Botswana tourism operators’ and policy makers’ perceptions and responses to the tourism-climate change nexus: vulnerabilities and adaptations to climate change in Maun and Tshabong areas
Nature-based tourism is dependent on natural capital. However, this natural capital is under threat due to global climate change. The effects of climate change are predicted to result in changes in the quantity and quality of natural capital leading to reduction in ecosystem integrity and resilience as well as loss of biodiversity. This situation makes nature-based tourism highly vulnerable since it relies largely on climate and weather to maintain its natural resource base. Subsequently, nature-based tourism is arguably susceptible to global climate change because of its heavy reliance on the environment in many destinations for their attractiveness. This requires adaptation measures to be put in place by affected parties in order to cope with or reduce the effects of climate change on the tourism business as well as to safeguard the industry’s contribution to the growth of national economies.
This study aims to determine the possible impacts of climate change on Botswana’s tourism industry as perceived by operators and policy makers with a view to identifying adaptation needs. Two ecologically distinct areas were targeted as case studies; these were Tshabong in dry land Kgalagadi south and Maun in the wetlands of northwest Botswana. The tourism industry was also screened for vulnerability using the Okavango Delta as a case study in order to determine appropriate adaptation needs. Empirical data on the operators and policy makers’ perceptions and reaction to climate change were sourced through in-depth interviews of purposefully selected interviewees. The research material were analysed qualitatively using a simplified codes-to-theory/assertion model for qualitative inquiry. Given that the effects of climate change, like those of other global environment change constituents, take time to manifest themselves physically in a manner that is clear to observers, the results show a nonchalant stance to climate change by both tourism operators and policy makers. The results indicate that the tourism operators of Maun and Tshabong areas perceived the impacts of climate change somewhat differently given the particular spatialities of the two areas and the type of tourism activities that the two areas offered. In addition, the tourism operators in both areas were not proactive in institutionalising adaptations against the potential impacts of climate change because they saw the consequences affecting their operations only in the future. The policy makers also decried limited information and uncertainty as constraints to appropriate responses to climate change. In the end the thesis advocates that appropriate adaptation strategies need to be devised while the search for more knowledge and data in the field continues.
Even though research on tourism-climate change nexus has evolved impressively especially in recent years, it has been mainly concentrated on winter tourism in the Global North. Quite recently, however, the tourism-climate change research has been increasing gradually in the Global South and more especially southern Africa. This research therefore contributes to an improved understanding of the tourism-climate change nexus in the Global South.