Open letter to FAO on the occasion of March 21st 2014 – International Day of Forests:


Defining Forests by their true meaning!


To FAO General Director
José Graziano da Silva


We are a broad group of social movements, NGOs and activists, writing this urgent appeal for FAO to review its present definition of forests. FAO´s definition as it stands reduces a forest to any area covered by trees, discarding the structural, functional and biological diversity of non-tree elements that make up a forest, as well as the cultural importance of the interaction between forests and communities . This FAO definition mainly benefits the interests of the timber lobby and the industrial tree plantation companies for pulp/paper and rubber. The definition fails the at least 300 million women and men worldwide who, according to FAO, directly depend on forests for their livelihoods. These include indigenous and traditional peoples and populations, many of whom are peasants whose food sovereignty depends on practicing agriculture in the forest, complemented by their use of a rich diversity of non-timber forest products. They all not only guarantee their own food sovereignty, they make crucial contributions to feeding the world. Forests play a fundamental role in the lives of these women and men, including peasants, artisans, fisher folk and gatherers, and they must be among the main actors in a review process that FAO should initiate to ensure the organization's definition of forests reflects how forests are seen in the 21st century.

Forests have such an importance in the lives of millions of people, women and men, who worldwide depend on forests in a variety of ways, they often find it difficult to express in words how crucial forests are for them, even in their own language. Sometimes, forest peoples summarize this importance through calling the forest simply their "home"- not just a piece of land covered by trees but a territory where they feel protected and where they can find what they need to live well. These people are often indigenous peoples, including the last remaining about 100 groups of peoples living in isolation. They also include many other forest-dependent groups with a rich diversity of ways of living. Without exception, they show great respect towards the forest on which they depend and feel part of.

While the collection of non-timber forest products is an essential activity for many of the forest-dependent women and men, they are also peasants practicing agriculture with methods transmitted over many generations that have been refined in a way so as to maintain forest functions intact. This form of agriculture, together with fishing and hunting, as well as the collection of a range of non-timber products like honey, fruit, seeds, acorns, tubers, medicinal plants, herbs guarantees the food sovereignty and health of these populations. Peasants further contribute to the livelihoods of an even higher number of people, 1.6 billion according to FAO's own estimate. Also, timber is used by forest peoples mainly for local domestic needs and rarely as a main commercial activity. But if the latter is the case, the trade is mainly done in local markets. Forest-dependent communities are often well aware of the destructive potential of commercial timber extraction. It often results in huge profits for a few outsiders but leaves behind irreparable destruction and severely affects people´s livelihood.

But states and multilateral institutions like FAO and the World Bank still see forests as land where the commercial extraction of valuable timber by private, often foreign companies, is the best way for countries to get on the so called "development" track and take people out of "poverty". This timber-centric perspective is at the root of the present FAO definition of forests: "Land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10 percent and area of more than 0.5 hectares (ha). The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 meters (m) at maturity in situ (...)". (1)

This reductionist definition also justifies the expansion of large-scale monoculture tree plantations as so called "planted forests. Under FAO´s definition, such large-scale monocultures are even considered "reforestation" and are said to compensate for forest loss. In practice, industrial tree plantations and other industrial monocultures like oil palm and soy have contributed immensely to the destruction of forests and other biomes like grasslands and savannas throughout the world. While providing a handful of transnational companies with enormous profits, they have left forest-dependent communities impoverished, often even driven them out their territories. Women, with their specific relation with the forest, tend to suffer most from forest destruction. Communities affected by large-scale monoculture tree plantations never call them forests.

FAO's "state of the world´s forests" report continues to spread the myth that deforestation is less of a problem than it was in the past. The supposedly positive news is the result of FAO confusing forests and plantations, permitting that tens of millions of industrial fast-growing monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, acacia and rubber are counted as "planted forests" in countries' forest statistics. Under FAO's present forest definition, even a genetically modified fast-growing eucalyptus plantation of 100,000 hectares is called a "forest", in spite of all the negative impact it has as a large-scale monoculture crop, not to speak of the risk of contaminating the genetic composition of surrounding trees and forests.

In its founding principles, FAO portraits itself as an organization leading "international efforts to defeat hunger", as well as being a "neutral forum where all nations meet as equals". For this claim to become true, FAO needs to urgently revise its forest definition from one that reflects the preferences and perspectives of the timber, pulp/paper and rubber companies to one that reflects how forest dependent peoples see and use forests.

This Public Letter is an invitation to FAO to take initiative and correct the misleading definition. In such a process of elaborating a new and more appropriate forest definition, FAO should engage effectively with those, women and men, who directly depend on forests. An appropriate forest definition must support their modes of living, their networks and organizations. That is our hope on the International Day of Forests. We are committed to continue this campaign until these initiatives are being effectively taken up by FAO.


Signed by:
La Via Campesina
Friends of the Earth International
Focus on the Global South
World Rainforest Movement

by Helen Klimmek*




Scuba diving is considered to be one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the world (Hunt et al., 2013). While statistics on current diver numbers vary, it has been estimated that approximately one million new divers are trained every year (Davenport and Davenport, 2006). The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), just one of several global dive training organisations, has issued more than 21 million certifications since 1967 and, in 2012, granted more than 900,000 entry level and continuing education diving certifications (PADI, 2013a).


