The Implications of Sea-level Rise for Tourism in St. Lucia

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Environmental Studies
Title The Implications of Sea-level Rise for Tourism in St. Lucia
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Sea-level rise is one of the most certain impacts of climate change that will have major long-term
implications for tourism in the Caribbean. Sea-level rise will impact coastal tourism through
inundation and erosion, damage to tourism infrastructure, (e.g., hotels/resorts, transportation) and
also essential coastal resources (e.g., beaches and coral reefs).
The study examines the implications of projected scenarios of sea-level rise for tourism
in St. Lucia. Using geospatial analysis that integrates elevation data from satellites and digitized
locations of tourism properties, transportation infrastructure (airports and cruise ports) and areas
that have been zoned for future tourism development, this study identifies tourism assets that
would be at risk to permanent inundation from a 1 m sea-level rise, flooding from storm surge
associated with a 1/25 year storm event under 1 m sea-level rise, and exacerbated erosion
associated with 1 m sea-level rise. The results indicate that while 1 m of sea-level rise would
cause permanent inundation at only 4% of the 73 tourism properties assessed (impacting 7% of
4947 of rooms on the island), the additional exposure to storm surge and waves under a 1/25 year
storm event would cause flooding damages at 30% of 73 tourism properties impacting 54% of
rooms on the island. This study also found that erosion associated with 1 m of sea-level rise
would impact 100% of the coastal resorts with inventoried beach assets. The study uses Google
Earth and field observations to examine the potential of inland retreat as an adaptation strategy
for coastal tourism resorts. Results indicate that 24 of 37 coastal tourism properties assessed
would be unable to retreat due to current development or physical barriers, (e.g., water surfaces,
protected areas, cliffs). The study reviewed 16 national policies and planning documents to
examine to what extent sea-level rise was considered in tourism planning and development, and
found that only two policy documents referred to sea-level rise within the context of tourism.
The thesis concludes with a discussion of additional research needs and recommendations for
long-term planning and decision-making that are aimed at improving tourism adaptation to
climate change and sea-level rise in St. Lucia.

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