Tourism Recreation Operators

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Tourism-recreation operators is a broad category comprised of diverse stakeholders, including businesses involved in the travel planning and transportation phase (e.g., travel agents, event planners, transportation companies, international tour companies) to the wide range of businesses involved in hospitality (i.e., hotelsresorts, restaurants), attractions management (e.g., museums, golf courses, etc.), and other services (e.g., tour guides, equipment rentals, etc.) at specific destinations. While part of the same tourism-recreation sector actor group, there is an important distinction in the adaptive capacity of tourism businesses that operate in single and multiple-destinations. As examples will illustrate, tourism-recreation businesses with immobile capital assets (e.g., resort complex, marina, or casino) at individual destinations have less adaptive capacity than businesses that provide transportation or travel planning services.

8.2.2.1 Technical

A tremendous array of technical and structural climate adaptations are used in the diverse environments that the tourism-recreation sector operates in. Here the discussion will be limited to adaptations to two widespread climate-related pressures on tourism-recreation operators: snow reliability and water supply.

The ski industry uses three major types of technological adaptations to improve snow reliability: snowmaking systems, slope development and operational practices, and cloud seeding (Scott 2006b). Snowmaking is the most widespread climate adaptation used by the ski industry and has become an integral component of the ski industry in some regions (eastern North America, Australia, Japan). Over the last 30 years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in snowmaking systems in order to expand operating seasons and increase the range of climate variability that ski areas could cope with. Figure 8.3 illustrates the diffusion of snowmaking technology in the in the five ski regions of the US from 1974-1975 to 2001-2002. In the mid-1970s there was much greater use of this adaptation in the Northeast and Midwest ski regions than regions with higher elevations like the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific West. Since then that difference has been gradually diminishing. A similar east-west geographic pattern exists in Canada (Scott 2006b). The implementation of snowmaking is not as extensive in Europe as in North America, but

Fig. 8.3 Historical diffusion of snowmaking adaptation throughout the US (National Ski Area Association annual state of the ski industry reports)

there is no comprehensive analysis of how snowmaking differs by country. Barriers to the increased used of snowmaking in Europe include higher energy costs, challenges to securing adequate water supply, and environmental concerns (e.g., chemical additives that allow snowmaking at temperatures near 0°C are banned in Germany).

Slope development adaptations include: slope contouring, landscaping, and, interestingly, the protection of glaciers. With the increased recession of glaciers in the Alps in recent years, notably the record warm summer of 2003, ski areas in Switzerland and Austria, have needed to develop new adaptations. Initially heavy machinery was used in the autumn months to move snow to fill in gaps left by the glacier's retreat over the summer. In response to rapidly increasing fuel costs, some ski areas began to work with glaciologists on a new approach to protect critical areas of glaciers (typically cable car exist areas) from ultraviolet radiation and restrict melting during summer months with large sheets of white polyethylene (Simmons 2005; Jahn 2005). While the results have been 'fantastic' in the words of ski area operators, some environmental groups, such as Switzerland's branch of Friends of the Earth, are opposing plans to expand the use of this adaptation by ski areas (Maclnnis 2006).

In addition to the modification of existing ski terrain, the development of new ski terrain in climatically advantaged locations (north facing slopes, higher elevations) is commonly cited as an adaptation to climate change. Expansion of ski areas into higher elevations appears to be the principal climate change adaptation strategy being considered in the European Alps (Konig and Abegg 1997; Elsasser and Burki 2002; Breiling and Charamza 1999). High elevation mountain environments are particularly sensitive to disturbance and proposed expansion of ski areas into these environments is often met with opposition from the public and environmental groups. For example, a project to develop a world-class, four-season ski resort on Jumbo Glacier in southern British Columbia has been held up since 1991 by opposition from environmental groups and local residents (Greenwood 2004).

Cloud seeding is a weather modification technology that has been used to produce additional precipitation; although a recent US government report concluded there still is no convincing scientific evidence that this adaptation works (National Research Council 2003). Some ski areas in North America (State of Colorado) and Australia (New South Wales State) have employed this technology in an attempt to generate additional snowfall.

