Germany Germany Germany Germany

Tourism Germany

Tourism in numbers - Europe

Europe is the most important tourist region in the world. According to UNWTO, in 2006 nearly 55% of all international tourist arrivals (461 million) were on the “old continent”.Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region are the favourite holiday destinations in Europe. According to UNWTO, in 2006 about 165 million tourists visited these regions (14).

At present, the predominant summer tourist flows in Europe are from north to south, to the coastal zone. However, coastal and mountain tourism are the segments that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Mediterranean region is the world's most popular holiday region: it attracts some 120 million visitors from northern Europe each year, the largest international flow of tourists on the globe, and their spending is in excess of EUR 100 billion (12).

Tourism in numbers - Germany

Tourism contributes approximately 8% to the German gross national product (4), and is one of the most important economic sectors. … Seventy-two percent of all trips, and about 60% of the holiday trips by Germans go to destinations within Germany. In spite of this high proportion of tourism within Germany, Germany also spends the worldwide highest amount on holiday trips abroad, namely 60 million US$ (5).

Vulnerabilities – In general

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their competitiveness and sustainability (13):

  • Direct climatic impacts
  • Indirect environmental change impacts. Changes in water availability, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, altered agricultural production (e.g., wine tourism), increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure and the increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees.
  • Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility. Policies that seek to reduce GHG emissions will lead to an increase in transport costs and may foster environmental attitudes that lead tourists to change their travel patterns.
  • Indirect societal change impacts. Climate change is thought to pose a risk to future economic growth and to the political stability of some nations. Climate change is considered a national and international security risk that will steadily intensify, particularly under greater warming scenarios. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest.

Vulnerabilities – Future projections for winter sport in Germany

A recent Europe-wide assessment has identified increasing losses in winter tourism due to reduced snow cover and the increased exposure of settlements and infrastructure to natural hazards as the primary vulnerabilities to climate change in the Alps (1).

Sensitivity to climate change varies markedly among the Alpine countries. Germany is most sensitive, with only a 1°C warming leading to a 60% decrease (relative to present) in the number of naturally snow-reliable ski areas. Practically none of the ski areas in Germany will be left naturally snow-reliable under a 4°C warming (1).

In the last 50 years there has already been a marked decrease in snow safety in the lower Alpine altitudes and the German lower mountain ranges. For the future it is expected that winter sport will only be possible in the Alps above approximately 1500 m and in the lower mountain ranges above 800-1000 m (3).

Even though winter tourism accounts only for 3% of all holiday trips with overnight stay in Germany (7), it is locally of high importance (Alps, lower mountain ranges).

Emigration of winter tourists to other countries must be expected, since the German Alps comprise few ski resorts above 2000 m. This is a trend that can be observed in smaller ski resorts at lower altitudes already today, owing to aging infrastructure and lacking alternative recreational offers (apres-ski, wellness, etc.) (8).

Ski resorts in German lower mountain ranges are particularly impacted by climate change, owing to their low elevation. A study for the Fichtelgebirge showed that snow safety has considerably declined since 1960 (9). Between 1972 and 2002, the number of days with snowfall decreased significantly at 13 of 14 studied stations. Under the assumption of a temperature increase of 0.4ºC per decade in this region, only one out of six ski resorts would have sufficient snow by 2060. Already by 2025, the conditions for winter sport in the Fichtelgebirge will deteriorate considerably, which applies to the “natural” snow conditions, as well as to the potential for artificial snow making. Under these circumstances, the existence of a profitable ski industry seems highly unlikely (9).

Scenarios for the next two decades show that natural snow cover above a depth of 10 cm will only persist for longer than four weeks in the higher altitudes of Baden-Württemberg. On average, below an altitude of 750 to 850 m above sea level, there will likely not persist a snow cover of a minimum of 10 cm depth for more than 14 days by the year 2012. The potential to make artificial snow will also be impacted by climate change. By 2025, only the high altitudes (Feldberg) will be suitable for technical snowmaking (3).

Vulnerabilities – Future projections for summer tourism in Germany

Typical forms of summer tourism, particularly beach holidays, are also impacted by climate change. Here a rather positive development in Germany is expected. Higher temperatures and lower precipitation in summer increase the attractiveness of German beach and bathing destinations and can elongate the bathing season significantly. With regard to classic destinations such as the Mediterranean losing attractiveness due to summer temperatures of partly beyond 40ºC, summer tourism could shift from southern regions to Germany.

Germany is expected to become a more popular tourist destination. According to estimates, the numbers of tourists visiting Germany could increase by 25 to 30 % (6). For example, results from a study for Baden-Württemberg show a marked elongation of the bathing season by 17 days into spring, and by 39 days into autumn by 2050 (10). As a consequence of such “favourable” climate conditions, summer tourism may well shift inland, or to Northern and Eastern Europe, along with an increased attractiveness of German destinations also for foreign guests (3).

Benefits - Germany

Climate change may have a net positive effect on the overall European potential for tourism: up to 59 million bed nights more or some 8% of the total of 777 million nights registered for 2005 in a study on 29 countries (15). Additional potential revenues could be in the order of 4–18 billion euros.

