CR 11:247-254 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/cr011247

Potential impact of climate change effects on preferences for tourism destinations. A psychological pilot study

Ottmar L. Braun1,*, Martin Lohmann2, Olga Maksimovic1, Martin Meyer1, Anetta Merkovic1, Eva Messerschmidt1, Annette Riedel1, Marcella Turner1

1Universität Koblenz-Landau, Fachbereich 8: Psychologie, Im Fort 7, D-76829 Landau, Germany
2N.I.T. Kiel, Schaßstraße 5, D-24103 Kiel, Germany

ABSTRACT: This paper is intended to demonstrate the usefulness of a psychological experimental approach in researching the underlying processes of socio-economic impacts of the effects of an eventual climate change in the field of tourism. Tourism demand for the German coasts at the North and Baltic Seas may be influenced in some way by climate change impacts, e.g. by new preferences for holiday destinations due to changing environmental conditions (especially weather) and due to the actions taken by the tourism industry to cope with these changes. A pilot study was designed and carried out in order to develop a method to measure the sensitivity of destination choice to climate change effects and to gain first ideas of whether and how destination preferences will probably change. 136 subjects in 5 experimental conditions were given scenarios describing 'positive' or 'negative' climate change effects with and without (re)actions of the regional tourism industry. The control group received a scenario describing no changes. Subjects interest in spending a holiday at the North Sea and Baltic Sea in Germany were defined as the dependent variable. One of the crucial aspects was to check whether the applied technique is appropriate for making the situation, which is only a hypothetical and future one, sufficiently clear (make it feel 'real') to the participants in the study. The methodological approach is suitable for further (and more in depth) research: subjects had no trouble imagining the scenarios. The manipulation checks indicated differences, and differences between conditions were also found in the dependent variables. Thus, the adopted procedure appears promising and can be applied in future studies. Nevertheless, some improvements are recommended. Within the restricted possibilities of a pilot study, first ideas on whether and in which direction the effects of an eventual climate change may influence destination choice of tourists are presented. According to the data, climate change can influence the preferences for vacation destinations. With respect to the North German coastal region, this effect is rather a negative one. Under the climate change conditions presented in the scenarios, possible tourists are less eager to travel there than under today's conditions. It will not be easy for the local and regional tourism industry to reduce negative effects or to use positive effects to a certain extent by appropriate action. Within limits this possibility may exist, but one has to be rather careful in defining what is 'appropriate', e.g. with respect to their target groups in tourism. The results still do not allow for predictions of destination choice or behaviour patterns during holidays. The experimental method described here may be one additional tool to the many others used to gain a clearer picture of a possible future of tourism in coastal areas under climate change conditions.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Coastal tourism · Vacation destination choice · Climate perception · Scenario technique

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