Coping with the challenge of climate change

11 Dec 2013

Tourism is a major contributor to the economies of many Asia Pacific countries but it’s also a region where climate change is making its presence felt.

Learning what strategies, if any, tourism operators and governments in the Asia Pacific have in place to deal with these changes is the focus of a study by University of Queensland tourism researcher Dr Lisa Ruhanen, in conjunction with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Dr Ruhanen said it was predicted that climate change would affect most parts of the Asia Pacific but in different ways.

“In this region we have small islands, coastal areas, ski areas and developing countries, all of  which are recognised as being highly vulnerable to climate change,’’ she said.

“Islands in the South Pacific are already seeing the impact of rising sea levels.”

Dr Ruhanen’s research is focused on policy and business practices and aims to help governments understand what other countries in the region are doing in terms of developing strategies that address climate change and its spin-off effects – positive and negative – on tourism.

She said it required a three-pronged approach:

  • the public sector developing appropriate policy and strategies;
  • businesses adopting more sustainable practices; and
  • destinations adapting to the many environmental, social and economic challenges.

The study would benefit the tourism industry’s private and public sectors by high-lighting and sharing examples of policies, programs and initiatives, as well as special-interest cases and papers from academics and experts in the region.

“This is an area of research that I am very interested in, particularly from policy and supply perspectives and the intersection of climate change with sustainable development,” Dr Ruhanen said.

“Addressing climate change is also one of the key areas of focus of the UNWTO so the results of this study will be of interest to governments and industry bodies across the world.”

Dr Ruhanen said that when the research is published by the UNWTO, it will be distributed to member countries and affiliate members in the Asia Pacific region and across the globe through the UNWTO’s eLibrary.