Given that the majority of scuba divers reside in the northern hemisphere and some of the most popular diving destinations are located in the Global South (Garrod and Gössling, 2008), international travel constitutes a major part of scuba diving. Dive tourism, which involves individuals travelling abroad to engage in scuba diving activities, has thus become an increasingly lucrative industry that has come to play a particularly important economic role for many less developed countries (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012).


Interestingly however, despite constituting a growing segment of the tourism industry, there is a general lack of research into the impacts of scuba diving on local host communities. Academic research has been almost exclusively preoccupied with examining the environmental impacts of this increasingly popular recreational activity. This contrasts with the general trend within academic tourism literature which has given more equal consideration to the economic, socio-cultural and environmental impacts of tourism development.


The current article seeks to address this deficit by exploring the social impacts of scuba diving in Flores, Indonesia. More specifically, it focusses on determining the extent to which dive tourism contributes to local community participation and empowerment, and explores the potential for dive tourism stakeholders to engage in socially responsible practices. It is hoped that the findings will identify ways in which dive tourism could become more inclusive and thereby more sustainable, not only in Flores, but also in other parts of the world.


The scuba diving industry and local communities


Dive tourism is commonly categorized as a form of niche tourism (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012; Mograbi and Rogerson, 2007), which typically implies a tailored and individualised type of travel targeted primarily at elite, higher spending tourists (Novelli, 2005).1 Although dive tourism is part of the general tourism industry and therefore partially depends on related players such as transport and accommodation providers, it also includes specialist service providers such as dive centres, certification/training agencies and equipment manufacturers. Thus, in this article, the term 'dive industry' will be used to refer to businesses and organisations directly linked to scuba diving activities, while the term 'dive tourism industry' also includes general tourism players, and stakeholders, such as governments and NGOs.

Although niche tourism is often regarded as a sustainable form of tourism (Novelli, 2005), there has been very little research into whether this holds true for dive tourism. Existing studies primarily focus on the environmental impacts of dive tourism from a natural science / biology perspective (Hawkins and Roberts 1992; Hawkins et al., 1999; Tratalos and Austin, 2001); studies that do consider the social impacts of scuba diving tend to take an economic perspective by focussing on marine tourism as a source of revenue (Cesar and Van Beukering, 2004; Fabinyi, 2008), tourists' willingness to pay for access to marine parks (White and Rosales, 2003) or the more general topic of marine tourism and its wider impacts on coastal areas (Shaalan, 2005). Academic research into scuba diving has therefore failed to give equal consideration to the 'three pillars' of sustainable tourism (see table in section 2.1).


One notable exception is Daldeniz and Hampton's (2012) research on the socio-economic effects of scuba diving in Malaysia. This two-year project resulted in various outputs examining community participation in dive tourism (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012) and the varying attitudes of dive tourism stakeholders towards sustainability (Haddock-Fraser and Hampton, 2012). Overall, the study found dive tourism to have both positive and negative impacts on host communities by encouraging education and environmental awareness on the one hand, while excluding local people from the socio-economic benefits and decision-making processes, on the other hand. Mograbi and Rogerson's (2007) case study on dive tourism in Sodwana Bay, South Africa, came to a similar conclusion; although the industry created local employment and business opportunities, poorer, predominantly black members of the community were excluded from decision-making processes and the socio-economic benefits of tourism.


Based on these findings, it could be argued that in terms of the potential impacts on local communities, dive tourism is not very different from tourism in general, in that it can have a positive and negative effect (Townsend, 2008), and therefore does not merit further research. The dive tourism industry seems to distinguish itself from other types of tourism however, in that it poses particularly high barriers to local involvement due to the high cost of dive training, equipment, and the need for language skills (Townsend, 2008).


Furthermore, as Townsend (2008) points out, while the scuba diving industry has been found to play an active role in promoting environmental protection and awareness, it "has not been singled out for criticism over social impacts in the same way that other industries, or even the tourism industry as a whole, have been" (p.143). While there are several positive examples of dive centres, certification agencies and resorts attempting to maximise the benefits of dive tourism to local communities, there has not been a "global, industry-wide move towards or understanding of social issues and dive tourism" (Townsend, 2008, p.143) and there seems to be a severe lack of effort on behalf of, and cooperation between stakeholders to maximise the potential of dive tourism to bring lasting benefits to local communities (Townsend, 2008).


Research location

The study was conducted in the town of Labuan Bajo, located in the West Manggarai regency of Flores. Flores is part of Indonesia's Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) province and consists of eight regencies (kabupaten): Manggarai Barat (West Manggarai), Manggarai, Manggarai Timur (East Manggarai), Ngada, Nagekeo, Ende, Sikka and Flores Timur (East Flores), each of which is governed by a regency head (bupati).


Figure 1

Figure 1 Map of Flores and the surrounding area (Erb, 2012)


A key tourist attraction in western Flores is the Komodo National Park (KNP). KNP is one of Indonesia's oldest national parks and comprises the three islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar, several smaller surrounding islands and 1,214 square kilometres of marine habitat (PKA and TNC, 2000). While the park is perhaps best known for the Komodo monitor, or 'komodo dragon', it is also one of the world's richest marine environments and a biodiversity hotspot (Gustave and Borchers, 2008), home to more than 1,000 species of fish, 385 species of coral and 70 species of sponges, as well as dolphins, whales, turtles, dugongs, sharks, and rays (Heighes, 2011). It therefore offers an attractive destination for nature-based tourism such as snorkelling, kayaking, bird watching and fishing (Borchers, 2009) and has evolved into a world-class diving destination attracting a growing number of divers every year. The number of visitors to the area has more than doubled during the past five years, from 20,069 in 2007 to 41,972 in 2012 (Swisscontact, n.d.) a large proportion of whom (approximately 80%) are scuba divers (Makur, 2013a).

