The Department of Tourism (DoT), Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD, Vanuatu Skills Partnership (VSP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) are joining forces to identify solutions to the ongoing impacts of climate variability and change on tourism businesses here in Vanuatu.

One way to achieve this is by obtaining reliable and up-to-date climate data and convert into meaningful and useful information’s that can be communicated to tourism operators for decision making. This important undertaking will be jointly funded by the GCF Vanuatu Klaemet Blong Redy, Adapt mo Protekt (Van-KIRAP) project, DoT and the Vanuatu Skills Partnership.

“Climate variability and change, including other natural disasters (e.g., volcanic eruptions, cyclones and COVID-19), have always been a concern to tourism operators,” said Jerry Spooner, Director of Tourism.

“While climate change is a long-term global issue that requires global action, there are options and ways that tourism operators could use to mitigate, minimize and adapt to the impact of climate change. The Van-KIRAP project is providing an opportunity to establish a case study with the aim of demonstrating how climate information could be used to inform sector decision-making, policy and planning to build a resilience tourism industry” Spooner added.

The tourism-climate case study will focus on two selected locations. These locations are (1). Port Resolution, Southeast Tanna, TAFEA Province, (2). Hogs Harbour, Southeast Santo, SANMA Province.

“About 20 tourism operators, 10 in each site will work with the project to collect, consolidate, analyse and communicate climate information services to strengthen tourism operations and adapt to climate impacts” said Moses Bani, Van-KIRAP Tourism Sector Coordinator.

According to DoT, there has been an increase in the number of tourism products and activities in the last 10 years at these locations and several of these tourism areas have already been experiencing climate related impacts. “The selected sites for the case study are close to existing VMGD observational equipment or sites allocated for installation of new equipment that will be used for collecting climate data and weather information,” said Moirah Matou, Van-KIRAP Project Manager. The sites have also been identified with the following ‘hotspot’ features:

• Low lying areas subject to flooding and storm surge,

• Close to the coast where coastal inundation and erosion occurs,

• Exposed to tropical cyclone activity nearly every year,

• El Niňo (drought) prone areas,

• Heatwaves and associated human health concerns cause by high temperatures,

• Fringing reefs that are vulnerable to coral bleaching & physical damage from storms/cyclones.

• Flooding of tourist sites

On the 2-5th May 2021, the project team and government officials will be in Luganville Santo to provide climate information training to more than 30 people targeting provincial tourism officers, tourism operators in SANMA. Awareness and information sessions with tourism operators will deliver information on CIS, and the benefits of utilising CIS in day-to-day and longer-term decision making in order to increase the uptake of CIS. Sessions with target tourism operators at the Case study sites will discuss the impacts of climate variability and change on each type of business and identify actions to help operators prepare for and respond to the impacts of extreme events, such as:

• Severe storms and tropical cyclones, such as TC Pam

• El Nino/drought (causing water shortages)

• La Nina condition/flooding

• Storm surge and coastal inundation

• Reef degradation through physical damage or coral bleaching

• High temperatures and heat waves

Based on inputs from tourism operators and information provided through the Van KIRAP Project, the Department of Tourism will develop guidelines (also known as ‘Standard Operating Procedures’) for tourism operators to be able to identify and implement selected measures to minimise the impacts of climate variability and change” Bani added.

“This case study will investigate the different types of extreme climate variability and conditions that affect tourism operators and recommend actions or guidelines for use by operators. Whilst these are short term measures to address climate variability, the long-term solution is to develop sectoral plans and standard operating procedures to guide the Department of Tourism and its stakeholders to address climate change issues” said Sunny Seuseu, Climate Scientist SPREP. “Tourism authorities and operators will provide direct inputs into the development of guidelines and tools and be the direct recipients of the end-product” Seuseu added.

The Van-KIRAP project, funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is building the technical capacity in Vanuatu to harness and manage climate data; develop and deliver practical CIS tools and resources; support enhanced coordination and dissemination of tailored information; enhance CIS information and technology infrastructure; and support the application of relevant CIS through real-time development processes, for more resilient outcomes.

The project has a focus on addressing information gaps and priority needs of target beneficiaries at national, provincial and local community levels across the five priority sectors — tourism; agriculture; infrastructure; water and fisheries.

The project will deliver:

• Enhanced capacity and capability of national development agents, to understand, access and apply CIS

• Enhanced CIS communications, knowledge products, tools, and resources for practical application to development processes.

• Enhanced reliability, functionality, utility and timeliness of underlying CIS delivery systems and data collection infrastructure.

• Enhanced scientific data, information and knowledge of past, present and future climate to facilitate innovated and resilient development.

The ongoing partnership and commitments between VMGD, DoT, Ministry of Trades, Tourism, Cooperative and Ni Vanuatu Business, VSP, Tourism Operators and other stakeholders is of paramount importance for the long-term sustainability and positive growth of the tourism industry.

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