Adaptation: Field of Action Tourism

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

Tourism in Germany remains a growing sector. For many forms of tourism a wide range of adaption options such as a change in travel activities is available. In the field of ski tourism however, adaption measures will not be able to balance future losses caused by 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 substitute for 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. 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.