International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 37–45 | Cite as

Bioclimatic comfort and the thermal perceptions and preferences of beach tourists

  • Michelle RuttyEmail author
  • Daniel Scott
Original Paper


The largest market segment of global tourism is coastal tourism, which is strongly dependent on the destination's thermal climate. To date, outdoor bioclimatic comfort assessments have focused exclusively on local residents in open urban areas, making it unclear whether outdoor comfort is perceived differently in non-urban environments or by non-residents (i.e. tourists) with different weather expectations and activity patterns. This study provides needed insight into the perception of outdoor microclimatic conditions in a coastal environment while simultaneously identifying important psychological factors that differentiate tourists from everyday users of urban spaces. Concurrent micrometeorological measurements were taken on several Caribbean beaches in the islands of Barbados, Saint Lucia and Tobago, while a questionnaire survey was used to examine the thermal comfort of subjects (n = 472). Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) conditions of 32 to 39 °C were recorded, which were perceived as being “slightly warm” or “warm” by respondents. Most beach users (48 to 77 %) would not change the thermal conditions, with some (4 to 15 %) preferring even warmer conditions. Even at UTCI of 39 °C, 62 % of respondents voted for no change to current thermal conditions, with an additional 10 % stating that they would like to feel even warmer. These results indicate that beach users’ thermal preferences are up to 18 °C warmer than the preferred thermal conditions identified in existing outdoor bioclimatic studies from urban park settings. This indicates that beach users hold fundamentally different comfort perceptions and preferences compared to people using urban spaces. Statistically significant differences (p ≤ .05) were also recorded for demographic groups (gender, age) and place of origin (climatic region).


Thermal comfort Thermal perception Coastal tourism Universal Thermal Climate Index Beach tourist Caribbean 



Financial support from the Canada Research Chairs program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the International Development Research Council (IDRC) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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