With limited accommodation for tourists within the national park, most tourism development has taken place in the two gateway towns of Sape (located in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara) and Labuan Bajo (Flores); the majority of tourists pass through either of these towns during their visit (Walpole and Goodwin, 2001). Labuan Bajo, in particular, has grown into a popular tourist destination and Flores' main scuba diving base.


Despite the significant growth in tourism, Flores continues to belong to one of Indonesia's poorest and most underdeveloped regions (Eco Flores, 2012) and the socio-economic gains from tourism have yet to reach those people who need it most. The unequal distribution of financial benefits has been a particularly contentious issue within the Komodo National Park; previous studies have found that most of the revenue is "generated outside the local economy" (Borchers, 2009, p.273) while local communities, living within the park (a population of approximately 4,000 people) and in rural areas outside of the gateway towns, have reaped very few benefits (Gustave and Borchers, 2008). These characteristics make Labuan Bajo a suitable location for an exploration of barriers to community participation in the scuba diving industry and an examination of how stakeholders could overcome these barriers and contribute to sustainable tourism development.


A note on defining 'local community'

Defining who is 'local' and part of a 'community' is problematic as it inevitably means including some people, while excluding others (Cole, 2006). Broadly, a community can be defined as "a social network of interacting individuals, usually concentrated in a defined territory" (Johnston, 2000, p.101), however, as Scheyvens (2002a) points out, this still leaves several questions open, relating to scale and diversity:
"would 'the community' include only people from a village adjacent to a new tourism attraction, or villagers from the surrounding area who may also want to benefit from the attraction? Does it include just 'locals', or migrant workers? Does it include only the poorer classes, or also the minority of elites?" (pp. 15-16)

The task of finding an appropriate definition is not only complicated by the fact that communities are usually understood to denote much more than geographical entities, and to refer to more intangible concepts such as shared values, identity and 'community spirit' (Cole, 2006; Scheyvens, 2002a).


These definitional problems become particularly apparent in places such as Labuan Bajo, which has been identified as "one of the most 'ethnically' diverse places on the island of Flores" (Erb, 2004, p.8). Prior to its development as a popular tourist destination, Labuan Bajo was predominantly made up of sea-faring immigrants from other islands of Indonesia such as Sumbawa and Sulawesi. According to Erb (2004), it was not until later, particularly as a result of a growth in tourism, that people from the Manggarai region and other parts of Flores began to settle and look for employment in the town (Erb, 2004). Thus, the population of Labuan Bajo changed from:


"being a place of predominantly coastal fishing folk, descendent from Bimanese on Sumbawa Island, Bajau, a far flung fishing folk in Indonesia, or Bugis, from Sulawesi, all Muslim, to a population at least half comprised of mountain bred, Catholics, descendent of farmers and not at all proficient in matters of the sea"
(Erb, 2004, p.11).


The populations living on the islands within KNP are also a mixture of fisher-folk from Sulawesi and Manggarai from western Flores (Komodo National Park Authority, 2009). Defining 'local' and 'community' is thus complicated by the large variations in ethnic backgrounds, religions and cultures found in and around Labuan Bajo.


For the purposes of this article, the term 'local community' refers to the fishing communities living on the islands within the Komodo National Park and people living in Labuan Bajo who, when asked, identified themselves as being from western Flores (Manggarai). This definition was chosen as it includes a geographic element (the region of western Flores) as well as subjective feelings of identity and community spirit (i.e. someone who may have been born in a different region but who had lived in the area long enough to identify him/her-self as Manggarai would be included within this understanding of 'local community'). Nevertheless, while it was conceptually necessary to provide this definition, it must be remembered that it represents a somewhat restrictive understanding of a multifaceted and contested concept that automatically leads to the exclusion of some individuals. This relates back to the criticisms directed at community participation typologies and the subjective issue of which groups must participate in a tourism venture for it to be categorized as 'active participation'.


Economic Impacts of dive tourism on the local community:


Labuan Bajo has seen substantial tourism development over the past few years. Once a small fishing village, the town is now home to numerous hotels, travel agencies, shops, restaurants and dive centres. Tourism infrastructure, particularly dive-tourism related infrastructure (e.g. dive centres), has primarily developed along the 'main road', which stretches along the waterfront and eventually leads to the town of Ruteng 140 kilometres away. Some hotels and restaurants are located on the hills overlooking the harbour or 1-2 kilometres south of the harbour along the coast. A sitemap of the area (see figure below) shows fifteen dive centres scattered along the main road, with the rest located just outside, close to some of the bigger, resort-like hotels. Older dive shops are predominantly located towards the northern part of the road, with newer ones developing to the south.


Figure 2

Figure 2 Map of Labuan Bajo (not to scale) showing dive centre locations and areas under construction (based on Heighes, 2011 and field notes)


Several interviewees noted uncontrolled land use and management as a problematic issue in Labuan Bajo; one interviewee noted: "everybody is building everything everywhere, there is no guidance". While a local NGO has tried to promote a building and site management plan for the area, and this has already been signed and approved by the regency head (bupati), it has yet to be properly enforced.

