Thailand coastal tourism and climate change impacts: why do urban planners and the tourism authority need to pay more attention?
Thailand’s tourism industry continues to be an important contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), accounting for 17% of GDP in the first half of 2019 according to the Bank of Thailand. It is the main source of income for millions of people but the increasing threats of climate change – its current impacts, projected impacts and natural hazards – could create tremendous losses to the tourism sector as well as damage human settlements.
A large portion of tourist destinations are located on the coastline, many of them beaches which are the preferred holiday spots of tourists from across the world. The loss of beach areas from sea-level rise is a major concern. In the human settlement sectors, meanwhile, flooding and coastal erosion damage such infrastructure as roads and buildings.
As a basis for future country planning, Klaeng district in Rayong province and Sattahip district in Chonburi province have been selected for research by the Departments of Public Works and Town & Country Planning (DPT) due to their significance and risks. Sattahip is considered a strategic location for logistics, economic development as well as high tourism value while Klaeng is an offshore tourist destination with a strong economic infrastructure.
The Risk of Sea-Level Rise on Thailand’s Coastal Tourism
The research into both areas was conducted by international experts and drew on official data from the best available source, namely a respected elevation model by Climate Central (www.climatecentral.org). The location data of the Klaeng area were provided courtesy of DPT with resorts and hotel locations from the University of Waterloo and satellite base images from ESRI, a well-known GIS information provider and its partner organisation.
The analysis draws on 2 climate scenarios. The analysis of Klaeng district also covers the Sattahip area. The results show clear impacts for buildings in both areas. It reveals that by 2100, around 10% of buildings in Sattahip would be affected by the impacts of sea-level rise, while almost 30% of buildings in Klaeng would be affected in the same time frame.
DPT is aware of the situation and joined with GIZ in hosting a webinar on 14th July 2020 on sea-level rise and to present the results from the studies. Aiming to create awareness of the issue and build capacity in steps and methodology for assessing risks of sea-level rise, the webinar was attended by 180 town planners from across the country. It was highly relevant and beneficial to those responsible for the coastal areas as it served to highlight the already existing issues of coastal erosion thus fitting well within their mandate and responsibilities while bringing in the context of climate change.
What lies ahead?
Enhancing understanding of climate change-induced sea-level rise was at the core of this workshop. The analysis and the important information provided will equip town planners to appropriately respond and best prepare the country for the changes to come. Additionally, the potential response from DPT will also strengthen the co-benefits between spatial planning and tourism sectors in the coastal areas as well as increase resilience and sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities.