ClimAlpTour – Climate change and its impact on tourism in the Alpine Space

Background and Goals

In terms of tourism, the Alpine Space is one of the most intensely capitalized regions in the world. At the same time, the Alps are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For this reason, in the ClimAlpTour project, under the direction of the region of the Veneto region (Italy) as lead partner, 18 project partners from 6 neighbouring Alpine countries came together to study the effects of the climate change on tourism in the Alpine Space and to identify possible adaptation strategies.

The application-oriented ClimAlpTour project aimed at developing suitable adaptation strategies for selected pilot regions. One of the main concerns of ClimAlpTour was to revise the traditional Alpine tourism strategies, which mainly relied on winter tourism, with the aim of exploiting the existing potential of the Alps for all year tourism.

The project is divided into 7 work packages:

  1. Project preparation: application form, partnership agreement,
  2. Project management: workflow management and financial budgeting,
  3. Information and publicity: website, expert hearings, conferences,
  4. Data survey: collection of existing data, data records, indicators,
  5. Impact analysis: analysis of the impact of climate change on Alpine tourism destinations, taking environmental, social and economic aspects into account,
  6. Adaptation strategies: tailored adaptation strategies for model regions,
  7. Awareness raising: information, education and communication activities for interest groups, holiday makers, society and politics.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Austria
  • Swiss
  • Slovenia
Region of implementation (all German federal states)
  • Baden-Württemberg
  • Bavaria
Natural spatial classification
  • Alp and North Bavarian hills
  • Alps
  • Alpine Foothills

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Use of the data on the possible climate change in the Alpine Space from the ClimChAlp project.

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Rising snowline combined with less reliable snow conditions, soil erosion and the rising instability of slopes, permafrost thawing and glacier withdrawal, changes in the scenery, biodiversity and water balance.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Approach and results 

Within the project, destination-specific vulnerability portfolios were created for the most important tourism products. Moreover, the product portfolios of the respective ClimAlpTour pilot regions were presented (insofar as data and sales figures were available). These portfolios can be used as a basis for initiating a discussion in the pilot regions or for providing important information on possible adaptation strategies for specific products and destinations.

In order to be able to assess the vulnerability of the tourism industry and the tourism products in the ClimAlpTour pilot regions, the following approach was adopted: For determining the overall vulnerability of a destination (vulnerability of a country, region or a community), three areas of vulnerability need to be assessed:

1. Economic vulnerability: The economic situation of each pilot region was determined and indicators of economic prosperity and tourism dependency were studied and analysed, as follows: – The GDP as one of the key indicators for the measurement of economic prosperity, – Extreme economic conditions (illustrates the general economic situation), – General investment climate (displays the interest of investors in a region), - Intensity of tourism (shows the economic importance of tourism in a region), – Tourism dependency of the job market, – Growth of the destination (illustrates the development of the region over the last few years), – The workforce mix (shows the dependence of the destination on migrant workers), – Customer satisfaction (gives an impression of the tourists' perception of the destination).

2. Ecological vulnerability: Two parameters were considered for the ecological aspect of assessing the destination vulnerability: – Ecological vulnerability: determined by the average snowfall, minimum snowfall, winter temperatures, the lowest point of the destination, the average altitude of the skiing area, the orientation of the slopes, the topography and the geographical location, – Natural disasters: the occurrence and frequency of occurrence of extreme natural hazards.

3. Social vulnerability: The following indicators were studied and analysed for the social aspects of assessing the destination vulnerability: – Migration ratio: shows whether the population is increasing or decreasing, - Age index: shows the demographic changes, - Social cohesion: shows the willingness for cooperation and mutual support of the local community.

Determining the product vulnerability: After assessing the economic, ecological and social vulnerability of the pilot regions, it was necessary to transfer this knowledge to a detailed product level. Even if it seemed acceptable in climate change discussions in the past, a general approach that only differentiates between summer tourism and winter tourism makes no sense. This is because the variance in climate-specific vulnerability within the "summer tourism group" is enormous, making it necessary to take a closer look at the individual products themselves. Thus, the development of a product portfolio is based not only on the usual understanding of vulnerability, but also on the assessment of the particular susceptibilities of individual tourism products. This product vulnerability is, in turn, linked to the general vulnerability indicators of the respective destination. In order to achieve this, a similar approach was chosen as that of the Austrian StartClim project, and adjusted to the special requirements of the ClimAlpTour project. A list of winter, summer and all-year tourism products was created. Following this, each product was then evaluated in terms of its dependency on weather and natural resources. Moreover, the cost structure was also considered (fixed costs, variable costs and return on investment). The product vulnerability of each individual product was calculated on this basis, making it clear whether a product would be "difficult to keep up" or could be offered without undergoing large financial and weather-specific risks.

