Stakeholder responses to climate change in the Swiss Alps. (2007)

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The Alps will experience some of the most pronounced effects of climate change due to a combination of their latitudinal positioning, altitude and unique eco-systems, placing socioeconomic stresses on alpine communities, particularly those that rely on seasonal tourism. How stakeholders need to respond to climate change within the Alps has been well documented in the academic literature, with studies focussing on measures to minimise damage on winter ski tourism and from increased natural hazards. During the winter of 2006/2007 there was increasing academic and media attention on the ability of mountain areas to maintain successful winter tourism. Studies into tourism adaptation within the Swiss Alps have so far focussed on the adaptation options and needs of different stakeholders. These concepts of adaptation measures were tested on stakeholders from the private and public sector within two case study areas within the Swiss Alps, both part of the communes of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jungfrau Aletsch Bietschorn. The qualitative methodology aimed to better ascertain the barriers to adaptation that local communities faced. Within Switzerland there is a well-established decentralised framework for decision-making and planning, which this study takes into account in its analysis of the measures in place within different stakeholder groups. A series of semi-structured interviews took place to assess the response of stakeholders from the private and public sectors across the local, regional and national level to the increasing risks of climate change on their economic livelihoods. Adaptation strategies were found to be evenly segmented across the different sectors and levels, but also focused almost entirely on maintaining the status quo of winter tourism, through technical or marketing measures, while increasing the market share of summer tourism for the destination. In general, apathy towards alternative adaptive measures, as well as frustration with tourists? expectation and understanding of the natural alpine environment was found to be most prevalent at the local level. The final section looks at how these issues can be addressed within the local, national and international context, within and outside of the tourism sector. It concludes that the socio-economic consequences will only be minimised if stakeholders take action to significantly diversify the alpine economy outside the realms of winter tourism, increase the understanding of nature and the climate change issue within the alpine region, and improve the dissemination of information across the research, administrative, local and tourist communities.
Year: 2007
Language: English

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