The present study aims to fill that gap in one of the most important European snow-based winter tourism regions. More specifically, the study 1 reveals the level of climate change awareness of and involvement with the issue in one of the top Alpine tourism regions; 2 identifies the present role of climate change in regional and destination risk management; 3 elaborates on the significance of snowmaking for the ski industry; and thus 4 contributes to the literature on supply-side perception in the context of climate change and snow-based winter tourism. The fields of psychology, sociology, political science, geography and anthropology have contributed to the early literature pertaining to this issue Slovic, Research e.
Slovic, , Slovic, has shown that perceived risk is not only influenced by technical risk estimates but also determined by several qualitative characteristics related to whether a hazard is catastrophic or chronic, dreaded or common, old or new and delayed or immediate. The extent to whether a hazard is controllable, observable, fatal and known to science also shapes risk perceptions. Moreover, various social and cultural factors influencing risk perception e.
Studies of climate change risk perception examine participants' awareness of possible effects of climate change. Recent research has found a discrepancy between the scientific community and the general public with regard to perceptions of challenges posed by climate change e. Etkin and Ho, , Lorenzoni and Pidgeon, The complex, pervasive and time-delayed nature of climate change risks was found to lead to a limited understanding of possible consequences among lay people e. Lorenzoni and Pidgeon, , Weber, A growing body of literature has investigated tourist and stakeholder climate change perceptions in various types of tourism destinations, including coastal tourism e.
In snow-based destinations, demand-side climate change perception studies have been conducted in Australia e. Prince, , North America e.
Economic impacts of climate change
In Australian ski resorts, there has been a growing amount of supply-side climate change perception studies conducted among tourism managers e. Study designs of previous perception surveys among key players in snow-based winter tourism. The survey participants stated that climate change was already affecting destination development. The group discussions also revealed the ambivalent attitude of tourism representatives toward climate change. On the one hand, potential consequences were downplayed. On the other, climate change was used to legitimate both the expansion of snowmaking facilities and the extension of ski areas to higher elevations.
The tourism representatives were unanimous in their belief that Alpine winter sports can only survive if snow reliability is guaranteed. This view is supported by Abegg, Kolb, Sprengel, and Hoffmann In a representative study among Swiss ski lift operators, the authors demonstrated that ski area managers trust the adequacy of snowmaking as a means of adapting to climate variability and change.
They concluded that this openness and a high awareness of the problem in general are prerequisites for meeting the challenges that climate change is likely to pose for the snow-based winter tourism industry in upcoming decades. The results clearly indicated that Swiss ski lift operators take climate change seriously, with certain adaptation strategies already implemented and others planned.
The results showed that climate change is not perceived as a substantial threat. The ski area managers were highly optimistic about the effectiveness of technical adaptation means, such as snowmaking, and they considered these to be sufficient to cope with climate change in the decades ahead. Sharing the costs of snowmaking with the accommodation industry was regarded as the most appropriate business strategy, followed by joining ski conglomerates and diversifying winter offerings. A recent study by Strobl, Steiger, Peters, and Weiermair in three Austrian destinations employed moderated discussions about climate change and its impact on tourism.
The authors found that climate change is a topic of discussion in these destinations, but mainly from a purely economic perspective focusing on how climate change influences the rates of return on investments in the long term. Luthe conducted a transnational study of ski areas in France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Although the extent of change was unclear for many interviewees, the occurrence of climate change was not doubted.
The ski area managers viewed high elevation and the possibility to make man-made snow to be crucial factors in meeting the challenges of climate change. They worried most about the increasing costs of technical adaptation and temperatures too high for snowmaking, but also about the indirect effects that climate change has on demand patterns as a result of snow-poor winters. Saarinen and Tervo identified perception and adaptation strategies of nature-based tourism businesses with regard to climate change in Finland. The authors reported that the interviewees were generally aware of the issue, but at the same time highly sceptical.
Half of the survey participants did not believe that the climate is actually changing and were doubtful about any significant effects on future tourism in their region. Climate change was seen as a minor threat, if a threat at all. The authors recognised a lack of adaptation planning and showed that adaptation strategies like snowmaking were undertaken to meet the challenges presented by general weather variations and market changes. Since many respondents were already used to adapting tourism operations to changing weather conditions in the short term see also Tervo, , they felt optimistic about being able to manage a gradual change in climate, if necessary.
Perceptions had changed significantly in this short time, with the majority of businesspersons now believing that the climate is changing. Asked about signals in their regions, they reported shorter winters and delayed arrival of permanent snow. More than half of the respondents felt that future conditions for nature-based tourism would be unfavourable.
