|Climate change at the German Baltic coastline – Response and perception of tourism stakeholders and destinations
Weather, natural resources and safety are the three main aspects of the perceived attractiveness of destinations. Climate change will have impacts on all three and is therefore a matter of big importance for the development of destinations. Tourism industry in the south Baltic Sea Region (BSR) is supposed to benefit from changes in temperature and precipitation, but might also have to deal with major changes in ecosystems and social, cultural and economic frame conditions. This dealing –or adaptation- is an on-going process that the tourism industry will have to implement in their medium- and long-term planning. Projections of direct, indirect and induced climate impacts based on actual climate models are therefore important in the multidimensional field of tourism, and will be the basis for climate adaptation processes of coastal tourism in the BSR.
To analyse the assessment of climate challenges within the regional sector, nine expert interviews with tourism stakeholders and decision-makers along the German Baltic coast were conducted in spring 2010. The survey aimed at understanding the actual perception of touristic stakeholders, at getting an overview of current adaptation strategies and at analysing the needs of the tourism industry to develop and establish an efficient adaptation strategy.
The results showed that climate change is still playing a subordinate role in destination management. Even though climate change is interpreted as potentially harmful within the next decades, nearly no anticipatory actions were visible so far to reduce the risks and to handle the chances. Uncertainties in climate projections and limited financial resources were given as main reasons. Consequently, experience with climate adaptation hardly exists and knowledge of specific climate change challenges for Baltic coastal tourism is limited. Notable is the voluntary delegation of responsibility from the tourism sector, normally eagerly defending their independence, to governmental institutions. Adaptation is understood as a network approach with a cross-dimensional network of supra-regional size. The willingness to be part of the network is existent but limited time resources and the awareness of limited adaptation knowledge account for passive participation. According to the interviewees, the designated communication in these networks should be free of scientific jargon, efficient and focused on applicable strategies.
The interpretation of these results shows that the basis for regional climate adaptation strategies is to establish functional networks. For the tourism sector, this can be achieved by delegating responsibility to touristic stakeholders to turn them into active members of climate networks. Scientific regional knowledge of Baltic climate challenges should be made accessible (e.g. through regional scientific projects such as RADOST). Communication of adaptation as an on-going process is vital to establish long-term working networks.