Coast and climate change – an analysis of tourists' perception at the German Baltic coast.
Coastal tourism along the German Baltic coast is one of the most important economic sectors in the region. For several years, the numbers of overnight stays show an increasing trend. But as tourism is rated as highly climate-sensitive, the regional impacts of global climate change will, among other actors, in the future pose a relevant challenge to the sector. Namely direct impacts like increasing air and water temperature or decreasing precipitation in summer, as well as indirect impacts such as sea-level rise, erosion and changes in the oceanic ecosystem could affect tourism. This gives rise to the current discussion on how coastal regions can adapt to the ongoing and expected changes and how they can be prepared for the future. As tourism is such an important economic sector, it could be interesting and relevant to analyse the guests' perception an to include their opinion in future coastal management and adaptation strategies.
For this reason a survey was carried out in summer 2010 at three beaches in close proximity to the German coastal town of Rostock. In total, 713 questionnaires were evaluated. In addition, a literature research was performed to analyse the current scientific results concerning the influence of climate change on tourism relevant factors along the German Baltic coast. The study raised the following questions: Is the German coast already today subject to significant changes and are they being noticed by tourists? Do tourists think that the Baltic Sea is threatened by global warming, and what are the coastal changes that are associated with global change in their opinion? How do they react to these changes?
The evaluation shows that mean annual air and water temperatures in the Baltic Sea area have increased during the last century and that sea-level is rising, also intensifying coastal erosion. However, to this day, those changes are still very small and projections for the future are highly uncertain.
The survey indicates that tourists do not really perceive the ongoing changes and that their perception is in general very subjective and selective. Furthermore, most of the tourists do not see themselves in a position to judge whether or not certain changes are linked with or influenced by global warming. The given answers are characterised by a high uncertainty and often climate change is named as reason for certain phenomena although the correlation is not supported by current science. The findings of the survey are discussed in the context of coastal management and development of adaptation strategies.