The lack of legal building- and business permits, and skyrocketing land prices due to speculative investments from outside agents, were mentioned as particularly worrisome developments by several respondents. Although these changes have not directly led to any forced resettlements, they have led to the economic exclusion of many locals who cannot afford the rising rent and real-estate prices. In particular dive centre and NGO staff expressed general concern regarding the uncontrolled and rapid growth of tourism businesses while other business owners and community members viewed infrastructure developments, such as the government’s investment in building a new waterfront promenade (see photograph below) or a second airport terminal, as positive. This finding mirrors results from Malaysia, where dive professionals were generally worried about the speed of development and rising real-estate costs, but local interviewees viewed the development of roads or buildings in a positive light and as signs of modernity (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012).


Figure 3

Figure 3 Image showing construction of new tourism businesses (see scaffolding on right hand side) along the newly developed promenade (dirt track at centre of image) (Photograph taken by author)


Overall it would seem that the community is benefiting from tourism development in terms of improvements in roads and infrastructure, which could be seen as signs of economic empowerment. Involvement in decision-making, however, is limited to Level 1 on Tosun's (1999; 2006) participation ladder as the local community lacks control over the speed or type of development occurring and are left to come to terms with decisions made on their behalf. The rise in land prices  could also be seen as a sign of economic disempowerment as local elites and outside investors are, arguably, the prime beneficiaries of the booming real-estate market.


Employment and business opportunities

Daldeniz and Hampton's (2012) study in Malaysia found a severe lack of trained local dive staff throughout their research locations. A large majority of dive professionals were found to be expatriates, and dive businesses were predominantly foreign-owned. Dive shop owners cited lack of hospitality training and work ethic as prime reasons for not employing more local dive professionals. Other key barriers to local employment were cost of training, the lack of course material in the local language and the availability of international 'volunteers' (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012).

Research in Labuan Bajo generally supports these findings. Boat staff (e.g. captains and deckhands) were found to be exclusively from Flores or other parts of Indonesia and there were some local and Indonesian dive guides. The majority of dive professionals (e.g. divemasters and instructors), however, were international expatriates. Lack of English language skills, the high cost of dive training, and limited availability of course material in Bahasa Indonesia beyond the Open Water (beginner) level, were cited as key obstacles to greater involvement. Some expatriate dive shop owners gave poor work ethic and lack of loyalty as additional reasons for not employing more local dive professionals. Other interviewees also mentioned international volunteers willing to work 'for free' in return for accommodation as problematic because local dive guides, needing to earn a steady income to support themselves and their families, are unable to compete with the low cost of employing self-funded volunteers.

As in Malaysia, the majority of dive businesses in Labuan Bajo are foreign-owned by expatriates from Europe, Australia and the USA. While there are some dive shops under local and Indonesian ownership, it was difficult to ascertain the exact number, as some of these businesses operate on an informal, word-of-mouth basis or specialize in live-aboard trips (trips where guests spend one or more nights on board the dive boat) and do not have a physical office-presence in Labuan Bajo. Nevertheless, it can be safely said that a large majority of the dive centres based in Labuan Bajo are foreign-owned. This coincides with the pattern within the general tourism industry in Labuan Bajo; smaller, less capital-intensive businesses such as warungs (eateries/foodstalls) are largely owned by locals, while large hotels and restaurants are owned by western expatriates or Indonesians from outside Flores. Respondents identified the lack of financial resources and limited access to credit or loans as a key barrier to greater local ownership of dive businesses, which corresponds to findings from previous studies (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012; Townsend, 2008; Mograbi and Rogerson, 2007).

Daldeniz and Hampton (2012) introduce a 'non-participation category' to describe the low level of business ownership and employment, which is not coerced or imposed but due to a lack of opportunities, financing and training. This also applies to Labuan Bajo. Although there seem to be more locally owned businesses and higher levels of employment in Labuan Bajo than in the research sites in Malaysia, local participation is still severely hampered by lack of capital, and English language and diving skills. This suggests a degree of economic disempowerment as the majority of local people lack the skills and specific training needed to take part in the higher-level jobs in the dive industry and therefore miss out on significant economic benefits.


Economic linkages


The creation of economic linkages is often cited as a key strength of the tourism industry (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008; WTTC, 2012). The sector has the potential to provide a significant source of income not only for directly related operations, such as accommodation and transportation providers, but also for secondary and tertiary providers of related goods and services, such as food, power and water (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008). Ideally, tourist expenditure should result in the 'multiplier effect' as the money originally spent by tourists is multiplied by making its way through different levels of the economy (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008).

However, critics argue that in reality, a large portion of tourism income is in fact generated outside the local economy, primarily by large transnational corporations based in the west, which reinforces inequalities between the global North and South (Mowforth and Munt, 2009). Particularly mass-scale tourism, which tends to feature large resorts and hotel-chains, has been found to cause high levels of economic leakage as goods and services are often imported from overseas and profits primarily go to foreign owners instead of the local economy (Hampton, 2003; Mowforth and Munt, 2009).


Daldeniz and Hampton (2012) study in Malaysia also included an analysis of the economic linkages between dive centres and supporting tourism infrastructure. They found dive centres in two of three research locations, to have a very low economic link to other businesses due to the physical distance between dive shops and the villages and the all-inclusive nature of many resorts, which meant tourists only made limited purchases from the villages.


