Field of Action Tourism

Beach chairs at the Baltic SeaClick to enlarge
Climate change affects tourism which depends on weather and climate.
Source: quiloo/

Impacts of Climate Change

Table of Contents


Floods and storm surges

As a result of climate change, the risk of heavy rain and floods increases. Such floods can cause damage to tourist facilities and prevent potential visitors from travelling to the affected region. Apart from material damage, the affected tourism regions also suffer from lower income.

Coastal areas are additionally affected by the fact that the rising sea level and higher waves resulting from storms lead to a long-term shift of the coastline further inland. This can affect the landscape as well as the tourist use of beaches. Also water sports and other tourist activities in coastal areas may be affected or omitted altogether in some areas. In future, storm surges can also occur more frequently and become more intense. This can potentially hinder usages by tourism entirely.



Summer tourism
Rising temperatures and less rainfall in summer increase the attractiveness of German tourist destinations and can significantly extend the swimming season. By 2100, the summer season could last about 60 days longer. This would amount to 25 to 30 percent more tourists in Germany, while classic holiday destinations in the Mediterranean region would become less attractive due to the increasing heat with temperatures over 40 degrees.

In the warmer main season, tourism flows will therefore move from the Mediterranean to the north of Europe. The increasing number of tourists offers several opportunities for the tourism industry. However, in some tourist centres, the increasing number of visitors may also lead to an overload of accommodation and transport capacities. The capacity limit for tourism in summer has already been reached in some resorts along the Baltic Sea. In addition, higher numbers of tourists increase the pressure on natural areas, which already has adverse effects on sensitive coastal systems. At the Baltic coast infrastructures are already close to their capacities during high season; waste and wastewater have to be stored on an interim basis.

Due to the rising temperatures and the stronger solar radiation, the upper water layers of the Baltic and North Seas and inland waters increasingly warm up. This affects the water quality. Warmer water contains a lower percentage of oxygen, which directly affects the flora and fauna. The simultaneous increase of CO2 in the water leads to a surplus supply of nutrients. This increases the growth of algae, seaweed and jellyfish and promotes the growth of bacteria. In addition, the health of bathers can be affected by the decreasing water quality. In the summer of 2006, for example, bathers in the Baltic Sea suffered from wound infections caused by the bacterium vibrio vulnificus (cholera bacteria). This can reduce the attractiveness of tourism in the affected region.

Rising temperatures and decreases in precipitation can also affect other tourism areas. If, for example, the rivers’ and canals’ water level decreases so significantly in the summer that this limits the inland waterway transport, this also has an impact on the river cruise industry.

Winter tourism
Ski tourism in Germany is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Due to rising temperatures, the annual snow cover duration and the amount of snow decrease. In the lower regions of the Alps and the German low mountain ranges, a significant decline in reliable snow conditions has already been observed over the past 50 years. In future it is expected that in lower regions, even the creation of artificial snow with snow cannons may not be profitable anymore due to rising temperatures.

If you are interested in obtaining information about possible adaptation measures in the field of action tourism, please click here.



Adaptation to Climate Change

Winter tourism

Skiing tourism is particularly vulnerable to climate change as rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns decrease the reliable snow conditions of the skiing destinations. Artificial snow can only partially meet the lack of snow since artificial snow usually requires temperatures below 4° C. In many German ski resorts in low mountain ranges, this temperature limit will probably more seldom reached in future. The complex installation and the very water- and energy-intensive operation of snowmaking systems increase the costs for ski resorts and make them increasingly unprofitable. In addition, artificial snow entails major environmental disadvantages, such as a shortening of the growing season and increasing water and energy consumption. Snowmaking systems can thus only be used as an effective adaptation measure on an interim basis.

Due to the limited altitude of German ski resorts and the likely negative ecological impacts, moving up to higher regions is often not an option either. Therefore, ski tourism should focus on a few suitable winter sports centres.

For many current ski resorts, a far more effective adaptation measure is to adjust the tourism offer, switching from snow-dependent winter sports to year-round activities. All-weather all-year activities like city, cultural and event tourism provide reliable earnings potentials. Many regions and cities have already developed concepts for conversion. In view of today’s winter tourism regions it is also expected that these can benefit from a growth potential for the health and adventure tourism, which includes a variety of activities such as ice-skating, winter hiking trails, fitness, wellness and indoor activities. In this respect it is also important to promote ecologically sensitive forms of tourism and a sustainable environmental management of tourism companies.

An integrated approach is necessary for the reorientation of tourism strategies. Climate change is only one of the drivers that affect winter tourism. Other factors such as a changing leisure patterns, demographic changes and economic factors will also challenge the tourism sector in the future. In addition, a sustainable alignment of tourism requires the cooperation of stakeholders from nature conservation, transport planning and regional development.

Summer tourism

Concrete adaptation options for summer tourism are difficult to identify, as the impacts of climate change on summer vacations are very complex. Particular challenges affecting tourism at the coasts are increasing storm surges and erosion of coasts. This can be countered with the development of early warning systems, which inform local residents and tourists in case of expected extreme weather events. Within the framework of appropriate risk management concepts, tourist infrastructure facilities can also be protected with the help of dikes or bulkheads. Further examples are buildings on stilts or a relocation of sensitive infrastructure into the interior.

The protection of seas and bathing waters is necessary to avoid health risks resulting from germs and bacteria developing at high water temperatures. Overall, however, it can be assumed that the bathing tourism in Germany will benefit from climate change, as the attractiveness of German bathing regions increase thanks to warmer summers. This is especially the case for the North and Baltic Seas in comparison to the Mediterranean, where it will be increasingly hot in the summer. Basically, like with winter tourism, the diversification of the tourism offer constitutes an effective adaptation measure.

In the surrounding areas of large cities, the development of specific services for residents of urban areas who want to escape the hot city centres entails opportunities for the nature and sports tourism.

If you are interested in obtaining information about concrete impacts of climate change in the field of action tourism, please click here.

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