|sector:||Agriculture, Tourism, Water resources|
|hazard:||Drought, Heat wave|
|by Darryn McEvoy|
As noted, tourist destinations are coupled human-environment systems, with climate change adding a further layer of complexity to an already complex system (Becken & Hay, 2007). This means that climate change will act as only one of a multitude of stressors, and forward planning for tourism will therefore need to take an integrated and holistic approach to adaptation. The predominant focus of research activity to date has been on increasing temperatures, and although there is little that can be done by local operators to alter international visitor perceptions in this regard, strategic marketing initiatives may benefit from a shift in focus that reinforces the positive aspects of the Guadiana region, for example:
Consideration of water availability, and its influence on recreational carrying capacity, will also be critical. In this regard, strategic responses will be needed beyond the tourism sector, ultimately requiring both supply and demand side adaptation measures. On the supply side, technical options such as water transfer between regions, and the use of desalinisation plants as a source of alternative supply (though this remains a contentious option due to high energy requirements), are being investigated for their potential application in the region. As water availability becomes further constrained under a changing climate, the potential for conflict between different sectors (even between different countries) will be heightened. As such, new institutional arrangements may be necessary to provide a suitable environment for consensus building and the sustainable management of this valuable resource. On the demand side, the tourism industry itself can make a valuable contribution to these goals by ensuring that the water efficiency of facilities and operations is improved through an increased uptake of conservation measures e.g. rainwater storage, recycling, use of water saving devises etc. Education and awareness-raising may well have a greater role to play here under changing conditions.
There are several other options that could potentially benefit strategic adaptation goals for Guadiana in the longer term. Some examples include:
Whilst adaptation to climate change can take place at various scales, climate risks are commonly context specific (a function of hazard type, vulnerability of elements at risk, and exposure) and hence the implementation of adaptation measures will often be at the local or site level. Furthermore, when dealing with climate change and tourism it is also necessary to factor in the different activities undertaken by visitors, as these will be influenced by weather parameters to varying degrees (Wall, 2007). Taking each of the tourism offers that were identified in Guadiana in turn, discussion now focuses on some examples of adaptation options that are available for each (though recognising that some measures may be applicable across cases), before then finally analysing some of the underlying institutional processes that can either assist implementation, or alternatively act as barriers to action (section 4).
The first example is that of cultural tourism. Due to the type of activity involved, this is likely to be fairly resilient to climate change impacts, and further promotion of this type of visitor activity may itself act as a useful adaptation strategy for the region through diversification and the promotion of alternative activities e.g. promotion of festivals, agricultural fairs, museums etc. Physical adaptation is likely to involve measures such as the upgrading of infrastructure and facilities, ensuring access to shade etc, in order to maintain visitor comfort during periods of high temperature.
The second offer relates to another specialised activity, golf, though this is considered a more contentious issue in the region. On the one hand, some regional stakeholders are keen for more golf courses to be built (seen as attracting wealthy visitors), whereas on the other hand opponents are critical of their environmental impact; particularly the high water demand for irrigation purposes (sometimes obtained illegally from groundwater sources), preferring instead to advocate greater efforts at providing alternative activities (ADAM Project, 2007). Whilst industry groups recognise that golf courses are often portrayed in negative terms (personal communication, Golf Environment Organisation, 2006) - many people associating golf courses with unsustainable practice, both environmentally (irrigation and overuse of water, use of pesticides, waste etc) and socially (exclusivity) - efforts are underway by the European umbrella organisation 'Golf Environment Organisation' to try and improve management practice through the provision of environmental best practice information, a new online certification scheme, and by contributing to land use planning and development control decisions1. They are also supportive of more widespread application of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for new developments. Interestingly, they have also positioned themselves as a knowledge broker, facilitating exchanges and learning between representatives from the golf industry, scientists, environmentalists, and policy-makers (most recently exemplified by their involvement in an initiative to promote a sustainable model for new golfing facilities). However, practical evidence of improved resource efficiency, particularly the use of water, will be a key adaptation measure for this recreational activity, as well as being a critical trigger for wider social acceptability.