In Labuan Bajo, there are several resort-like hotels offering inclusive services, however, tourist accommodation mainly consists of smaller hotels and guesthouses located close to the main road. Guests at these hotels tend to eat in the restaurants and warungs dotted along the main road and sometimes visit the local market to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. Food served in restaurants is primarily bought in the local market or supplied from Ruteng, while some products are imported from Lombok and Bali. The food available on the diving boats operating from Labuan Bajo is also sourced from the local market or from local restaurants. One dive centre was found to be particularly active in explicitly promoting local produce on its boats and selling locally-made products such as coffee or souvenir items such as necklaces, in the dive centre shop.

The comparably small number of high-end resort hotels in Labuan Bajo has ensured that tourist expenditure is invested into the local economy, however, the rising number of live-aboard companies based outside of Labuan Bajo was identified as a problematic development. Live-aboard tourists are often shuttled directly from the airport to the boat on which they spend several days or weeks, after which they are transferred back to the airport. One respondent also mentioned the growth in 2-day-1-night snorkel trips, which involves guests flying to Labuan Bajo from Bali, spending the night on the trip-providers' boat, one day snorkelling within the national park and then flying straight back to Bali. These types of trips could be viewed as 'enclave tourism' (Britton, 1982) as they encourage very little, if any, interaction between tourists and the local community. Because many of the companies offering live-aboard services are based outside Flores, they also bring very few economic benefits to the local economy. 


Socio-cultural impacts

While tourism can have a positive social impact by, for example, increasing employment opportunities and supporting infrastructure development, it can also have a negative influence on society and culture. It can, for example, encourage the commodification of local customs and traditions, cause tensions between those socio-economic groups benefiting from tourism and those excluded from it, and, in some cases, contribute to a rise in crime levels (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008).

Daldeniz and Hampton (2012) found significant cultural tensions between local people, and expatriate dive professionals and dive tourists, particularly with regards to excessive drug use and alcohol consumption, crime and immodest dress. Furthermore, dive centres were found to be doing very little in terms of promoting local culture and heritage by, for example, drawing attention to evening performances or encouraging tourists to purchase locally produced handicrafts.

Inappropriate behaviour, in terms of dress code or alcohol and drug consumption, was not identified as a significant problem in Labuan Bajo. One expatriate interviewee who had previously lived in Thailand noted: "I'm still surprised and offended when I see someone walking down the street with a beer bottle; it's that uncommon". Lacking adherence to appropriate dress-code, a problem in other, more remote areas of Flores (Cole, 2008b), was also not identified as an issue by interviewees.

Several interviewees opined that Flores' remote location might play a role in deterring many budget tourists, who 'just want to drink and have fun', from visiting the island and suggested that this might be the reason for the lack of socio-cultural problems. Such statements correspond to the negative, stereotypical image of budget, and particularly backpacker tourists, as "unkempt, immoral, drug-taking individual[s]" (Scheyvens, 2002b, p.145) which is often adopted in fictional and academic literature (Scheyvens, 2002b). In fact, a large portion of visitors to Labuan Bajo and the surrounding area are 'backpackers' on a break from work or university, who plan their trips independently and want to explore the area in their own time (Erb, 2005). However, these individuals seem to fit in with the archetypal image of backpackers as 'travellers' whose primary aim is to escape overcrowded 'tourist areas' such as Bali (Erb, 2005) rather than the party-going and drug-taking type alluded to by the respondents.


The only clearly definable socio-cultural issue identified during this study related to the differing income levels of foreigners and local people. As one interviewee noted: "there is the general tension that you are essentially seeing foreigners making more money". This could be seen to denote a degree of resentment on behalf of local people towards foreign business owners, who, according to Erb (2013) have felt "increasingly marginalized by the presence of foreigners involved in tourism businesses" (n. pag.). It could therefore be argued, that the dive tourism industry has potentially resulted in a degree of psychological and social disempowerment; local people, who do not share in the benefits of tourism, are confused and frustrated which can cause jealousy rather than cooperation between different socio-economic groups (Scheyvens, 2002a). It should however, be noted that this particular respondent also said that he generally felt very welcome within the community and, although local interviewees mentioned that foreign investors and business owners were major beneficiaries of the tourism industry, they did not allude to any tensions or jealousies resulting from this. Thus, the conclusion that dive tourism may have led to a degree of psychological and social disempowerment can only be drawn tentatively.

In terms of encouraging cultural awareness, research did not indicate any significant efforts on behalf of the dive industry to make a positive social impact by encouraging pride in local culture and heritage. Only one dive centre was found to display information booklets on the various tribes and cultures of Flores, and promote the purchase of locally-produced handicrafts. Thus, the dive industry contributes very little in terms of social and psychological empowerment in this respect. As the following section demonstrates, however, the industry does play a major role in encouraging awareness of and appreciation for the natural, underwater environment.

Environmental impacts

Most research on the environmental effects of scuba diving focuses on the degradation of coral reefs due to diver contact and careless anchoring (Davenport and Davenport, 2006). The dive industry has generally been found to have a negative environmental impact in regards to these issues (Hunt et al., 2013). However, it also takes a prominent role in promoting environmental awareness through conservation initiatives such as Project AWARE (Aquatic World Awareness, Responsibility and Education), environmental guidelines such as the Green Fins code of conduct (a project coordinated by the Reef-World Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme), and smaller-scale, environmental awareness projects promoted by dive centres and organisations around the world (Daldeniz and Hampton, 2012; Townsend, 2008).


