With the issue of global warming becoming a frightening reality in the Alps, and with snow lines predicted to rise by as much as 300m over the next forty years – forcing skiers to abandon all but the highest ski resorts – the ski industry is facing a number of short to medium term problems. The ski industry and skiers rely on the mountain environment for their very existence and need to protect and preserve the skiing environment if they and future generations are to enjoy the same benefits. To do this both skiers and the ski industry need to take important steps towards sustainable tourism.
The concept of sustainable tourism revolves around the precept of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. With respect to the ski industry it means developing tourism which is both planned and managed so that it doesn’t cause environmental problems in the tourism area whilst maintaining, if not actually improving, the environmental quality of the area whilst maintaining the normal levels of customer satisfaction. And with a UK market of over 1 million participants, the skiing industry is in a unique position to not only contribute to sustainable tourism but to also raise awareness amongst clients.
Certainly, one of the greatest threats to skiing is climate change; and, although there is still some debate around global warming, general scientific opinion now acknowledges the phenomenon. And, with the retreat of Europe?s glaciers over the last century this certainly appears to be the case.
However, if the skiing industry embraces sustainable forms of tourism and acknowledges their responsibility they could set the trend for the rest of the tourism industry. This can be achieved in a number of ways: waste reduction and disposal/recycling, fuel efficient transport, energy efficient accommodation and training staff in environmental practice.
The skiing industry is a service industry and, as such, the company providing the best service will have a clear competitive advantage. But, as environmental performance and enjoyable holidays are increasingly interlinked, adopting and putting into practice an environmental policy could give the first movers in the ski industry a unique competitive advantage whilst working to preserve a pristine natural mountain environment on which the industry relies.