Climate change and challenges for tourism in Central America
Versión en español disponible en Biblioteca
Tourism has been a very dynamic activity worldwide over the last fifteen years (until the 2008-2009 economic crisis);. Some developing countries have been very active in promoting this activity and have been successful. Among these countries are several from the Central American region, where tourism accounted for more than 8% of Costa Rican and Panamanian GDP in 2006. Tourism is a very broad activity, which includes leisure, business and family visits, but statistics for this region do not allow a distinction between these categories. Some countries are more specialized in leisure tourism (Belize and Costa Rica); while others have a more diversified visitor composition (El Salvador and Panama);. Nevertheless, all countries have plans to considerably expand its leisure tourism, which depends to a great extent on their natural attractions, mostly on the coasts or near its coasts. The study mostly concentrates on this kind of tourism. The Central American countries' rich biodiversity, forests, coral reefs, attractive beaches, among others, are under serious threat because of climate change effects, some of which are already being experienced. The vulnerability to these events is a result not only of the region's geographical location but also of the degree to which the countries' natural resources have been degraded, especially the accelerated deforestation in most of them. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and intense, and so are flooding, droughts, while rising sea levels and higher temperatures are to become more evident in the near future, according to scientific projections. Tourist sites are particularly sensitive to these changes, but little is being done to adapt these activities accordingly. Leisure tourism traveling to the region in mid year will be the one mostly affected by climate change (temperatures could increase by 4°C in some tourist locations in July 2050 and greater extreme weather events could also occur around that time of the year, according to not particularly pessimistic scenarios).