|Climate change and its possible consequences for winter vacation destinations and associated regions constitutes a new challenge to several natural and social sciences in general, and tourism research in particular. So far, literature on the topic is scarce, and occasionally contains ill-defined or even rather unlikely projections, such as a too coarse and categorical evaluation of the effects of climate warming, which does not consider the local differences within a ski region which are affected by exposure, effects of foehn, direction of the valley, and vegetation); and
ignorance of the effects of the media on public opinion. Similar to their effects in the debate on the effects of acid rain the forests, mud and rock slides, and avalanches it may happen that real events are portrayed in a sensationalistic manner, leading to further consequences.
The actual affects of climate change, as well as its perception and presentation by the media, by politics and society at large also influence entrepreneurial decisions and the development of a region. In this project we will use regionally adapted climate change models to investigate such issues as security of investment, uncertainty of planning decisions, and the potential for compensation with snow making in an applied research context.
We desire to investigate these topics in close collaboration with one winter sport destination. Towards that goal we plan to use in a first data supplied by the lift operators and other regional data to adapt the already existing larger scale climate change models. At the same time, we will also investigate the attitudes of tourists, media and representatives of the local economy towards the topic in collaboration with the lift operators and local skiing associations. This research will be carried out by a specialized market research company. An analysis of regional statistics will document the economic significance of winter sports in the study area. This analysis will also consider the opinions of local representatives of the economy, politics, and administration, as well as stakeholders, interest groups and associations. All these analyses will result in a differentiated SWOT-analysis, which will document the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats towards a sustainable tourism development and its required re-orientation in association with climate change.
This transdicsiplinary inventory and analysis provides the foundation for the ultimate goal of STRATEGE, i.e. the development of strategies focusing on the sustainable spatial development of tourism regions under the influence of global warming .
Any sector specific analysis of the planning instruments applied so far does not completely meet the challenges associated with sustainable spatial development. Several international studies show that efficient and innovative solutions emerge when the development options of a region is defined in an interactive manner between the various actors. This action space needs to be based on agreed standards, which are benchmarks during implementation as well as tools for communication. One widely used framework for the participatory development of goals and indicators is the LAC (Limits of Acceptable Change). The TOMM (Tourism Optimization Management Model) represents one further development of the LAC with the explicit goal of sustainable tourism development.
TOMM was originally developed for the implementation of sustainable development in Australian tourism destinations an is globally regarded as the framework that integrates the goals and interest of the economy, science, administration and society in the most sophisticated manner. The transdisciplinary character of the model meets the extensive requirements of alpine ski regions. TOMM does not define rigid limits of development, but intends to bring all process participants in a region together and to consider the facts and the desired conditions during the process of developing appropriate strategies. Workshops ensure that all interest groups continually have the opportunity to participate, which includes the insurance of an adequate balance of gender.
This research project will apply this framework in Europe for the very first time. This strategic instrument of planning integrates local knowledge, results of climate change modelling, market research, local and regional quantitative data, and participatory regional analyses, as well as several investigations of the tourists (web-surveys) and serves as the basis for any strategic regional decisions. Its major innovation is that climate research will be integrated into the complex societal evaluation and regional development, and will also included in a new, participatory and action oriented management concept. At the same time, natural science research, social sciences and planning sciences will be integrated in a truly transdisciplinary manner.