The Impact of Climate Change on the Tourism-Based Local Economy of Nepal

By Rijal, Shiba P. | IUP Journal of International Relations, October 2013 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Climate Change on the Tourism-Based Local Economy of Nepal


Rijal, Shiba P., IUP Journal of International Relations


The study aims at analyzing the general scenario of climate change and its implications on tourism-based livelihood in Nepal. The study is based on secondary information and experience-based approach. Tourism, an emerging industry worldwide, is no doubt one of the largest industries of Nepal in terms of employment and sources of foreign exchange and revenue. It has made significant contribution to people's livelihoods, as many people, partially or fully, rely on this sector for their livelihoods. Tourism is highly climate-sensitive. The climatic conditions have been changing globally over the years. The South Asian region, including Nepal, is highly climate-sensitive and likely to emerge as one of the worst-hit regions of climate change around the world. An increase in temperature has clearly been observed and the trend of warming is higher in higher altitude regions of Nepal. Many changes have already been observed with increasing evidences of natural hazards in some areas and water stresses in others, with changes in frequency, amount and timing of precipitation and higher evaporation. These changes have significant implications on people's livelihood affecting tourism activities, agriculture and other activities. The climate-induced environmental changes will have indirect effects too; however, a negative impact in one part may constitute an opportunity elsewhere. Since mountain areas by nature are more vulnerable to climate change, the livelihood of communities in and around mountain tourist destinations in Nepal is likely to be profoundly affected by climate change.

Background and Context

Tourism is the largest, most dynamic and rapidly growing industry. It is also a primary source of foreign exchange earnings in 46 out of 50 world's least developed countries.1 Tourism is credited with a significant contribution to direct employment in the service sector related to hospitality and travel, and indirect employment in related sectors. It can also have a multiplier effect on the economy and can create backward and forward linkages in the production system.2 Tourism, an emerging industry worldwide, is no doubt, one of the largest industries in Nepal in terms of employment, sources of foreign exchange and revenue. It has remained an integral part of Nepalese economy for many years and has significantly contributed to the national economy. A significant proportion of people in Nepal partially or fully rely on this sector for their livelihood.

Tourism is highly climate-sensitive, as climate determines the suitability of locations for a wide range of tourist activities. In fact, tourism and climate change are considered as 'a two-way street', as climate influences tourism and vice versa.3 The climate has an important influence on tourism-operating costs, such as heating- cooling, snowmaking, irrigation, food and water supply, and insurance costs. Given its close connection to the environment and climate, tourism is considered to be highly climate-sensitive. However, the role of other factors in tourism development cannot be underestimated, since decision making and development processes require multi- stakeholder involvement in a partnership that determines the success of tourism. Policies, rules and regulations, and strategies can have direct and indirect implications on tourism development. Concerns regarding climate change and possible impacts on livelihoods have been rising throughout the world. International summits/forums, governmental and non-governmental organizations, including local residents, have been paying attention to climate change with a view to reducing its negative impacts on environment and livelihoods.

Impacts of changing climate are increasingly evident around the world. Pristine landscapes are increasingly challenged by environmental degradation, which is exacerbated by climate change. The impact of climate change on different aspects of tourism and livelihoods are reported by Beniston and Fox4, Mendelsohn and Dinar5, and Soz. …

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