BY A CORRESPONDENT
February 14, 2007
Realising the seriousness of the situation, a number
of Swiss tourist regions, for the first time, have
joined forces to develop a strategy to minimise the
negative effects of climate change.
The nine destinations in the Bernese Alps commissioned a
study by Bern University, which will release its
findings in March 2007 along with a number of
The study titled Climate change and tourism: An analysis
of scenarios for the Bernese Oberland up to the year
2030 points out that the effects are manifold and
They cannot, it says, be reduced to a simple formula
equating rising temperatures with the disappearance of
snow and therefore the death of skiing.
Based on both best-case and worst-case scenario, rising
temperatures of between 0.4 and 2.6 degrees Celsius will
cause an increase in precipitation in winter – fall in
snow level and longer dry and sunny periods in summer.
It will also lead to the retreat or complete
disappearance of Alpine glaciers and the lesser-known
thawing of permafrost and a possible rise in the number
of foggy days.
“Until now, the presence or lack of snow for skiing has
been the main issue but the effect on permafrost and
glaciers is becoming more important,” Hansruedi Müller,
head of Bern University’s Research Institute for Leisure
and Tourism, said. “Permafrost decreases the stability
of mountain slopes, and there are more extreme weather
events which means increased precipitation, and there
will be longer heat waves. Tourism is affected in each
Müller's working paper says that, even though only one
of 38 ski areas in the Bernese Alps is threatened with
extinction in the best-case scenario (a temperature rise
of 0.4 degrees C in winter), the maximum increase (+1.8
degrees C) could put 13 out of business.
Among the hardest hit would be the upmarket but
relatively low-lying resort of Gstaad, which would be in
danger of losing half of its lifts.
The report states that all mountain resorts will have to
make major investments in order to adapt.
As water becomes scarcer following dry summers, ski lift
operators may have no choice but to import water to feed
their growing arsenal of snow cannon.
Gstaad and many other mountain resorts saw a large jump
in hotel bookings during the record heat wave of 2003,
and again during the hot period in July 2006.
Alpine resorts continue to generate between two-thirds
and 80% of their turnover in the short winter season.
The document advises resorts to diversify – increasing
efforts to promote summer holidays in the Alps while
acknowledging that one of the main summer attractions,
its world of glaciers, is disappearing.
As the ice sheets bid a hasty retreat, the mountain
regions will become more prone to natural disasters such
as flooding and landslides.
The local authorities, according to the strategy paper,
must become more pro-active in dealing with these
Crisis management and risk analysis will take on even
greater significance than they have today in order to
ensure the safety of tourists and to keep roads and rail
lines open to facilitate travel.