A concern for environmental protection was also observed in Labuan Bajo. Dive centres were found to take an active role in addressing some of the environmental stresses facing the Komodo National Park such

as destructive/unsustainable fishing and pollution through rubbish and plastic waste. The majority of dive centres participate in regular beach-clean-ups and promote the reduction of plastic waste by, for example, supplying customers with water dispensers to refill their bottles. Several dive centres have also been involved in efforts to promote the development of a Manta Ray sanctuary and visit local schools to give talks and presentations on marine life and general environmental awareness. Some have also provided swimming and snorkelling lessons to children attending nearby schools. These visits have been very popular, and according to a local teacher, resulted in a growth in pupils' enthusiasm for learning about the underwater world and possibly working in the dive industry in the future. This could be seen as a sign of the dive industry contributing to the community's psychological empowerment, as they become increasingly aware and proud of their natural resources.

Dive centres have also attempted to limit damage to coral reefs by fixing boat moorings to prevent careless anchoring, and one dive centre has been providing guests with environmentally friendly soaps and shampoos on some of its live-aboard boats. Another dive centre owner has managed to set up an informal marine protected area by striking a deal with fishermen living on one of the small islands off the coast of Labuan Bajo; in return for refraining from fishing in certain areas they are provided with sports equipment and school material, and the dive centre sometimes sponsors small sporting events for the villagers.
Thus, the dive industry appears to be having a positive impact in terms of promoting environmental awareness/conservation, and social and psychological empowerment through school visits and educational programmes.


Summary of dive tourism impacts and barriers to local participation

These results generally support findings from previous studies on dive tourism and local community participation. Dive centres in Labuan Bajo were found to be actively involved in environmental conservation and protection efforts yet local employment and business ownership in the industry was generally quite low. Key barriers to more active participation in the dive industry were lack of training, language skills and limited financial capital. With the exception of live-aboards, the economic linkages between the dive industry and the wider economy were generally found to be quite high.

Having established the level of, and barriers to, local community participation in the dive industry in Labuan Bajo, the following section will analyse the role various dive tourism stakeholders are playing in supporting sustainability and local participation.


Stakeholder roles in overcoming barriers to local community participation

The importance of tourism stakeholders working together in order to facilitate community participation and empowerment has been increasingly recognized within academic literature. As Timothy (2003) observes, the tourism industry is a complex domain "where no single individual or group can resolve tourism issues by acting alone" (p.373). This domain is made up of interdependent stakeholders such as governments, NGOs and the private sector who all have a role to play in supporting sustainable tourism. These roles include capacity building through skills training, networking, development of infrastructure and provision of funding for small and medium enterprises (see figure on following page).

More specific to dive tourism, Townsend (2008) identifies a number of key roles various stakeholders can play to support community involvement. Governments should work in coordination with the industry to identify skills required and promote training opportunities and improve chances of local employability. Dive centres could play an important role by working with schools and training centres to raise awareness for career opportunities in the diving industry and to encourage local involvement. They can also help develop language and diving skills of employees in non-diving positions and give them the opportunity to come into more regular contact with tourists and thereby develop their customer service and language skills. Training and certification organisations such as PADI and Scuba Schools International (SSI) can increase the availability of training materials in local languages and draw attention to social issues through sustainability labels and dive centre certification schemes, while NGOs can emphasise the link between conservation and poverty reduction and encourage communities and private businesses to work together (Townsend, 2008).


Figure 4

Figure 4 Potential roles of governments, NGOs and the private sector in supporting community involvement (Adapted from Simpson, 2008 and Scheyvens, 2002a)


This research revealed several promising initiatives seeking to overcome barriers to local participation in Flores' dive tourism industry, particularly lack of training, language skills and financial resources. One local NGO has, with the support of a major dive certification agency, been able to subsidise the dive instructor training course enabling four local divers to become certified instructors. Two of these instructors are now part of the local Dive Guide Association which seeks to, among other things, increase levels of local employment in dive centres. These instructors have also been involved in certifying fishermen living within KNP and helping them to find internship positions within dive centres in Labuan Bajo where they have the chance to gain work experience and possibly continue their dive training in the future. The NGO has also provided some villagers from Komodo Island with access to capital through the creation of a co-operative, which opens up opportunities for future business ownership. Another NGO, while not directly involved in initiatives to increase local involvement in the dive industry, has been very active in bringing tourism stakeholders together and creating a forum for discussing sustainability issues related to tourism.

While most dive centres have supported these NGO efforts by, for example, agreeing to employ interns, some businesses were found to be particularly active in supporting community development and pursuing initiatives of their own. One dive centre devotes part of its budget to community projects and employs a staff member who dedicates 50% of her time to local education and training programmes. One of these projects involves offering students at a local school the opportunity to take part in swimming and diving lessons. While it is hoped that this programme will result in employable dive professionals in the future, the aim is also to give children and young adults the opportunity to go into the water to 'see what's out there' and increase awareness of, and admiration for, the marine environment within the community. Although this programme is in its early stages, the dive centre plans to make it "open source and replicable" so that other businesses who want to take part in the initiative can do so.

In terms of encouraging wider skills training, research revealed a number of dive centres, NGOs and hotels offering English language training to staff members, although it was noted by interviewees that the development of language skills was a key issue requiring more attention.


