Date of Award:

5-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Environment and Society

Committee

Claudia Radel

Committee

Sarah Null

Committee

Jordan W. Smith

Abstract

The city of Moab, an outdoor recreation hub in eastern Utah, has been encountering both shifts in the seasonality of visitation, and increases in tourist visitation, even with summer temperatures above the normal high. Tourism research describing the effects of climate change on the outdoor recreation industry has focused on winter, snow-dependent activities, while studies in Moab city have focused on the economic value of outdoor recreational activities. Few studies have described the relationship between seasonal tourism and climate change for arid desert locations. The purpose of this study is to describe how the tourism and recreation industry in Moab, Utah is experiencing and adapting to changes in climate. The first part of the research is a regression analysis of existing data, exploring the correlation between monthly national park visitation and climate factors (long-term monthly average temperature and temperature anomaly) that influence tourism seasonality in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Using an online survey, the second part of the research identifies how seasonality shifts are perceived by different actors in Moab and how they are responding to manifestations of climate change. Regression results indicate that as temperature increases in the region around Moab, national park visitation also increases. Moab businesses are not directly adapting to climate change, but are adapting to perceived increases in visitation throughout the year. The majority of Moab businesses do not attribute the increase in visitation to climate variables, instead visitation increases are believed to be a result of the popularity of the town and the region.

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