Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Philip van Beynen, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Fenda Akiwumi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kamal Alsharif, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kenyon Lindeman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christian Wells, Ph.D.


sea level rise, storm surge, adaptation planning, resilience, mixed methods


The research literature suggests Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are vulnerable to climate change. Tourism in SIDS is sensitive to climate variations and dependence of the sector on natural resources (beaches, coral reefs) adds to their vulnerability. The purpose of this study is to assess climate impacts and adaptation within the tourism sector of a SIDS – The Bahamas that relies on tourism and faces climate vulnerabilities, as do other SIDS. Given the importance of tourism to their sustainable development by supporting economic growth and employment, this study identifies timely risks and adaptation planning for a tourism-based SIDS economy in the face of climate change. Three manuscripts in this dissertation examine impacts of climate change on tourism, assess businesses’ adaptive capacity, and evaluate climate adaptation in current plans and policies regarding tourism with a goal of evaluating the vulnerability and resilience of tourism-dependent SIDS.

A social-ecological systems (SES) approach is crucial for coastal tourism where ecosystems are tied to socio-economic development, thereby, requiring an integrated approach. This mixed-method research, suited for SES, utilizes quantitative and qualitative methods such as geospatial mapping, statistical analysis, surveys, interviews, and policy analysis. Findings estimated many tourism properties lie in the storm-surge zone and their extent increases with 1m SLR causing potential losses in occupancy and revenue for the Bahamas. Considering damages from Hurricanes Matthew, Dorian, this fits within climate change literature that the damage potential of such hurricanes will be more consequential in the future. Survey findings revealed a disconnect between perceived impacts on their businesses, and existing adaptation measures limited to hurricanes and lacking priority for long-term climatic changes. Finally, a look into current adaptation planning through interviews revealed that there are currently no explicit policies for tourism and climate change in the Bahamas. While key policy actors demonstrated a good understanding of climate change and its impacts, policy implementation is hindered due to funding and human capacity.

Through focusing on country-level analysis in SIDS, an underrepresented group treated homogeneously in literature, the study exemplifies its contribution to research in SIDS geographies. The subfield of environmental policy further benefits from adaptation planning to create a concerted response. Findings are vital for developing adaptation actions and policies for sensitive tourism-dependent economies.