Obstacles to stakeholder success

Despite these positive examples of stakeholders working towards improving local participation in the dive industry, the study also highlighted some issues requiring more attention, and several barriers to successful project implementation. The following section outlines key issues facing the government, NGOs and the private sector in encouraging sustainability in the dive industry:



The government's role in supporting sustainable tourism development seemed to be a particularly contentious issue in Labuan Bajo. Interviews and informal conversations with community members revealed distrust towards the government and little confidence in its ability to implement successful, sustainable tourism policies. The Indonesian government recognizes tourism as one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange earnings and a major contributor to local welfare (FIRST Magazine, 2012) and has, in an effort to further increase the tourism flow and its associated benefits targeted some regions as priorities for tourism-related investment. According to Indonesia's Master Plan of Expanding and Accelerating Economic Development 2011-2025 Flores is part of the 'gateway for tourism' which spans from Bali to West Nusa Tenggara (Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, 2011) and is also home to two of sixteen 'strategic national tourism areas' which have been prioritized for tourism development from 2012-2014 (FIRST Magazine, 2012).

Officially, sustainable tourism development is central to these plans and the national government works in close cooperation with the eight districts of Flores to help ensure an "integrated action plan to develop sustainable tourism" (FIRST Magazine, 2012, p.55). In reality, however, there is a lack of collaboration between Flores' districts and there is a concern that the national and provincial government primarily focusses on promoting the area as an attractive tourist destination, while giving little consideration to how a growth in visitor numbers will be dealt with locally.

Sail-Komodo, an international maritime event due to take place in September 2013 which will see hundreds of yachts and cruise ships sailing through KNP, was mentioned as a prime example of the provincial and national government's lack of concern for local issues. While the event has been marketed as an opportunity to boost tourism to the Nusa Tenggara Timur province, the local community has largely been excluded from the planning stages of the event (Makur, 2013b). One local tour guide noted that the promotional banners and advertisements lining the streets of Labuan Bajo were the only source of information available to local community members and even expressed uncertainty as to whether the event was still taking place. Several interviewees wondered how the small harbour would cope with a sudden influx of boats and yachts and doubted that the event would bring any economic benefits to the local community. These observations could be seen to demonstrate the government's focus on macroeconomic issues and attracting foreign investors but a disregard for local empowerment and participation (Scheyvens, 2002a). A general lack of trust in the local government was also conveyed through comments such as "government employees get a salary no matter what... so they don't care about these things".



Unlike governments, NGOs are often seen as neutral providers of community support given their not-for profit status and the fact that they do not directly represent state interests (Scheyvens, 2002a). The NGOs working in Labuan Bajo were found to play an active role in disseminating information, bringing stakeholders together and pushing for greater local empowerment and participation. Generally, interviewees thought highly of these efforts, although some noted a lack of cooperation between NGOs and two interviewees conveyed a feeling of distrust towards the organisations' goals and motivations. As Simpson (2008) points out: "NGOs have often been criticized when involved in tourism initiatives for their lack of transparency, lack of commitment and excessive focus on self-promotion" (p.8) and the attitudes and actions of foreign-based NGOs can run the risk of being interpreted as neo-colonialism. This was, to a certain extent, evident in Labuan Bajo as one foreign-based NGO was criticised for investing in unnecessary and expensive new offices throughout Flores, bringing in outside consultants to "tell us what to do" and working on projects without coordinating with other locally-run initiatives.


Private Sector

According to Simpson (2008) "a combination of conscience, pressure (legislative and lobbyist), necessity and a desire for capturing a maturing and growing market" (p.9) has led to an increasing focus on behalf of the private sector for sustainable approaches to tourism. This is reflected in the existence of industry associations such as the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and private sector initiatives such as, which promote sustainable business practices within the tourism sector (Simpson, 2008).

The diving industry has also demonstrated a growing concern for sustainability issues through certification schemes such as PADI's Green Star Award or SSI's Ocean Ranger Code. However, as this research and previous studies have noted, such schemes are almost exclusively concerned with environmental sustainability and any efforts to include social elements take place on a smaller scale and are primarily driven by the passions of individual dive business owners. Generally, the competitive nature of the dive industry means that the profit-motive stands as a key barrier to pursuing more sustainable and ethical business practices, which are not perceived as 'business critical' by the majority of dive business owners and training agencies.



The community's low level of trust in the government's ability to prioritise local interests, act transparently and enforce regulations, means that NGOs and the private sector play a particularly important role in promoting responsible practices within the dive tourism industry in Labuan Bajo. As outlined above, NGOs have been successful in providing networking opportunities for tourism stakeholders and have even been investing in dive instructor training. However, there are also signs that the social impacts of the dive industry are being overlooked; one foreign-based NGO, which has been actively supporting the sustainable development of Flores' tourism industry, has devoted little attention to the dive industry in its projects because tourist exit-surveys have revealed high-visitor satisfaction with the services provided by dive operators. The NGO has therefore chosen to focus on issues relating to accommodation providers, restaurants and tour guides (R1). This implies a lack of awareness of the dive industry's significant role within western Flores' tourism industry and its socio-economic impacts on the local community.

Given that not everyone wants to, or can be trained to work as a dive professional (Townsend, 2008), NGOs should not only invest in training local dive staff but also encourage dive businesses to engage in business practises that support the local community in other ways. The provision of English language training, for example, is not only beneficial to the operation of dive centres but also increases the general employability of local people. While dive professionals willing to work 'for free' in return for accommodation were seen to have a negative effect on the community, they could make a positive impact by getting involved in English language/conversation classes for local people. Encouraging dive centres to display locally produced handicraft and products could also go a long way towards promoting investment in the local economy.


