An assessment of the climatic suitability of Afriski Mountain Resort for outdoor tourism using the Tourism Climate Index (TCI)
Tourism Climatic Indices (TCIs) are widely used in the global North to quantify the climatic suitability of a destination for tourism. Only one such study has been conducted in southern Africa to date. It is in a chronic shortage of research on tourism and climate change in the southern hemisphere. This study presents the application of the TCI in Lesotho, calculated for the eastern Lesotho Highlands. The region has an emerging tourism sector, which primarily comprises outdoor activities. These include hiking, horse-riding, music festivals, mountain biking, cultural visits, sightseeing, and at the Afriski lodge, skiing and snowboarding. These activities are reliant on climatic conditions that are conducive to the activity taking place, prolonged periods outdoors, and tourist satisfaction of the activity. Climate is a major determinant of both the length of season for these activities and the timing of peak tourist arrivals. Rising temperatures and changes in relative humidity and precipitation pose real threats to hiking, sightseeing and snow tourism at Afriski. The reliance of tourism in the region on specific climatic conditions for successful tourism prompted the use of the TCI. TCI results classify the eastern Lesotho Highlands as having ‘good’ climatic conditions with an overall TCI score of 64 for the period 2012–2017. Monthly TCI scores for the eastern Lesotho reveal a bimodal-shoulder, meaning the peak climatic conditions are in the regional summer months (December to February). This conflicts with the peak tourist seasons of summer and winter, which align with South African school holidays, and the timing of the most profitable tourism activity (skiing) which occurs during the winter months of June, July and August. Lesotho is landlocked by South Africa. TCI analysis for South Africa reveals more suitable climatic conditions for tourism than Lesotho, with significantly higher scores of 80–89.
KeywordsClimate Tourism Climatic Index (TCI) Lesotho Highlands Outdoor tourism Snow tourism
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We are grateful to the management of Afriski Mountain Resort for kindly sharing the meteorological data that were collected on site. We thank Prof. G Hoogendoorn and Ms. L Stockigt for their assistance with fieldwork and obtaining the data. JF is funded by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Palaeoscience. We thank the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable inputs.
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