Preparing for Climate Change in the Red Sea: Recognising Early Impacts Through Perceptions of Dive Tourists and Dive Operators in Egypt
Tourism generates important economic activity globally and is a major source of foreign exchange income in many countries. Yet, climate change has the potential to permanently alter the attraction and value of many tourism destinations and substantially impact the income streams and social benefits derived from tourism. These impacts can be minimised if tourism operators, sectors and tourism-dependent communities understand their vulnerability to climate change, and take steps to adapt to predicted changes. Some of the more immediate and manageable changes are likely to result from changes in awareness and attitudes among tourists, and these factors are major drivers of destination and activity choice. Here we test for early indications of these potential climate change impacts among Red Sea tourists and tourism operators as a first step to developing climate adaptation strategies for this sector. Our aims were to:
- identify whether climate change awareness and attitudes were currently evident in dive tourists visiting the Red Sea region,
- assess industry awareness of client attitudes, and
- evaluate the implications of these results for development of climate adaptation strategies for the Red Sea tourism industry in Egypt.
We interviewed 150 dive tourists in the Egyptian Red Sea for their awareness and attitudes towards climate change and coral reef condition, and 35 dive operators for their opinion of tourist attitudes and awareness. Our data suggest that changes in awareness and attitudes are already apparent in the Egyptian Red Sea tourism sector. Dive tourists are strongly aware of environmental issues and climate change, and place significant importance on environmental quality and the sustainability profile of tourism operators in making holiday decisions. In contrast, dive operators generally ascribe only a moderate level of environmental awareness to their clients and believe them to be relatively insensitive to ecosystem health and the sustainability profile of operators. This ‘perception gap’ between clients and operators increases the risk that dive operators in the Egyptian Red Sea will experience early impacts of climate change. This study reveals the nature of initial awareness and attitudinal change among tourists visiting the Red Sea, and lays the foundations for early adaptation by the Red Sea tourism industry.