ON THE LEFT: A sitting duck for climate change
OISTINS IS AT RISK from an increase in climate-related events, as it supports small (vendors), medium (small hotels) and large-scale (large hotels) tourism-related activities, lies low in a basin and its physical resources and infrastructure, including tourism facilities, fish market and fishing boats, are located very close to the coast.
Furthermore, Barbados’ Ministry of Social Care and Constituency Empowerment identified the community as one the island’s most vulnerable to climate-related events as it is located by the sea and has a lot of people, including tourists, congregating in large numbers at the Bay Garden vendors area on the weekends.
Christ Church has been found to have medium social vulnerability to natural hazards, though the two neighbourhoods across from the vendors area and the fish market can be considered highly vulnerable, due to a lower income status, high housing density and a high percentage of older and retired persons.
Oistins also has physical infrastructure that is vulnerable to climate-related events, including ships that berth off its shore with aviation fuel and a fuel oil storage facility.
Barbados is a small island developing state, considered to be more developed and have a higher adaptive capacity than many of its neighbouring islands in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, the island remains highly exposed and sensitive to many future impacts of climate change. As the Ministry of Tourism plans to promote community tourism to reduce poverty and expand the island’s tourism product, an understanding of destination-scale vulnerabilities remains important.
The community of Oistins provides a unique case-study to assess the climate change vulnerability of a tourism destination, including tourism-related livelihoods connected to small and medium sized enterprises.
The community’s tourism sector is experiencing indirect impacts of climate change, faces economic sensitivity to any climate-related events and demonstrates some capacity to adapt to these events.
In particular, the community understands the importance of its coral reefs in maintaining biological diversity and its coastal ecosystem and continues to monitor their health, even though they are not key tourist attractions in Oistins.
Furthermore, the community could experience greater sensitivity to climate change due to its high share of tourist arrivals, though its high ranking of attractions by tourists, could also encourage further resources to develop the industry and build its adaptive capacity.
In addition, the community’s beaches are considered key coastal features in Barbados and are monitored regularly, enabling greater capacity to adapt to changing climate-related events.
Lastly, initiatives to plan for emergencies and map risks exist within the community, the tourism sector and the island as a whole, but at different spatial scales and lack coordination at the tourism destination community level.
Communities such as Oistins on the South Coast will face dwindling natural features, but could continue to market their ‘cultural’ and ‘community’ tourism attractions, as also suggested by local and national level stakeholders.
Even though focusing on higher end tourism on the west coast would lead to a higher economic yield per tourist and counteract some of the projected shortfalls in accommodation, Barbados and its communities, such as Oistins, will still need to diversify their economies beyond tourism to avoid significant adverse effects on employment.
Appropriate policy tools, ample financing and enhanced implementation, monitoring and enforcement capacity of Barbados regulatory agencies will be required to foster any adaptation measures.
Dr Zainab Moghal is an adaptation planner at Moghal Environmental Services in Ontario Canada. She did a case study of Oistins.