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Climate Change Impacts to Hawai‘i’s Tourism Industry and Coastal Communities: Benchmark Analysis and Outreach

  • Coast of Waikiki Beach


Goals of the Project


•  Investigate the current and potential impacts of climate change on Hawai‘i tourism industry and coastal communities;

•  Identify opportunities for adaptation and sustainable growth of tourism industry;

•  Inform Hawai‘i’s decision-makers in the public and private sector.


Climate Change in Hawai‘i


Climate change poses a serious threat to Hawai‘i’s natural resources, public health, and economic well-being.  Sea level rise threatens resources and infrastructure, including businesses, hotels, residents, utilities, and transportation assets.  Ocean acidification will degrade Hawai‘i’s coral reefs and other marine resources.  Freshwater availability will be threatened by salt-water intrusion and changes in temperature and rainfall. Global climate change may also increase the likelihood and severity of storms and extreme weather events.

Options are available to mitigate some of the extreme effects of global climate change and to adapt to new conditions.  As Hawai‘i plans for a new climatic future, decision makers and the public must be fully informed with the most reliable scientific information on the potential risks and available options.  


The Importance of Tourism


Hawai‘i’s economy relies heavily on tourism, which represents its primary source of income now and in the future.  Since 1959, the visitor sector has grown to become the economic cornerstone of the State.  Today, it is an integral part of Hawai‘i’s communities and the chief generator of employment including direct (travel-industry related) and indirect (commercial business) employment.  The visitor industry extends through all sectors of Hawai‘i’s economy.  Adapting the current tourism infrastructure to the present and projected climate change and to find a strategy for a sustainable growth of the visitor industry is essential.


CSCT Research


The CSCT team has developed a methodology to derive the impact of global climate change on Hawai‘i tourism.  Current research includes the identification of Hawai‘i most vulnerable resources and locations along with an assessment of the economic value of tourism resources.  The CSCT is also developing targeted strategies of adaptation of the various touristic sectors to environmental changes.


Outcomes and Products


Based on its research results, the CSCT will prepare a report for the Hawaii Tourism Authority titled “Climate Change and the Hospitality Industry: People, Place, Culture and the Hawai‘i Experience”. The aim of the report is to inform legislators, private industries and residents on the consequences that global climate change will have on Hawai‘i tourism industry. The report will also provide recommendations on viable adaptation measures to address near and long-term effects of climate change.


Project participants


  • Dolan Eversole - Hawai'i Sea Grant, NOAA Coastal Storms Program Pacific Islands (
  • Denise E. Konan - UH Department of Economics (
  • Luisa Cristini - UH Center for Sustainable Coastal Tourism (
  • Linda J. Cox - UH Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management (


This project is funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Download the fact-sheet of the project here.


Photo by Torben Stichel