Climate change is gaining attention as a significant strategic issue for local regions that rely on tourism as a principal economic activity. Research seeks to characterise the vulnerability of tourism to the likely impacts of future climate change. Most of this research has used scenarios or ‘end-point’ approaches (Kelly and Adger, 2000). Whilst useful, there are few demonstrable case studies that complement such work with a ‘start-point’ approach that seeks to explore contextual vulnerability (O'Brien et al., 2007). This broader approach is inclusive of climate change as a process operating within a biophysical system and allows recognition of the complex interactions that occur in the coupled human environmental system. An interdisciplinary and problem-oriented approach was employed in Alpine Shire, in northeast Victoria Australia, to characterise the tourism sector’s contextual vulnerability and implications for adaptation to climate change. Using a policy sciences approach, the objective was to identify factors that influence existing vulnerabilities and that might consequently act as barriers to effective adaptation. Analyses of preliminary results, suggested that climate change is just one of many threats that compete for the resources, strategy and direction of local tourism management bodies. Many complex and interacting factors define the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of the Shire’s tourism sector to the challenges of climate change. Further analysis of trends looked at possible reasons for these conditions, consequently exploring options for maximising resilience and adaptive capacity.
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