Winter Tourism

Decreasing Snow Reliability and Ski Tourism

What do the results tell us?

For the decades ahead, climate models predict a decrease in snow cover in Europe's ski areas. Hence, significant reductions in the number of winter overnight stays are expected. Climate-induced net gains in summer tourism will not fully compensate for this reduction. However, if future tourists do not abandon skiing because of less favourable snow conditions, more snow reliable regions might profit.

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What can we do with the results?

Besides technical adaptation strategies to increase snow reliability (e.g artificial snow making or slope development) the most often cited adaptation strategy is a change to all year tourism. The results of the modelling show how the climate potential for a considered region changes over the course of the year.

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How are the results obtained?

In the core of our model we use functions that relate given climate conditions (snow cover and temperature) to the utility of skiing tourists. These functions are derived from observed data. A change in climate conditions is then translated to a change in utility. The changed utilities are used to describe the change in tourism demand due to climate change.

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What are the broader applications?

Potential broader applications include the extension of the tourism model to further climatic indices or other types of tourism (e.g. city tourism, hiking tourism, beach tourism, etc.). The basic approach is to combine data on tourism demand, expressed e.g. by overnight stays, and climate data to evaluate the utility of different climatic conditions. In addition, we can take competition into account. The methodology can be used for other economic sectors, but also for smaller entities or time scales.

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Key Messages and Conclusions

Tourists will shift to more snow reliable regions or different holiday types.

ToPDAd model simulations show that, when tourists adapt by changing the month (within the winter season) and/or destination, but stick to alpine skiing, ski areas in the southern part of the Alps (e.g. in France and Italy) lose more overnight stays than those in the northern parts of the Alps and Scandinavia. Some areas even benefit from climate change. When tourist also respond by changing the holiday type, but still stick to the winter season, all skiing areas face a reduction in overnight stays.

Average percentage change in winter overnight stays (2035-2065 vs. baseline) in skiing dominated regions for RCP4.5/SSP4, when tourists adapt by changing month and/or destination, but stick to alpine skiing (left) or when tourists adapt by changing month, destination and/or holiday type (right); average over all climate models.

Summer season gains do not compensate for winter season losses

ToPDAd model simulations show that most skiing-dominated areas will see a rise in summer overnight stays due to climate change. However, the increase in summer overnight stays cannot compensate for the losses during winter.

Average percentage change in summer overnight stays (left) and average percentage change in annual overnight stays (right) (2035-2065 vs. baseline) in skiing dominated regions for RCP4.5/SSP4, when tourists adapt by changing timing and activity of holidays; average over all climate models.

(Click on chart image to explore the data)

Example of effects on overnight stays for the region of Osttirol, Austria, in the winter season.