination. Tourists can adapt the timing of travel according to climate variability, such as unusually early or late hurricane or monsoon season, and eventually to climate change. Indeed, several climate change impact studies assume that tourists will adapt to new climatic regimes by altering the timing of visitation, particularly new opportunities during shoulder seasons (Maddison 2001; Lise and Tol 2002; Hamilton et al. 2005; Jones and Scott 2006a, b; Berrittella et al. 2006). Tourists-recreationists can also adapt the frequency of their visits in response to climate variability. Scott (2006b) found evidence of such among skiers in the US. Examining ski area 'utilization' data, which is the ratio of actual skier visits to the physical capacity of skier visits at a ski area over the ski season; it was found that utilization decreases during longer ski seasons. Greater utilization during shorter ski seasons, suggests that skiers are participating more frequently than they would in a normal year (i.e., go skiing every weekend, instead of every 2 weeks). This type of behavioural adaptation is particularly possible when the ski season starts later than usual, because skiers know they likely will have fewer opportunities that season.
Activity substitution can take place over a range of time-scales. Tourists-recreationists can also modify their activities to cope with unfavourable weather conditions. Fig. 8.2 illustrates how some tourists visiting a beach resort in Cuba
have adapted to strong winds and cool temperatures in ways that still allow them to engage in beach related activities (i.e., additional clothing and erecting wind screens with beach chairs). Tourists-recreationists can change from one activity to another or change the frequency of activities in response to climate variability. A 1°C warmer than average summer season has been found to increase domestic tourism expenditures in Canada by 4% (Wilton and Wiijanto 1998). Individuals can also substitute activities on a permanent basis in response to climatic changes. Scott et al. (2002) found some snowmobilers had begun to switch to All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATVs) in response to changes in snow conditions.
A limited number of studies have begun to explore the potential behavioural adaptations of tourists-recreationists to future climate change (König 1998; Braun et al. 1999; Bürki 2000; Richardson and Loomis 2004; Scott and Jones 2006a; Uyarra et al. 2005). In each study, a combination of spatial, temporal and activity substitution were found. König (1998) and Bürki (2000) utilized surveys to examine how skiers in Australia and Switzerland might respond to marginal ski conditions presented in a hypothetical climate change scenario. In Australia, 25% of respondents indicated they would continue to ski with the same frequency, nearly one-third (31%) would ski less often, but still in Australia, and the greatest portion (38%) would substitute destinations and ski overseas (mainly in New Zealand and Canada). A further 6% would not continue to ski under such conditions. In Switzerland, the majority (58%) indicated they would ski with the same frequency (30% at the same resort and 28% at a more snow reliable resort - generally at higher elevation). Almost one-third (32%) of respondents indicated they would ski less often and 4% stated they would stop skiing altogether.
In eastern North America, a climate change analogue approach has been used to understand the potential response of the ski tourism marketplace to future climate change. The winter of 2001-2002 was the record warm winter throughout much of the region and approximated the normal temperatures expected in mid-century under a mid-range warming scenario (approximately + 4.5°C). Skier visits during this record warm winter were consistently lower than in the previous climatically normal winter of 2000-2001: - 11% in the Northeast ski region of the US, - 7% in Ontario, and - 10% in Quebec (Scott 2006c). Although this finding is not surprising considering the ski season was approximately 20 days shorter in the record warm winter, what is somewhat surprising is how small the reduction in skier visits was during this climate change analogue season. It was observed that utilization levels at ski areas increased, as many skiers in the region adapted by skiing more frequently than in a normal year (i.e., skiing every weekend, instead of every 2 weeks).
Comparable studies have also been conducted on how tourists might respond to climate-induced environmental change in national parks in the Rocky Mountain region of North America. Richardson and Loomis (2004) found that between 9% and 16% of surveyed visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park (USA) would change the frequency of visitation to the park under the hypothetical environmental change scenarios (representing the 2020s). The environmental change scenarios constructed for the early and mid-decades of the twenty-first century were also found to have minimal influence on intention to visit Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park or Banff National Park, with almost all visitors still intending to visit the parks and 10% indicated they would visit more often, presumably due to improved climatic conditions (Scott et al. 2007; Jones and Scott 2006a). There is also the potential that media coverage of melting glaciers might motivate more people to visit these parks over the next 20-30 years to personally see or show children the glaciers before they disappear and in order to witness the impacts of climate change on the landscape. This 'last chance' tourism market trend is already being observed in some areas of Alaska, including Kenai Fjords National Park, where the chief ranger has described climate change as one of the new major themes for the park (Egan 2005). If such an increase is visitation is realized, it would require adaptation to accommodate larger numbers of visitors and provide new public education about the changes in natural heritage that are occurring.
In the studies that attempted to look at the potential impacts of greater environmental change (Scott et al. 2007; Jones and Scott 2006a, b), an important threshold was reached for many visitors to Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park and Banff National Park in scenarios that might occur by the end of the twenty-first century. A substantial number of tourists (19% in Glacier-Waterton and 31% in Banff) indicated they would not intend to visit the parks if the specified environmental changes occurred. The projected loss of glaciers in the region was noted as a significant heritage loss and the most important reason cited for not intending to visit the park in the future. Another 36-38% of tourists indicated they would plan to visit less often. Visitors most likely to be negatively affected by climate-induced environmental change were long-haul tourists and ecotourists, motivated by the opportunity to view pristine mountain landscapes and wildlife. As such, the impact of environmental change was more pronounced in Banff National Park, which has a much greater number of international tourists. If realized, such impacts would require these destinations to adapt to very different impacts of climate change.
Recent coral bleaching events and the imperilled future for many coral reefs under climate change are a cause for concern for diving and other related tourism. Unfortunately, there is limited information about how tourists responded to the severe coral bleaching that occurred in many reef systems around the world in 1998. A case study from El Nido, Phillippines does provide some insight into the response of different tourist market segments to coral bleaching and degraded reef environments (Cesar 2000). In El Nido and nearby islands, severe coral bleaching in 1998 led to 30-50% coral mortality and a typhoon that same year (also linked to El Niño) caused further damage to local reefs. Whether divers or not, most tourists (95%) coming to El Nido have at least some interest in the local marine environment. However, general awareness of coral bleaching among tourists was found to be low (44%). The bleaching event did not impact budget tourist arrivals, but fewer budget tourists went diving during their stay. The impact at resorts, some of which cater to the high-end dive market, was much worse. In other coastal locations, the impact of climate change was also projected to adversely affect tourist preferences for these destinations. In Bonaire and Barbados, more than 75% of tourists were unwilling to return for the same holiday price in the event that coral bleaching or reduced beach area occurred as a result of climate change (Uyarra et al. 2005). The response of tourists to recent severe bleaching events on the Great Barrier has not been systematically assessed, however a survey of tourists in Cairns (North Queensland, Australia) asked if they would visit the region if they knew that there had been a recent bleaching event -29% were uncertain and 35% indicated they would not (Prideaux 2006).
The most common technical climate adaptations used by tourists-recreationists is the wide range of specialized equipment that allows them to engage in activities more comfortably and more safely when climate conditions are not ideal or to expand the climatic range in which activities can be undertaken. Some illustrative examples include: wetsuits for diving or windsurfing, hand and foot warmers built into snowmobiles, rain gear (clothing, equipment covers, etc.) for golf and hiking.
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