The changes are likely to be unequally spread across Europe, however. The year-round potential for tourism increases most in the northern parts of Europe, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and in Austria. In the southern countries, there is evidence for a net loss of potential, although improvements in the spring and autumn seasons are likely to offset a significant share of the deteriorations in summer. In particular Austria and the UK enjoy significant gains in relative terms, whereas Italy and Spain face the largest losses (15).

Adaptation strategies – In general

Climate change is slowly entering into decision-making of a range of tourism stakeholders (e.g., investors, insurance companies, tourism enterprises, governments, and tourists); studies that have examined the climate change risk appraisal of local tourism officials and operators have consistently found relatively low levels of concern and little evidence of long-term strategic planning in anticipation of future changes in climate (13).

There is also some evidence that local tourism operators may be overestimating their adaptive capacity (e.g., capacity to make snow under the warmest scenarios). The incorporation of adaptation to climate change into the collective minds of private and public sector tourism decision-makers (‘mainstreaming’) remains several steps away (13).

The capacity of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change is thought to be relatively high due to its dynamic nature and therefore there will be important opportunities for tourism to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change (13).

Adaptation strategies in Germany - General

In general, the offer of new activities is thought to play an important role. The tourism sector is so far not adapted to climate change, resulting in “high” vulnerability of winter tourism, and “moderate” vulnerability to climate change impacts for the remaining tourism sector in Germany without further adaptation. However, the tourism sector should be able to adapt in future. Losses in winter tourism could possibly be balanced by gains in summer. A range of effective adaptation options is available, some of which are already being implemented for reasons other than climate change. If this adaptive capacity is used, we expect a reduction to “low” vulnerability of the tourism sector to climate change (3).

More flexibility and a further diversification of the tourism offers in Germany is needed. Among these are increased possibilities for year-around weather independent activities (indoor-events, hot springs, exhibitions, etc.), but also enhancing the attractiveness of tourist destinations through stressing regional specificities (cultural history, culinary specialities), and the improvement of educational and cultural tourism offers (e.g. presentations and concerts) (3).

Various studies on tourism and climate change conclude that the main reason for the weak implementation of adaptation measures in the tourism industry is the lacking debate about climate change. Other issues (economic development, competition, etc.) often seem more important and a relative short-term perspective is adopted in discussions and operations (8,11).

Adaptation strategies in Germany - Winter sport

Artificial snow to increase snow safety and elongate the season will only be an appropriate adaptation measure in the short- to medium-term, since rising temperatures will render artificial snow making impossible at lower altitudes. Owing to this trend, we anticipate a concentration of ski-tourism in higher altitudes of the Central Alps. German winter tourism will therefore rely importantly on alternative activities (hiking, cultural travels, wellness) (3).

A gradual diversification with new target groups and new coping strategies is recommended instead of an immediate shift from snow tourism to alternative offers. Alternatives to classical downhill skiing are cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, winter walking, and hiking, Nordic walking and cross-country cycling (during warm winters). These alternative offers generally do not have a value creation comparable to downhill skiing, which is a challenge to the profitability of mountain tourism in general. Furthermore, they often attract a smaller target group, not being able to fully compensate disappearing skiers (15).

Other adaptation measures are shifting the tourism activities from snow-dependent sports to offers like guided hikes, wellness, and culture. Such strategies are recommended especially for lower mountain ranges, which have suffered from insecure snow conditions already for some time (3).

An example of successful withdrawal from ski tourism is Gschwender Horn in Immenstadt, Bavaria. At the beginning of the 1990s, after a series of snow-deficient winters, the municipality, together with the Allianz Umweltstiftung, decided to withdraw from the non-profitable ski operation. The facilities (two ski lifts and a transportable children’s lift) were dismantled, the ski runs (approximately 40 hectares) re-naturalised. Today, the area is used for summer and winter tourism, namely hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and ski touring (2).

Adaptation strategies in Germany - Summer tourism

Even for summer tourism, adaptation measures are necessary, to increase the number of weather-independent attractions in potential summer holiday destinations. Independent of climate change, tourism is prone to large variability and changes, which depend on socio-economic conditions, changes in age structure, changes in life style, and the fear of wars and terror. In relation to these factors, the impacts of climate change on tourism have so far been rarely considered (except for winter tourism). Consequently, few adaptation measures have been discussed (3).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Germany.

  1. Agrawala (2007)
  2. Föhn (1990), in: Elsasser and Bürki (2002)
  3. Zebisch et al. (2005)
  4. DWI (2001), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  5. World Tourism Organisation (2005), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  6. Government of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010)
  7. IPK (2004a), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  8. Bürki (2000), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  9. Seifert (2004), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  10. Wolf (2005), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  11. Feige et al. (1999), in: Zebisch et al. (2005)
  12. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  13. UNWTO, UNEP and WHO (2008)
  14. Deutsche Bank Research (2008)
  15. Hoy et al. (2011)