Coastal and maritime tourism

From the Soclimpact project perspective, climate change events affect tourism through both supply-side and demand-side. Broken infrastructures due to sea level rise and changes in wave characteristics, degraded coastal environments or the costs of work needed to avoid them, affect the way (costs) in which tourism is produced (supply-side). Loss beach areas, loss of attractiveness or diminished climate comfort affect the expenditure and choice of tourists concerning destinations (demand-side). Tourism as a demand-side phenomenon refers to the activities of visitors and their role in the acquisition of goods and services. It can also be viewed from the supply side, and tourism will then be understood as the set of productive activities that cater mainly to visitors.

Climate is a key resource for tourism and has diverse functions in tourism (Day, Chin, Sydnor & Cherkauer, 2013). It can be considered

  1. a geophysical resource (Martín, 1999) with high capacity to generate competitive advantages for the destinations (Ritchie & Crouch, 2003),
  2. an intangible component of the attractiveness and the image of destinations (Moreno, Beerli & De León, 2012), and the set of experiences they offer (Day et al., 2013), and
  3. a resource frequently used for tourism promotion (De Freitas et al., 2008; Hamilton & Lau, 2005).

Also, tourism activity is highly sensitive to the impacts of climate change. That is why the analysis of the relationships between climate and tourism has been presented as an important research challenge in recent years (Denstadli & Jacobsen, 2014). Thus, research suggests that climate change, as well as the perceptions of climate comfort risk of tourists (Gössling et al., 2006), are modifying the preferences of tourism demand (Araña, León, Moreno-Gil & Zubiaurre, 2013). Similarly, these perceptions can generate important changes in the geography of tourism at a global level (Yu, Schwartz & Walsh, 2009). The available studies do not allow for a full understanding of these changes and the climate and tourism policies needed to deal with them (Gössling et al., 2006; Scott, Hall & Stefan, 2012).

Adopting an efficient and successful strategy of adaptation and mitigation requires an accurate identification and valuation of the climate change impacts on tourism and of the corresponding necessary policies. As tourism and climate are related in many ways, it is crucial to develop a common methodological framework to evaluate climate shocks and policy impacts.

Hazard Biophysical and physical impacts Socio-economic impacts
Air temperature rise
  • Changes in plant-wildlife-insect populations and distribution
  • Larger range of infectious disease
  • Altered seasonality
  • Heat stress for tourists affecting comfort, demand and receipts
  • Increased cooling costs for tourism facilities
  • Stress on the electric supply network
Sea temperature rise
  • Increased coral bleaching with degradation of biodiversity and sea landscapes
  • Seagrass deterioration with loss of ecosystem services, coastal protection and sediment retention.
  • · Arrival of exotic species and impoverishing of local biodiversity
  • Loss of attractive in sea landscape-based destinations (dive, snorkel, bottom-glass ships, …) leading to negatively affected demand and receipts.


Sea level rise  

  • Increased coastal erosion
  • Salinization of coastal underground water reservoirs.
  • Loss of beach area negatively influencing tourism demand.
  • Higher maintenance costs for tourist facilities to protect and maintain waterfronts
Increased droughts due to reduced rainfall and increased evapotranspiration
  • Degradation of natural habitats
  • Increased erosion and desertification
  • Increased wildfires
  • Lesser water availability for human uses
  • Water shortage and overpricing
  • Landscape degradation and sightseeing devaluation affecting demand
  • Increased costs of operations in tourism facilities caused by loss of local food supply for tourism
Increased frequency and intensity of extreme climate events (storms, flooding)
  • Changes in coastal sedimentary processes
  • Beaches degradation due to inland waste and materials depositions
  • ·Business interruption costs
  • Demand decrease due to risks
  • Damages to tourism facilities, historic assets, beaches and infrastructure increasing costs of maintenance and insurance


“Coastal and maritime tourism is the largest maritime activity in Europe and employs almost 3.2 million people, generating a total of €183 billion in gross value added. It represents over one third of the maritime economy ».
In islands, tourism is usually the main economic activity, not only in Europe but also around the world (Baldacchino, 2016). According to data from the World Bank (2014), 9 of the 10 countries most dependent on tourism in terms of tourism income as a percentage of GDP are islands.


At the 1991 UNWTO Ottawa Conference on Travel and Tourism Statistics, tourism was defined as the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.

This demand side definition basically relays on the fact that tourism is what tourists do. The REGULATION (EU) No 692/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 6 July 2011 concerning European statistics on tourism, and repealing the Council Directive 95/57/EC also adopts a definition inspired in the Ottawa’s one: “the activity of visitors taking a trip to a main destination outside their usual environment, for less than a year, for any main purpose, including business, leisure or other personal purpose, other than to be employed by a resident entity in the place visited.”

The EU’s tourism statistical system relays on three methodological pillars such as the ¨International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics (IRTS 2008) ¨, the ¨Statistics and Tourism Satellite Account Programme (TSA 2008) ¨ and the ¨Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE Rev.2–2008)¨. In this regard, the Regulation 692/2011 updates some definitions to properly adapt the European statistical systems to the changes experimented by tourism agents and relations, and to continue providing a harmonized tourism statistics framework for the whole EU.

More recently, EUROSTAT has come to unify different sources of prescriptions for tourism statistical in a Methodological manual for tourism statistics. V3.1. (2014), that will be used as a reference framework for delimitating tourism sector in Soclimpact Project. It provides a rigorous definition of territorial (NUTs), sectoral (NACE Rev.2) and tourism performance concepts (based on IRTS 2008 and TSA 2008) that allow for an accurate delimitation of tourism activity either for analyzing climate change impacts or evaluating those impacts on both the tourism system and the economic systems. IRTS 2008 provides a comprehensive methodological framework for collection and compilation of tourism statistics in all countries irrespective of the level of development of their statistical systems.

Based on these recommendations, countries are encouraged to develop their tourism statistics according to the following guidelines:

  • Estimates should be based on reliable statistical sources, where visitors and producers of goods and services are both observed;
  • Observations should be statistical in character and produced on an ongoing basis, combining the compilation of benchmark estimations with the use of indicators to enhance the usefulness of the results;
  • Data should be comparable over time within the same country, comparable among countries and comparable with other fields of economic activities;
  • Data should be internally consistent and presented within macroeconomic frameworks recognized at the international level.

Soclimpact assumptions

Finally, for Soclimpact purposes, it is assumed that the whole tourism activity of the islands is assigned to the coastal and maritime tourism sector (¨hereafter referred as tourism¨). It is fully justified because the vast majority of the tourist activities in islands are based on the infrastructures and the natural attractions that are distributed throughout the coastal and littoral areas, and all tourists visiting inland areas enjoy their coastal environments during the visit (going to beaches, consuming coastal-based food and/or undertaking outdoor activities). It is relatively easy to demonstrate that in almost all cases, the iconography and tourism image of the islands are related to the sea and the coastal resources (Bramwell, 2004; Duke, 2016), and that the main tourist motivations pull factors to visit islands rely on sea-based assets (Cameron & Gatewood, 2008).

Another reason is the simplification that this methodological decision implies for the economic valuation and modelling of climate shocks. A different assumption would imply first to estimate which part of the tourism activity that would be affected for changes in environmental services; and then assess the effects of those changes on the total tourism industry.

Under Soclimpact, “Tourism as a demand-side phenomenon refers to the activities of visitors and their role in the acquisition of goods and services, usually related to coastal resources. It can also be viewed from the supply side, and Tourism will then be understood as the set of productive activities catered mainly to visitors during the stay.”