Tourist operators to benefit from climate informationNov 30, 2016
The tourism sector continues to be a significant driving force for the economic development of Samoa, contributing more than 20% to GDP. Associated sectors benefitting from tourism include agriculture and transport, through providing fresh products for tourists and improving accessibility and infrastructures.
The tourism sector needs to be protected from external shocks which are happening more frequently due to climate change.
Small Pacific island countries are vulnerable to extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods, and extended drought periods, and are raising these concerns on the global front, and the international donor community is responding with financial and technical assistance on climate change adaptation practices to help build resilience of local communities.
Providing information and knowledge products to tourism operators facing the brunt of climate change is intended to help them make the right decisions to safeguard their investments and ensure the safety of tourists.
The Samoa Climate Early Warning System (CLEWS) managed by the Samoa Meteorology Division (SMD) of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has collated valuable climate-related information over the last 10 years. This information includes tropical cyclone (TC) outlooks, sea surface temperature outlooks, forest fire weather index bulletins, coral bleaching warning system information, El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) summaries, sea level predictions for Samoa, monthly climate data summaries, and drought warning bulletins. This data is available to the public through the SMD website.
This information is now available on-line, however awareness of its existence, use and uptake by the tourism sector for strategic planning and management is constrained by having access to an internet connection, especially for small scale operators.
The development of an initial suite of identified information products for the use of the local tourism operators, particularly related to seasonal forecasts of drier-than-normal conditions that impact drinking water availability and management was identified as important.
The development of these climate information products is a component of ‘Enhancing the Resilience of Tourism Reliant Communities to Climate Change Risks’ project, implemented by the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) with funding from the Global Environment Facility – Least Developing Countries Fund (GEF-LDCF) via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Two of these information products include the Samoa Climate Factsheet and the Samoa Weather and Climate Brochure.
The well-illustrated Samoa Climate factsheet highlights three key climate change factors for coastal areas: sea level rise (gradually rising), warming sea temperature (gradually warming up), and ocean acidification (gradually becoming more acidic). Beach fale operators now have access to critical information and knowledge (warming sea temperatures increases risk of tropical cyclones) helping them prepare for natural disasters. Knowledge on increasing acidification causing coral to die making reefs less attractive, is interesting especially for beach fale operators.
The Samoa Weather and Climate Brochure provides useful knowledge for beach operators related to prevailing winds, rainfall patterns, average monthly temperatures and the El Niño effects which cause unseasonably drier periods during the wet season. There is now an app available to download on mobile devices to access these information: www.samet.gov.ws.
A third product, a Water Conservation Alert, also identified as a priority information need through operator consultations, focuses on informing about the limited availability of water resources during times of drought. The development of an ‘alert’ product aims to inform operators of ensuing drought conditions, as well as simple but practical suggestions to minimize the impacts of water-cuts or shortages. The alert is a one pager tailored information bulletin based on current drought conditions and seasonally-forecasted rainfall. The product template is updated and distributed to tourism operators via email by Samoa Tourism Authority only when drought conditions are prevalent and the updated seasonal outlook indicates a high likelihood of continued dry conditions.
The availability of these tailored climate information products will help increase the adaptive capacity of tourist operators and empower them with the necessary knowledge to prepare them well for the impending impacts of climate change.
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) was commissioned by the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) to identify potential tourism tailored information from the climate early warning system (CLEWS) in Samoa.