Impact of snow variability on the Swiss winter tourism sector: implications in an era of climate change
With its numerous mountain regions and its well developed winter tourism infrastructures, Switzerland is a country whose tourism sector is known to be sensitive to snowpack variability. With climate change—which is predicted to have negative impacts on snow depths and duration—the need for accurately assessing the sensitivity of winter tourism consumption to changing snow conditions is reinforced. Taking advantage of newly available data on visitation rates at Swiss ski areas, we analyze the effect of snow conditions on skier visits using standard panel data regression techniques. We assume the magnitude of this effect to be conditional on the level of snowmaking investments. Higher snowmaking investments should lead to a lower sensitivity. Our results validate this hypothesis and also shed light on the competitive interactions between lower and higher lying ski areas located in the same tourism region. In fact, our results show that better snow conditions in the former reduces visitation rates in the latter. Eventually, we find that ski areas benefiting from sunny conditions tend to have, ceteris paribus, more skier visits. This suggests additional impacts if climate change were to modify sunshine duration in mountain regions.