Tourism and Climate Variability in San Juan-Puerto Rico (2000-2010).
Pablo A. Méndez-Lázaro, José Juan Terrasa-Soler, Christian Torres-Peña, Paula Guzmán-González, Sulaine Rodríguez, Mariangely Alemán, Tatiana Seguinot
The general behavior of the tourism sector in Puerto Rico, with its marked seasonality, hints at a close relationship between tourism activities and climate conditions. Even if weather condition is only one of many variables considered by travelling tourists, climate conditions weigh heavily in the majority of the decisions. The effect of climate variability on the environment could be manifested in warmer temperature, heat waves, and changes in the frequency of extreme weather events, such as severe storms and hurricanes, floods, and sea level rise. These conditions affect different sectors of society, among them public health and the economy. Therefore, this research has two main objectives: establish a Tourism Climate Index (TCI) for Puerto Rico, and analyze if occupancy rate in hotels corresponds to local weather conditions. Even though there are many other variables that could have positive or negative effects on tourism activities, results show a significant association between occupancy rate in Puerto Rico and climate indexes.
According to both TCI and the Mean Historical Climate for Tourism indexes, the most favorable months for tourism in Puerto Rico were February and March (winter), while the worst season was the end of August and the beginning of September (summer-fall). While winter represents dry conditions and lower temperatures in San Juan, it also represents the highest occupancy rate during the years examined. In summer and fall, data show high occupancy rates, yet climate conditions are not suitable; these months also correspond to the hurricane season. During this season, high relative occupancy rates respond to internal and local tourism patterns. It can therefore be assumed that until the climate-tourism relationship is well characterized there is little hope of fully understanding the potential economic effects, detrimental or beneficial, of global climate change, not only on tourism in Puerto Rico, but on different economic sectors as well.