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Island-specific preferences of tourists for environmental features: implications of climate change for tourism-dependent states
Climate change may affect important environmental components of holiday destinations, which might have repercussions for tourism-dependent economies. This study documents the importance of environmental attributes in determining the choice and holiday enjoyment of tourists visiting Bonaire and Barbados, two Caribbean islands with markedly different tourism markets and infrastructure. Three hundred and sixteen and 338 participants from Bonaire and Barbados, respectively, completed standardized questionnaires. Warm temperatures, clear waters and low health risks were the most important environmental features determining holiday destination choice. However, tourists in Bonaire thereafter prioritized marine wildlife attributes (i.e. coral and fish diversity and abundance) over other environmental features, whereas tourists in Barbados exhibited stronger preferences for terrestrial features, particularly beach characteristics. The willingness of tourists to revisit these islands was strongly linked to the state of the preferred environmental attributes. More than 80% of tourists in Bonaire and Barbados would be unwilling to return for the same holiday price in the event, respectively, of coral bleaching as a result of elevated sea surface temperatures and reduced beach area as a result of sea level rise. Climate change might have a significant impact on Caribbean tourism economy through alteration of environmental features important to destination selection. Island-specific management strategies, such as focusing resources on the protection of key marine or terrestrial features, may provide a means of reducing the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.