Tourism “very vulnerable” to climate change

Prof Munshi: “When weather patterns become too unstable, people will be less likely to come here”

New Zealand’s tourism industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change and operators must start preparing for it, says an academic.

The call comes as the University of Waikato secures $270,000 in funding to research how best to prepare New Zealand industries and communities for the impacts of climate change.

“Tourism is very vulnerable because a lot of people come here because of the environment,” said co-lead researcher Professor Debashish Munshi of Waikato Management School, an expert on public engagement and social justice.

“If that environment changes, and it is changing before our very eyes, then the tourism industry – all industries here – needs to be able to adapt.”

The new research project, funded by the Deep South National Science Challenge, would engage with industry and communities about how New Zealand could better prepare for the future impacts of climate change.

A series of ‘citizen panels’ comprised of business and community groups across New Zealand – such as tourism operators, farmers and iwi – would be consulted to build a range of future scenarios to deal with climate change events such as extreme weather, flooding, rivers and rising sea levels.

“The two biggest drivers of the New Zealand economy are tourism and farming and the instability in weather patterns is going to affect how they operate,” said Professor Munshi

“It is going to affect biodiversity, infrastructure, the coastline sea level, beach erosion, storm patterns – when it becomes too unstable, people will be less likely to come here. Some think that is far fetched but it is changing before our eyes and the tourism industry needs to be prepared.”

The research team would help each group to develop proactive strategies and a practical action plan for addressing the specific impacts of climate change they face. The two-year study would also explore how people’s own cultural values shape and influence their adaptation strategies to the new realities of climate change.

In 2019, a report outlining recommendations to cope with climate change would be distributed to local councils, industry and government.

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