Despite the lack of snow in recent weeks, the tourism industry in the Alps is optimistic about the forthcoming high season in February. Because of falling temperatures and current snowfall, it looks "very good" for February, when traditionally many German vacationers spend their winter holidays in the Alps, said Martin Stanits from the Austrian Hoteliers' Association.
The hotels in Austria are expecting seasonal sales to be around the level of the pre-Corona year 2019. Despite the unusually mild temperatures for the season so far, the state marketing organization Switzerland Tourism reported an increase of three percent in overnight stays year-on-year.
However, images of narrow artificial snow slopes on green mountain meadows are likely to appear more frequently in the future as a result of climate change. In the medium term, many ski resorts would have serious problems because of the decreasing amount of snow, says economist Anna Burton. According to the state weather experts from Geosphere Austria, since 1961 between Christmas and the first week of January there has never been such a small part of Austria covered by snow as at the turn of the year 2022/2023.
Climate change meets ski tourism
But at lower altitudes it is becoming increasingly difficult to offer snow-covered slopes. According to Burton from the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (Wifo) in Vienna, around 70 percent of the ski areas in Austria are at or below 1700 meters - with a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees by 2050, continuous winter operation can no longer be guaranteed there, she said and referred to Figures from the UN climate committee IPCC.
"That means that in the medium term we have a problem in most of the ski areas," she said. The number of day visitors also falls when the snow conditions are uncertain. Inflation could further reduce tourism sales. According to a Wifo survey, half of German and Austrian winter holidaymakers want to spend this season nominally at most as much or less than last time.