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Tourism and climate conditions in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2000-2010

Pablo A. Méndez-Lázaro, University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus. Faculty of Biosocial Sciences and Graduate School of Public Health. Department of Environmental Health
Jose J. Terrasa-Soler, Planning and Development Office, Puerto Rico Tourism Company
Christian Torres-Peña, Planning and Development Office, Puerto Rico Tourism Company
Paula Guzmán-González, University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health
Sulaine Rodríguez, University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health
Mariangely Alemán, University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, Graduate School of Public Health, Department of Environmental Health
Tatiana Seguinot, University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus, Graduate School of Public Health

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06380-190211

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Abstract

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, our research has two main objectives: to establish a tourism climate index (TCI) for Puerto Rico and to analyze if occupancy rates in hotels correspond to local weather conditions. Even though there are many other variables that could have positive or negative effects on tourism activities, results showed 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), whereas the worst season was the end of August and the beginning of September (summer-fall). Although 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 showed high occupancy rates, yet climate conditions were not suitable; these months also correspond to the hurricane season. During this season, high relative occupancy rates responded 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 other economic sectors as well.

Key words

climate variability; Puerto Rico; tourism; tourism climate index
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