Inadequate water supply is a salient problem in many tourism areas around the world and is often brought about by over development (demand exceeding supply capacity) and climate variability. The following examples illustrate the three most common technical adaptations to increase water supply for tourism operations: water transfers (pipelines or tankers), reservoirs, and desalination plants. During the mid-1990s summer drought conditions on the Spanish island of Majorca threatened the operations of the tourism industry, the islands largest source of income and employment. With local aquifers suffering saline intrusion and failing to meet water supply requirements for tourism and the local population, the Spanish government implemented a yearly 10 million m3 water transfer from the Spanish mainland via tanker ships (Wheeler 1995). The long-term adaptation strategy was the construction of two large-capacity desalination plants and additional water transfers (via pipeline) from the mountainous north side of the island (Wheeler 1995).

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), together with other national agencies, has several adaptation strategies to reduce water shortages in the heavily developed tourism island of Phuket that are often brought about by climate variability (Raksakulthai 2003). Structural elements of the multi-year water supply plan include the construction of new dams, development of abandoned mines as water sources, expanded water transmission and water recycling systems. In addition to these structural adaptations, TAT is also planning non-structural adaptations, such as a revised fee structure for water consumption and water conservation campaigns (Raksakulthai 2003).

Becken's (2004) survey of small and medium size tourism operators in Fiji recorded a number of other small-scale water supply adaptations. Over a third of the survey respondents indicated they had experienced reduced water availability during recent droughts, and as a result structural adaptations to secure on-site water supply was the second most frequent climate adaptation undertaken by respondents. Examples of small-scale structural adaptations included: retrofitting buildings with rainwater collectors, increasing storage tank capacity, converting toilets to saltwater supply, and adding diesel powered desalination capacity. Tourism operators in Fiji also utilized non-structural adaptations, including water conservation education for employees and guests, revised landscaping practices, limited use of pools.

8.2.2.2 Business Management

The business model that tourism-recreation operators chose is an important determinant in the range of climate adaptations utilized. Some tourism operators have adapted to the pronounced seasonality of tourism demand in many destinations by closing during the low season. This adaptation strategy allows operators, particularly small and medium sized family-run enterprises, to make necessary repairs, develop marketing campaigns, attend training sessions, and go on vacation themselves. Other tourism operators substantially reduce capacity and services during low season (Fig. 8.4). Still others, sometimes as part of a broader tourism industry or national tourism strategy, use a range of adaptation strategies to develop low season markets in order to operate year round.

Product and market diversification are common adaptation strategies to increase demand during low seasons. In Thailand, the low season occurs during the southwest monsoon and Raksakulthai (2003) has reported two main adaptation strategies to develop low season. TAT has concentrated on developing tourism attractions that are not climate sensitive, such as health and wellness spas, study tours on Thai culture (e.g., cooking, religion, and language classes), indoors entertainment complexes with Thai cultural performances, and shopping, and also promoted development of the MICE market (meetings, incentives, conventions, exhibitions) among business travellers. In North America, the Economist (1998) referred to the transition of major ski resorts from ski areas to winter theme parks, as the 'Disneyfication' of the winter sports industry. Many ski resorts have

Fig. 8.4 Seasonal resort shut-down as climate adaptation (Greece) (Photo credit: Daniel Scott)

made substantial investments to provide alternate activities for non-skiing visitors (e.g., snowmobiling, skating, dog sled-rides, indoor pools, health and wellness spas, fitness centres, squash and tennis, games rooms, restaurants, retail stores). A number of former 'ski resorts' have further diversified their business operations to become 'four season resorts', offering non-winter activities such as golf, boating and white-water rafting, mountain biking, paragliding, horseback riding and other business lines (spas, conference facilities).

Tourism business models can also influence vulnerability to climate variability and change. For example, an important business model to emerge in the North America ski industry over the past decade is the ski resort conglomerate. Companies like American Skiing Company, Intrawest, Booth Creek Resorts, and Boyne USA Resorts have acquired ski areas in different locations across North America. Although not intended as a climate adaptation, the conglomerate business model may prove to be one of the most effective adaptations to future climate change. The ski conglomerate business model provides greater access to capital and marketing resources, thus enhancing adaptive capacity, but also reduces the vulnerability of the conglomerate to the effects of climate variability and future climatic change, through regional diversification in business operations. The probability of poor snow conditions in one ski region of North America (e.g., New England) is much higher than for several others (e.g., New England, Quebec-Ontario, Midwest, Rocky Mountains, and California). When poor conditions occur, the financial impact can be spread out through the organization and above average economic performance in one or more regions could buffer losses in another. Companies with ski resorts in a single region or independent small-medium size ski enterprises are at greater risk to poor climatic conditions. Without substantive economic reserves or access to capital, a series of economically marginal years may be all that is required to bankrupt the business.