The third, and most popular, Guadiana offer is coastal tourism. As noted previously, coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change, with potential exposure to extreme climate events and sea level rise, a vulnerability exacerbated in the region by the presence of other stressors (extensive tourism development on the shoreline is a particular problem in the region). As such, one primary adaptation measure will be more rigorous control of where development is allowed to occur. This will not only improve landscape aesthetics, maintaining the integrity of dune systems can also provide a natural defence to storm surges and hence reduce the risk of inundation. In reality, although authorities in the Guadiana region have attempted to legislate against sprawl, developers often ignore these efforts and continue to build in unsuitable locations with little penalty (the legislation in Spain applies a 100m limit for buildings near the coast, whereas in Portugal it is 500m - though the Portuguese legislation is not considered effective). More effective enforcement will ultimately be necessary, assets may need to be better protected by new or improved sea defences, and in the worst cases dismantling and relocation of infrastructure may also be required. The onus here is on the public realm to ensure that planning regulations and development control measures take climate change considerations into account, and that enforcement is seen as effective.
Adapting to heat will also need to be addressed by those involved with the local visitor economy. For the public sector this could involve the promotion of heat programmes; based on an early warning system for extreme events and awareness raising efforts aimed at tourism businesses, their staff, and even the tourists themselves. The private sector also has a role to play by ensuring that facilities are designed to cope with heat without resorting to excessive use of air conditioning (a classic case of mal-adaptation). This can be achieved through the design and upgrading of individual buildings (shading and passive ventilation) though landscaping schemes that improve the quality and functioning of public areas would also be a valuable adaptation response to ensure continued quality of visitor experience. On a final note, although insurance is often cited as a useful financial mechanism for spreading risk, the cost of insurance is likely to rise as a result of the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events (Mills, Roth & Lecomte, 2005), with implications for small-scale tourism operators in the longer term.
The final offer, rural tourism, is considered to hold considerable potential for the region. Indeed, many of the regional landscapes that appeal to visitors are currently managed by traditional agricultural practice, and a greater emphasis on the multi-functionality of the land (bringing together tourism, nature and agricultural concerns) could be of enormous benefit to the adaptation agenda2. Engagement with stakeholders during the ADAM project reinforced this opinion with attendees highlighting the opportunities for exploiting the integral connection between tourism and agriculture, not only helping to strengthen long-term sustainable development objectives for the region but also reducing over-dependence on one economic activity. Promoting and modernising the traditional 'dehesa' (Spain) and 'montado' (Portugal) ecosystems was cited as one specific example of potential diversification. However, it was recognised that new crops and management systems may also be needed to ensure a greater local resilience to climate change. Changing practice would need to be supported by evidence and data on the effectiveness of different drought and heat resistant plants (and management systems) in order to best inform any adaptation response by local stakeholders. Whichever crop is produced, stakeholders also made clear that support for local businesses in accessing local and international markets was vital. Encouraging tourism businesses to source products from local producers is one potential avenue in this regard.
Whilst large-scale tourism developments in the coastal zone raise issues of water availability in the longer term, in more rural locations consideration of the water issue is also centred on protecting river systems, both in terms of quantity and quality, in order to boost the value of rural tourism. For the landscape more generally, it is recognised that integrated measures to protect the pristine natural environment are needed, and that this will ultimately require greater levels of partnership working (within and between different sectors). Research conducted in the UK recommended that where they exist, proven management mechanisms should be supported to maximise local adaptive capacity (McEvoy et al, 2006). However, in the Guadiana context, there is a further and important 'transboundary' issue, suggesting the need for new institutional arrangements that promote consensus building not only between different competing uses but also different countries. More detail on the transboundary issue, and discussion of the adaptation role of policy entrepreneurs, is available in McEvoy et al (2009) and Cots et al (submitted).
© 2009 ADAM, Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European climate policy