Overcoming social barriers in managing vulnerability of alpine tourism to environmental change Luthe, Tobias Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
Overcoming social barriers in managing vulnerability of alpine tourism to environmental change
Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
Tourism as the world’s biggest service industry is threatened by global environmental change. Alpine tourism with its economic backbone of alpine skiing has been responding to direct ecological threats of climate change. Adaptation focused on maintaining a status quo of alpine (ski) tourism, resulting in technical adaptation such as snow making and expansion of lifts and slopes to higher elevations.
Such business-as-usual strategies feed back negatively to environmental change and proofed to be not sustainable, neither ecologically nor economically. More sustainable kinds of vulnerability management include behavioral ways of adaptation, such as diversification strategies, and mitigation efforts. Both have been neglected by the supply side of tourism stakeholders because of the fear of high investments into alternative products and services that would not meet customer demand.
A vulnerability analysis in thirty tourism destinations in the four main alpine countries after an analogue winter for future (climate) change proofed that vulnerability is more complex than currently understood. Climate change is one major threat, but socio-economic developments have been neglected and underestimated in their potential consequences.
Vulnerability factors are not mainly climate change, the geographical situation of the destination or snow making capacity, but socio-economic changes and the inadequacy of policies adressing these. Further social causes such as a lack of participation on supply side, personal social barriers, weaknesses in destination governance models and a lack of interaction and partnering with the demand side increase vulnerability of alpine tourism to environmental change.
Given these findings, an alternative, qualitative growth model is proposed and outlined which would not only decrease negative feedbacks on social-ecological systems, but given a matching demand it could create a business opportunity and act as a push-and-pull factor, thus addressing social supply side barriers to change business-as-usual strategies.
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