Marketing is another key business strategy that is used to adapt to natural seasonality, climate extremes and most recently climate change. The Caribbean Tourism Organization and individual member states have begun to actively market themselves as four-season destinations in the late 1990s with multi-million dollar advertising campaigns that target the honeymoon market and budget-conscious families (Barnes 2002). In combination with marketing messages that downplay the region's summer heat are upgraded air-conditioning, discounted room rates, and new hurricane interruption policies at many resort companies, including Sandals Resorts, Club Med, SuperClubs, TNT Vacations and Apple Vacations. The hurricane guarantees or waivers differ slightly from company to company, but basically provide a replacement stay of the same duration and equivalent value as the one originally booked (Bly 2006). The strategy has proven successful as summer occupancy rates at beach resorts are approaching or equalling winter season in many destinations (Johnson 2005).

'Last change' marketing for climate change threatened destinations is still relatively rare, but an increasing marketing trend among tourism operators in regions where climate change impacts are clearly observable. Climate change has become one of the major interpretive themes in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska and some Alaskan tour guides are inviting travellers who visited 25 years ago to experience how the landscape has changed (Egan 2005). The popular travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler (May 2004) featured an article on climate change and international tourism destinations, including at list of 'endangered wonders' that travellers were recommended to visit before they vanish. UNESCO has indicated that world heritage sites such as the Belize Barrier Reef, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the snows of Mount Kilomanjaro are threatened by climate change (Black 2006), which will likely inspire future articles in travel magazines and climate change related marketing by opportunistic tour operators.

In contrast to tourism operators with immobile capital assets that must adapt to climate at a specific location, other tourism businesses, that provide travel planning or transportation services, operate in many locations and one of their principal adaptation strategies is to redirect the travellers they represent to alternate destinations as conditions dictate. Travel agents redirect clients away from destinations that have been recently impacted by extreme events. The Government of Mexico estimated that as a result of the late season hurricane Wilma and media coverage of damage and stranded tourists, it would lose US$800 million in tourism revenue between October and December 2004 as travel agents and individual travellers select other destinations (Williams 2005). Large-scale event planners adapt in the same manner. Convention and event businesses increased in Arizona following the four hurricanes in Florida in 2004 and were expected to remain higher during hurricane season for the next 2-5 years as event planners avoid weather risks (USA Today 2005). With the trend toward shorter-term travel planning, especially discounted 'last minute' bookings made in the week (or day) prior to departure, travel agents are increasingly able to redirect clients away from destinations that could be adversely affected by unfavourable weather (using 5-7 day forecasts) or extreme events (areas in the path of developing hurricanes).

8.2.2.3 Policy

Few corporate policies on climate change exist in the tourism-recreation sector. The first known tourism operator in the world to develop a climate change policy is the Aspen Skiing Company. In 2001, they adopted two policy statements: (1) Aspen Skiing Company acknowledges that climate change is of serious concern to the ski industry and to the environment; and (2) Aspen Skiing Company believes that a proactive approach is the most sensible method of addressing climate change. Notably, the Aspen Skiing Company joined the Chicago Climate Exchange and established a climate change action plan, which focuses on mitigation efforts and does not publicly set out the company's adaptation strategy.

8.2.2.4 Public Education

There are a number of examples of tourism-recreation operators participating in pubic education on climate change with the intention of raising awareness and influencing personal behaviours that contribute to climate change mitigation. Many individual ski areas in North America and some celebrity ski athletes participate in the annual 'Keep Winter Cool' public education campaign (described further under Tourism Industry adaptations) (National Ski Areas Association 2006). The Mountain Equipment Co-op Company has been involved with the development and sponsorship of the 'Melting Mountains' public education initiative that focuses on the impacts of climate change on mountain environments and mobilizing stakeholders of these highly important tourism-recreation resources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the individual and corporate level (Melting Mountains 2006). A growing number of travel companies are now educating travellers about travel related GHG emissions and promoting carbon offset programs, such as those offered through 'MyClimate' (2006).

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