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Sustainable Tourism

Studies indicate that a shift of tourism destinations towards higher latitudes and altitudes is very likely. Intensified touristic pressure to the mountain regions brings new challenges to fragile ecosystems. This means that, mountain protected areas should be prepared for increase of visitors, especially during summer season.

Direct impact of climate change on tourism effects tourist activities, as it determines the suitability of locations for a wide range of tourist activities. Estimations are, that changes in temperatures will vary globally: hot extremes, heat waves and extreme climatic events will be more frequent. That all, will result in decreases in amount and duration of snow cover.  Weather and climate extremes will increase infrastructure damage, which will cause higher operating expenses. In mountain tourism this could result in building new infrastructure regarding winter tourism. If there is less snow, artificial snow has to be produced, which needs big amounts of water, that often comes from big artificial lakes located directly at the ski resorts.

The important task of mountain tourism itself is to choose its future development. Can investments in new and expensive winter infrastructure be a long term benefit? Even though, that most pessimistic prediction say that after 20 years, mountain winter tourism will be impossible due to global warming? Or, by generating a sustainable tourism offer with fewer investments in infrastructure, but assuring a sustainable tourism in other three seasons.

Furthermore, indirect negative impact of climate change can already be seen on alpine forest ecosystem (devastating storms). Mountain forests prevent ground slides, floods, and other natural hazards, which could threat alpine settlements, tourist resorts, water management and traffic infrastructure. Natural hazards do not only cause infrastructure damage, but it (depending on the scale of the damage) also devastate the area and make it less touristic friendly. That results in the income loss and requires rebuilding of infrastructure. Sustainable urban planning of future investments, with a special focus on potential risks of natural hazards can reduce the damage and therefore the destruction of the environment.

On the other hand, due to shorter winters, other seasons will extend. Considering the trend of global warming we can expect that spring and autumn will become more important touristic periods, where summer activities will prevail. Due to higher temperatures during the summer, shift of “top” tourist destination towards cooler mountains can be expected.

Mountain tourism is considered to be a highly climate sensitive economic sector. And by that it needs to have somesolutions, how to adopt and mitigate to its effects. Tourist offer in protected areas throughout the year should diversify as much as possible, so that increase number of visitors will be as much as equally possible diverted among the activities.

Mitigation of climate change can be realized through technological innovation and market mechanism, but significant reduction in greenhouse gases emissions can only be achieved through behavioral change. PA’s information centers (as well as their web sites) have a major role on this matter, as their presentations, actions, info points and excursions for schools should have a leading role in environmental education. On time adaptation reduces the cost of climate change impacts and thus reduces the needs for mitigation. Adaptation to climate change needs a creation of new type of tourism, which would have less impact on the environment. This is as especially important for protected areas, which are not tourism orientated, but are (statistically proven) tourism magnets.

Therefore sustainable tourism should be a tourism, which activities have as little direct emissions of greenhouse gases to the environment, as possible. And therefore do not need an additional infrastructure in the protected areas. The adaptation of tourism on climate change can only be efficient if it is fully realized from the start to the end.

Further preservation of these vital nature habitats can only be achieved if they are not smothered by increased tourism infrastructure. Some sort of equilibrium between preservation and visiting must be achieved.

If you would like to read more about mountain tourism destinations in time of global change, please click here.

Example of integrated rural tourism in Romania - click here.