PROJECT: Identifying opportunities for climate compatible tourism development in Belize
Mangroves, coral reefs and seagrass beds are essential natural systems in Belize, but they have experienced serious decline in the last several decades. Climate change will place an additional stress on the already fragile coastal ecosystems, with potentially severe consequences for the developing countries reliant on their natural resources for economic growth. In Belize, a country renowned for its spectacular coastal zones, coral reefs, beaches and mangroves are not only the cornerstone of the tourism industry, but also a major source of food security, employment and income. In fact, mangroves and coral reefs provide between US$231- $347 million each year to the Belizean economy.
Belize’s economic growth is inherently linked to the expansion of the tourism industry, yet the activities of this industry often result in habitat degradation, undermining the very ecosystems on which it depends. Thus, a major question faced by decision-makers is how to sustain tourism development whilst maintaining healthy, functional ecosystems that support the tourism industry, livelihoods, and provide resilience to climate change.
This project, led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in partnership with local Government agencies and research institutions aimed to resolve this question. Its goal was to assess the vulnerability of Belize’s tourism system to climate change, including the coastal ecosystems on which it depends, and examine how current policies serve to facilitate or hinder climate-compatible tourism development, based on healthy coastal ecosystems.
Employing a three-pronged approach, this project has:
- identified coastal tourism areas in Belize most vulnerable to climate change that should be prioritized for adaptation actions
- identified existing policies that can support or inhibit climate-compatible tourism development
- identified and prioritized adaptation strategies for integration into policy.
Major project outputs include journal articles, policy briefings, community and tourism stakeholders meetings and a project website that has been used to disseminate the findings of this work to a range of audiences.
So far, this project has informed efforts by WWF, the International Development Bank (IDB), The Natural Capital Project, geared towards the execution of a pilot initiative on valuation of coastal adaptation options in Belize. Informal exchange of project information at local level and formal community meetings to disseminate results to vulnerable coastal areas occurred throughout the project.
- A brochure and poster summarizing the project and discussions around climate compatible tourism in Belize.
- A report discussing the results of a national analysis that looked at identifying coastal tourism areas that are most and least vulnerable to the impacts of climate change in Belize.
- A policy brief on analysing the vulnerability of Belize’s coastal tourism development sector to climate change.
- A policy brief analysing relevant policy instruments to determine whether they support or undermine climate-compatible tourism development.
- A policy brief, technical report and a presentation discussing climate compatible tourism adaptation options for Belize.
- A journal article on Vulnerability analysis and climate adaptation opportunities for Belize’s coastal tourism system.
Image copyright: Sebastian Kratzer