Spencer, N., Strobl, E., & Campbell, A. (2022). Sea level rise under climate change: Implications for beach tourism in the Caribbean. Ocean & Coastal Management, 225, 106207.
Sandy beaches play a significant role in the Caribbean tourism industry, which markets an attractive sea–sand–sun product, but are potentially threatened by climate-change-induced sea level rise. In this study, we quantify the impact of climate change on sandy beaches and beach tourism losses in the region. To this end, we assemble exhaustive data on sandy shorelines, beach erosion and hotel rooms for 30 Caribbean islands. Under a low CO2 emissions pathway (RCP4.5), we predict an average 53% loss in sandy beaches, resulting in a 30% hotel room loss and thus a 38% tourism revenue decrease by 2100. In contrast, under a higher emissions path (RCP8.5), sea level rise will cause 59% and 39% reductions in beach and hotel rooms, respectively. Sea level rise will also cause a 47% reduction in direct tourism revenue which is only one aspect of beach erosion costs. Notably, however, there is considerable impact heterogeneity across islands. We also estimate that beach nourishment may be an affordable adaptation strategy, constituting 0.87% and 1.1% of annual tourism revenue. Our results underscore the need for the development coastal management practices to protect the future of Caribbean economies and their tourism sectors.