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Tourism, culture and climate change in Aotearoa

Just how prepared is Aotearoa’s highly valuable tourism sector for the coming impacts of climate change?

Research recently concluded in the Deep South Challenge: Changing with our Climate suggests that the answer is similar to most sectors of New Zealand society: not nearly prepared enough.

And yet, some aspects of tourism – its emphasis on place and stories of place, its connection to values such as manaakitanga, whanautanga and kaitiakitanga – provide tourism operators with a ready-made planning guide, as they consider how to climate-proof their operations.

The research team, led by Professors Priya Kurian and Debashish Munshi (University of Waikato), present their findings in a new research report, Centring Culture in Public Engagement on Climate Adaptation: Re-shaping the Future of the NZ Tourism Sector.

"The tourism sector," says Debashish Munshi, "is becoming increasingly aware of sustainability issues and is actively working towards achieving sustainability goals but, as the report points out, the sector faces huge constraints in actively preparing to adapt to climate change."

The report makes a series of recommendations for tourism operators and sector bodies, as well as for local and central government.

The report finds that there is a critical need to increase operators’ awareness of relevant climate information, including about changing temperatures, extreme weather, floods and droughts, and the impact these are having on marine, coastal, river and alpine environments. Operators need better information about local impacts on flora and fauna, pest and disease profiles, and the relationship of climate impacts to air travel (for example, about the future reluctance or inability of tourists to travel to New Zealand).

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