The prospect of scorching heatwaves leading tourists to seek refreshment in the mountains and questions from children to their grandparents about their memories of the snow makes alpine ski resorts are focusing on the implications of climate change.
Faced with a global warming that is expected to drastically reduce snowfall, especially at lower altitudes, the Swiss tourism industry is looking for ways to preserve a lucrative business but brutally exposed to inclement weather.
Come and meet Napa, the last circus bear from Serbia.
The skiing resort of Arosa in eastern Switzerland has installed a $ 6.5 million shelter to house Napa and two other bears rescued from the cages of Albanian restaurants to attract vacationers and reduce their dependence on skiers and snowboarders.
School children, families and a group of army veterans celebrating their 80th birthday visited the park on a recent day this summer, helping the goal of reaching 50,000 visitors this year, said Arosa tourism director Pascal Jenny.
It is not the first time that Arosa reinvents itself. In the 1930s, winter tourism became a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients after decades. But this time it will not be easy, given that the almost 620,000 winter nights spent last year more than triple the summer.
Jenny, who fears a sharp drop in snowfall in the next 20 or 30 years, is covering her bets.
“What gives us some hope is that artificial snow is showing great technical advances, now it can make snow at 5 degrees above zero,” he said, standing on an observation platform next to the Weisshorn cable car, which offers a spectacular view. of the snowy valley of the Alps.
Its dual focus highlights the dilemma faced by mountain resorts: how to retain benefits as they embark on what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says should be a global rethink of tourism .
“The consequences of climate change will be felt in the travel and tourism sector in the coming decades,” said the OECD, whose member countries represent 80% of global trade and investment, in a 2018 study on the main tourism trends .
Storms, floods and tides will threaten the coastal regions; southern destinations face extreme heat waves; and those in the north will see shorter periods of snowfall, he added.
DANISH INDUSTRIAL POLYGON
Mountain resorts tend to be located higher in Switzerland than in Austria or France, so their expectations are better as snow gets scarcer.
But even at 3,000 meters, the thickness of snow on its tracks could be reduced by more than half in the year 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, according to a report published in The Cryosphere, a specialized magazine on geoscience. that takes its name from the parts of the earth’s surface where the water is frozen.
The stations located below 1,200 meters – as happens in almost a quarter of the alpine – could be practically without snow, according to this study of 2017, whose title begins with “How much can we save?”.
Snow levels will gradually stabilize if the rise in global temperature is contained, says the report.
Arosa is 1,775 meters above sea level, but Jenny fears that the loss of snow in the lowlands will result in a loss of visitors because people will lose the emotional connection with the snow.
“That’s almost more dangerous for the sector,” he said.
Hence the interest of Arosa for an industrial estate in Denmark where he cooperates in a project to manufacture artificial snow with the expectation that city dwellers learn to ski and then perfect their skills in the Alps.
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world, and the Swiss government says that the long-term prospects for tourism are good. “Summers in the mountains can be positioned as an alternative to the Mediterranean regions,” according to a report from 2017.
Summer tourism already accounts for 60% of overnight stays in Switzerland, but the season only contributes 18% of income, said Therese Lehmann, an economist at the Center for Regional Development at the University of Bern.
Hotels and restaurants charge more in winter, but the strength of the Swiss franc has left many people out.
The government data already show a fall of 24% in the number of skiers in the decade until 2016 due to climate change but also due to other factors.
The European population is aging and young people are less interested in skiing, while activities such as snowshoeing, winter hiking, and sleigh rides and skiing are booming, says Swiss Tourism sector management.
The consolidation in the winter tourism sector can be seen on the horizon: overnight stays at the major Swiss stations increased by 1 percent in the decade to 2015, but decreased by 17 percent in the smaller ones.