By Elisa Jiménez Alonso
Temperatures in the Alps have risen almost twice the global average. This trend has profound implications for the whole Alpine environment and the industries that depend on it. One of the most prominent ones is tourism, especially winter tourism. However, with climate change, the Alps are gaining popularity as a warm but not too hot summer destination. The European Earth observation (EO) programme Copernicus aims to support the sector with new tools that can improve the understanding of climate change impacts on tourism.
As climate change alters the patterns of suitable and non-suitable weather conditions, the competitiveness and seasonality of holiday destinations can be heavily affected. Seasonal forecasting and climate projections can therefore play an important role in strategic business planning. The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) is developing a user-driven climate information system for intermediaries, tourism companies, policy makers and other users, based on information from the C3S Climate Data Store. Part of the system is a series of indicators and indices that will help tourism providers shape their marketing strategies, future investments and plan events while considering a changing climate.
One of these indices is the Holiday Climate Index (HCI); it combines temperature, relative humidity, precipitation, cloud cover and wind helping illustrate the climatic suitability for tourism activities. The HCI can help businesses make informed decisions about the start and finish of the season, promotional campaigns, event scheduling, and staffing levels. Additionally, the Mountain Tourism Meteorological and Snow Indicators (MTMSI) will provide information about past and future temperature, and natural and managed (including effects of grooming and snowmaking) snow season duration. These data are of particular interest to ski resorts. The service, which is meant to become available later in 2019, will also offer an interactive web-interface with data not just for the Alps but all of Europe.
These new tools will be particularly interesting for the Alpine tourism sector as its seasonality and offering is already starting to look different due to climate change. Tourism providers are entering unfamiliar territory, with EO-based information tailored to their needs they will be able to make better informed business decisions and adapt to new circumstances.