The CLIMAR project champions the notion that the university is central in leading the way in multi-stakeholder approaches to environmental sustainability and tourism, recognizing different approaches and priorities as well as economic pressures. The consortium represents regionally focused universities of different capacities in a wide range of tourism-driven areas, with similarly vulnerable typologies. Through the project, it is expected that their needs will be addressed not only in building multi-disciplinary research capacity, but in linking research to societal and economic sustainability in their regions.

The relationship between tourism and climate change is reciprocal. On the one hand, climate change affects the place, time and nature of tourism (IPCC, 2014), thus adaptation measures are needed; and on the other hand, tourism contributes to climate change, mainly due to air transport emissions (Lenzen et al., 2018) and mitigation strategies are needed. Therefore, addressing climate change is a prerequisite for sustainable tourism (Scott, 2011).

There are many differences in the nature of climate sensitivities regarding tourism. This is due to the complexity and heterogeneity of tourism activity, e.g. the multiple subsectors, the diversity of tourists’ motivations and travel patterns and the wide range of market segments (Scott & Limeiux, 2010). Sun, sand and sea tourism is one of the most vulnerable types of tourism (Santos-Lacueva et al., 2017) and the Caribbean and the Mediterranean regions – both targeted by the CLIMAR project – are hotspots that the UNWTO and the UNEP (2008) identify as highly vulnerable to climate change. Even more critical is the case of islands (IPCC, 2014) due to the high exposure and sensitivity of these territories. Mountain areas are also vulnerable to climate change (Pons et al., 2015), noted for winter sports and natural attractions.

Mexico, Colombia and Panama are socioeconomically dependent on coastal tourism. They are dealing with rising sea levels, beaches erosion, extreme meteorological events, sargasso proliferation and reef bleaching, amongst others (Santos-Lacueva et al., 2019). Coastal tourism is also the most relevant product in the Mediterranean region; Spain and Italy are suffering from, i.e. beach erosion, increased temperatures, heat waves and scarcity of water (IPCC, 2014). Also addressed by this project, examples of climate change threats for tourism in mountain destinations can be found in Argentina, Colombia, Spain and Italy, such as the reduction of glaciers, the decrease of snow precipitation for winter sports, or landslides. The particular vulnerability of islands to climate change is illustrated by Canary Islands and Ireland (Belle & Bramwell, 2005; Uyarra, 2005), also targeted CLIMAR.

Depending on their contextual peculiarities, destinations deal with tourism and climate change in different ways (Santos-Lacueva et al., 2019). CLIMAR tackles diverse socio-political and physical contexts that require robust strategies concerning climate change and tourism (CC&T). These strategies demand multi-disciplinary, international research-based actions as well as problem-oriented teaching and continuous professional development. Hence, CLIMAR identifies universities from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Panama and Europe as primary actors in addressing the CC&T challenges, and as influencers of regional and national strategies.

The composition of the CLIMAR consortium responds to the regional knowledge gaps identified in the Caribbean and South America as well as the need for university capacity building in research and teaching in this field.