Determining the overall vulnerability: The overall vulnerability is a combination of destination vulnerability and product vulnerability, equally weighted (50% each).

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Strategic adaptation should be achieved using an integrated approach. For this reason, stakeholders in all the relevant areas (economic, environmental and social) were involved in the project. This was achieved in the context of interregional expert hearings. In order to illustrate possible adaptation strategies, pilot regions were selected. In the Bavarian Alps, this was the community of Grainau on the one hand, and the Bavarian Karwendel region on the other hand, comprising the communities of Wallgau, Kochel, Jachenau and Lenggries. In order to strengthen the position of Grainau as a year-round tourism destination, an alpine nature experience park is to be created with the help of the Alpine Research Institute (AFI). Part of the park will be a "climate change nature trail" to promote awareness of the climate change. The communities in the Bavarian Karwendel region continue to strive for a Karwendel nature reserve as an instrument of sustainable regional development and tourism marketing. Both approaches demonstrate a separation from the former, one-sided dependency on winter sports towards the concept of an Alpine nature experience. The experiences gained in the pilot regions can be transferred and applied to regions with similar problems.

From the perspective of nature conservation organizations and advocates of sustainability concepts, while there are already some positive signs of climate change adaptation in the northern Alpine region, there is still a lack of risk awareness in many areas. According to experts, current adaptation measures in the Alpine communities are (still) "more hype than substance", and the preparation and implementation of general principles for sustainable community development is urgently needed. It is also essential to improve the coordination of development planning. Tourism companies often merely adjust their marketing strategies and recommendations include the development of sustainable new products for the future, but without neglecting products that are already affected by the climate change.

Conflicts / synergies / sustainability 

While the financial sector is already dealing with the issue of climate change, tourism professionals complain about a lack of willingness on the part of a tourism industry to actively consider the relevant topics. Many business operators prefer to keep their own counsel on these matters, to avoid unsettling clients, discouraging investors and impairing the value of their products. However, within the framework of a strategic adaptation to the effects of the climate change, it is important ensure that sustainability is firmly established as an indispensable ingredient in the development of new tourism strategies.

Step 4: Plan and implement measures

Costs of the measures 

The economic situation of each pilot region was determined and indicators of economic prosperity and tourism dependency were studied and analysed. Moreover, the vulnerability of individual products was also calculated. This helped to make it clear whether a product would be "difficult to keep up" or could be offered without undergoing large financial and weather-specific risks.


Funding / Financing 

Co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the ClimAlpTour project is part of the Alpine Space Programme "European Territorial Cooperation 2007-2013".

Project management 

Veneto region (Italy)



  • AFI – Alpine Research Institute GmbH, Germany;
  • Autonomous Region of Valle d'Aosta, Italy;
  • EURAC – European Academy, Italy;
  • Munich University of Applied Sciences , Faculty of Tourism, Germany;
  • Institute of Economics & Tourism of HES-SO Valais, Switzerland;
  • Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch, Switzerland;
  • Institut für Landschaft und Freiraum, Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil, Switzerland;
  • Tourism Faculty, University of Applied Sciences HTW Chur , Switzerland;
  • IREALP – Research Institute for Ecology and Economy applied to Alpine Areas, Italy;
  • MATT Italian Ministry for the Environment, the Land and the Sea, Italy;
  • Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Art, Anton Melik Geographical Institute, Slovenia;
  • The Mountain Institute, University of Savoy, Frankreich;
  • University of Innsbruck, Institute of Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism, Austria;
  • UNCEM – National Union of Mountain Municipalities, Communities and Institutions, Italy;
  • UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme, Austria;
  • Veneto Region – Directorate for Forests and Mountain Economy, Italy;
  • WWF, Italy.

Regione del Veneto
Via Torino 110
30172 Mestre, Venezia

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  biological diversity  spatial planning, urban and settlement development  tourism industry