Discussing this change in perceptions, the authors critically mention the differences in study design and admit that a direct comparison of study results is not possible. Brouder and Lundmark conducted a perception analysis in northern Sweden. In a quantitative survey of winter-oriented tourism businesses, they found that three-quarters of all respondents believe that some form of climate change is under way. The authors emphasised the importance of an intra-regional scale of analysis and demonstrated differences between perceptions in the inland areas and the coastland.
However, the study subjects did not feel that climate change would have a drastic impact on the tourism sector in the coming decade. The most recent investigation of the issue was conducted by Tervo-Kankare , who interviewed tourism stakeholders in two Finnish destinations. The author reported that concern about potential impacts of climate change is mainly induced by extraordinary weather events and belated starts to the Christmas season. The level of climate change-related activity in the destinations was found to be low and largely dependent on individual ambition.
One main conclusion of the survey was that tourism-related climate change awareness has not yet found its way to the practical level.
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The different research designs and methodologies, as well as the diverging characteristics of the tourism system itself in the respective study areas, hamper a detailed comparison of survey results. Moreover, there are indications that differences in perceptions may also be influenced by the winter weather preceding the investigation. An analogue winter season is an anomalously warm season that is likely to represent average future climate conditions Steiger, This may have influenced the study results. In their comparative paper discussing the results of their perception studies conducted in and again in , Saarinen and Tervo concluded that the two relatively warm and snow-poor winters in — may have contributed to increased risk awareness among study participants.
Most strategies currently aim at some form of risk reduction in relation to climate variability. The present study was conducted after an average winter with regard to snowfall and temperature. Therefore, the participants' perceptions were not affected by having experienced an exceptionally snow-poor and warm winter season immediately prior to the study. In most ski resorts, a very cold December had already made snowmaking possible at the beginning of the season.
Persistently good snow conditions until Easter in late March produced good results for Tyrolean winter tourism. The study area, Tyrol, is a state situated in the western part of Austria Fig. Tyrol holds a dominant position in Alpine tourism in general and snow-based winter tourism in particular.
In , the region had a total of 43 million overnight stays, which accounted for as many as one-eighth of all overnight stays estimated in the Alps Statistics Austria, Tyrol ranks seventh among the top 20 tourism regions in the EU with regard to nights spent by non-residents in hotels and campsites Eurostat, The economic significance of tourism in the state itself varies regionally. With its location in the European Alps, the climate of the area includes oceanic, continental, polar and Mediterranean influences Beniston, The Alpine climate in Tyrol is generally characterised by short and humid summers, with precipitation peaking in June and July.
Due to orographic effects, precipitation exhibits wide discrepancies between various sites over very short distances Beniston, , Fliri, In the winter months, spatial differences are frequently caused by atmospheric inversion lower temperatures in lowlands and Foehn effects higher temperatures. At higher altitudes, the cold periods are considerably longer, with permanent snow cover from November until April or even later.
Given that ski areas are equipped with snowmaking facilities, all ski areas in the study area are snow-reliable until the s high emission scenario and s low emission scenario. Destinations in these areas are characterised by short- to medium-term snow reliability combined with a strong regional economic dependency on winter tourism. The study design and research methodology are illustrated in Fig. Thus, the sample used for the study's perception analysis includes representatives of ski resorts most at risk from changing climatic conditions, as well as from areas facing challenges only in the long term.
This type of survey sample ensures a mix of ski resorts that significantly differ from each other in many respects i. Cable car companies are often among the leading companies in a region. They play a central role in the development of the respective regions, especially in destinations focusing on ski tourism.
Hence, representatives of two of the most important stakeholder groups in Tyrolean winter tourism were interviewed to assess how the growing issue of climate change is currently being addressed. The hotel industry, gastronomy businesses and ski schools also represent important stakeholder groups, but their individual significance varies regionally.
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Using a qualitative approach, face-to-face in-depth expert interviews were conducted in German between March and August Guidelines, in the form of a topical pre-structure, ensured interview comparability. The open and semi-open questions were grouped into four topic areas: destination positioning , market trends , perception of climate change and strategic planning.
The findings presented in this paper focus on the participants' responses to the latter two topics, including the following key questions:. Several pre-test interviews were conducted to exclude or identify initially problematic, overly complex or incomprehensible questions. The pre-tests showed that it was crucial to explain technical terms like adaptation in layman's terms to ensure that the participants actually understood the questions. Moreover, the feedback, especially to the semi-open questions, was very important to designing the final interview guidelines.
Here, the pre-test participants critically commented on missing or ambiguous items. Another important insight from the pre-test interviews relates to the manner in which the interviewees were addressed.