Climate change adaptation and tourism in the Mexican Caribbean
Kramer, Arnoldo Matus
MetadataShow full item record
The Mexican Caribbean tourism sector is highly exposed to hurricane activity, yet coastal tourism is also a major driver influencing regional biophysical and social vulnerability to climate risks. Drawing on a political ecology approach and a vulnerability assessment, this study asks how experiences with extreme hurricane events in the Mexican Caribbean shape climate change adaptation in the regional tourism sector. This study uses multiple methods, scales and field sites to (a) examine how biophysical vulnerability to extreme hurricanes affects the tourism sector, (b) explain the changing conditions of social vulnerability linked to hurricane damage in the tourism sector and (c) assess the present and future opportunities and obstacles for adaptation planning. The main findings show that the region is experiencing a phase of unprecedented high intensity hurricanes. It is uncertain, however, whether changes in hurricane activity exceed natural multi- decadal variability. Tourism is one major driver of land use changes which have resulted in some of the world's fastest increase in coastal urban sprawl. Most tourism infrastructure is located in areas with the greatest exposure to hurricanes. Hurricane Wilma which hit the region in 2005 is the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the Mexican insurance industry. Hotels have showed a high ability to recover operations after hurricanes. There is a high penetration of insurance ownership in hotels and there is substantial mobilization of public and private financial and human resources during hurricane disasters. Hotel responses to hurricanes, however, tend to be reactive and autonomous. One important consequence of hurricanes is that hoteliers in the interest to reduce operational costs, fire those workers with the weakest labour rights. Thus, hotel workers suffer from 'double exposure', a situation where hotel workers are confronted with the consequences of climate change while simultaneously suffering the consequences of globalization and neoliberal policies which have reduced the power of unions and weakened access to social security. The Mexican government has created a national climate change strategy and its operational programme which has led to the consolidation of an adaptation organizational structures at the national and state levels. I conclude, however, that adaptation planning may not result in the necessary actions on the ground since local actors are not well integrated yet into such efforts. This study shows the importance of regional adaptation research that takes into account perspectives from both the physical and social sciences. This study highlights the importance of interactions between local actors, the larger socioeconomic and political economy context to inform adaptation planning and policy.