TRAVEL GAZETTE – Climate change is endangering skiing and tourism industry in Austria, a researcher has said.
“The classical winter tourism in Austria will get into trouble because of climate change,” Austrian futurologist Andreas Reiter said in a recent telephone interview with Xinhua, adding that mainly smaller ski resorts in lower altitude locations will be affected.
Austria currently owns 423 ski areas. One in every 14 jobs in the country is directly or indirectly connected with ski-tourism, which accounts for 4 percent in the country’s gross domestic product.
Studies estimate that the temperature in the Alps will rise to 4 degrees by 2050, leading to less snow in the future.
Now more than 20,000 snowmaking machines are taking care of the white slopes in Austria and only large ski resorts can afford the more extensive production of artificial snow.
“There will be a concentration on a few big ski areas,” said Reiter, head of ZTB Zukunftsbuero, a Vienna-based future research and consulting company.
High costs of operating ski resorts will increase ticket prices.
“Skiing will be an extreme luxury good,” Reiter said. This year in some ski areas, the price for a daily ticket has passed the 50-euro mark. Reiter expects the price to hit 70, 80 or even 100 euros in the near future.
In addition, the change in leisure habits of young people will be a problem for the ski areas.
Traditionally, the majority of the ski tourists come from the metropolitan areas in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, Reiter said. “However, the old target group dies away and fewer younger people are coming,” he said.
One reason is the high proportion of people with immigration background in the cities, Reiter said. They have no traditional connections to skiing.
Besides, there is a trend toward long-distance travels in winter, which is favored by cheap flights and low-price destinations such as Vietnam or Thailand, he said.
The ski regions are aware of the problems, Reiter said. “Some of them focus now on the premium segment.”
Gourmet restaurants in the mountains are no longer a rarity nowadays in Austria. They are also trying to attract guests from Russia or even China, the futurologist said.
However, what harms the winter tourism could help the summer tourism because the rising temperature will prolong the summer season in the Alps, Reiter said.
The increasing heat in areas for traditional summer tourism — the Mediterranean region — “will favor the number of overnight stays especially near cool mountain lakes,” he said, adding that there will be a “climate migration” of tourists to the north in summer.
Some classical ski areas are following the trend and offer mountain biking or trekking in summer, Reiter said.