Furthermore, while the efforts by individual dive operators are laudable and to be encouraged, it would seem that wider changes within the dive industry cannot take place without larger scale initiatives (Scheyvens, 2002a). Given that the profit-motive prevents many business owners from exploring more sustainable business practice alternatives, NGOs could play a key role in providing independent research and guidance on how dive centres can support the local community in commercially viable ways. The Green Fins code of conduct (Hunt et al., 2013) demonstrates the potential for NGO-private sector collaboration within the dive industry. Funded and managed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and The Reef World Foundation, the programme provides consultation and incentives to dive centres to limit their impact on marine life (Hunt et al., 2013) and demonstrates the potential for a similar programme that includes issues of social sustainability. Rigid codes of conduct that impose local employment quotas would be overly restrictive and presumably be looked upon unfavourably by business owners and would also be difficult to enforce and implement. However, the development of a 'best practice' guideline describing how dive centres can support local communities as well as mitigate their environmental impact could be the first step towards encouraging more responsible behaviour in the dive industry. Such practices could include training local staff, participating in local education workshops and providing members of the local community with work experience opportunities.

Finally, dive certification and training agencies have the potential to act as major contributors towards an industry-wide recognition of the social impacts of dive tourism. Their potential to influence practices within the dive industry is extensive, considering that they not only certify thousands of dive professionals every year, but also act as a certification system for dive businesses (most reputable dive centres are rated by organisations such as PADI, according to instructor capabilities and facilities) (Mograbi and Rogerson, 2007). This means that these agencies not only certify thousands of dive professionals and recreational divers, but are also represented by a large number of dive centres around the world (PADI, for example, is represented by more than 6200 dive shops and resorts) (PADI, 2013b).

Given this level of influence, simply making dive training materials available in more languages, could be key to increasing local employment in the industry. Drawing attention to guidelines for responsible tourism behaviour that include environmental and social issues could also play a part in making the dive industry more sustainable by promoting responsible behaviour not only on behalf of dive businesses but also dive tourists. Importantly, given the growing tourist demand for sustainable tourism alternatives (CREST, 2013), such moves would not only be beneficial to local communities but also commercially realistic and could therefore coincide with the profit-maximizing focus of many private sector players. This is supported by the example of a dive centre in Labuan Bajo, which, while charging slightly higher prices than other centres in the area, attracts a large percentage of its customers due to its ethical approach to dive tourism. As the dive centre founder put it: "It is my intention, completely and totally to embarrass the other shops, to show not only profitability but growth by doing operations like this. I can financially show and prove the benefits of doing these things".


On the whole, this research supports findings from previous studies on the impacts of dive tourism on local communities. While dive centres in Labuan Bajo were generally found to contribute little in terms of social and psychological empowerment, they do play a major role in encouraging local awareness of and appreciation for the natural, underwater environment. Furthermore, in terms of community participation, it was found that although there are some locally owned dive businesses and a few local dive professionals in Labuan Bajo, limited language skills and the high cost of dive training are the most significant barriers to greater local employment in the industry.

In addition, the investigation revealed several promising examples of NGO and private sector initiatives seeking to increase local involvement in the dive tourism industry and identified several obstacles reducing the likelihood of long-term success. It was argued that NGOs could play a greater role in providing independent research and guidance on how dive centres can support the local community in commercially viable ways, and that the private sector, especially dive training organisations, could adopt a leading role in the promotion of responsible practices. Thus, the paper successfully identified initiatives in Labuan Bajo that could be replicated in similar contexts and described potential complications, and their possible solutions, to consider when starting similar initiatives.

Importantly, this dissertation has focussed on NGOs, the government and the private sector as key tourism stakeholders, but has not given much consideration to the role tourists themselves play in the tourism development process. NGO's and businesses can influence tourist actions by providing them with guidelines for responsible behaviour and information on ways they can support the local community, however tourists can also exert influence by pressuring tourism operators to adopt sustainable practices and by supporting ventures that involve the local community (Scheyvens, 2002a). While research in Malaysia indicated a low awareness on behalf of dive tourists for social and environmental issues (Haddock-Fraser and Hampton, 2012), conversations with tourists in Labuan Bajo indicated that sustainable business practices did sometimes feature as a prominent reason for choosing one dive centre over another. Given dive tourists' close interaction with the underwater environment, it could be argued that they have a vested interest in maintaining a healthy underwater environment and therefore might value sustainable practices more than other tourists who do not come into direct contact with the underwater world. Further research into dive tourists' views on sustainability could give more insight and potentially make dive industry leaders aware of the value of adopting responsible practices that include environmental and social issues.

Another potential topic for further research is the socio-economic impact of live-aboards. While live-aboards were identified as problematic by interviewees due to their enclave nature, time and practical constraints did not allow more in-depth research into the subject. It would, however, be interesting to explore how live-aboard operators view issues of environmental and social sustainability and what measures could be implemented in order to ensure greater live-board tourist interaction with the local economy. Given the growth in popularity of live-aboard operations in Labuan Bajo, this topic would be particularly worth addressing and might also be relevant to other remote locations in the world.


About the Author:

Helen Klimmek is currently an Intern with IUCN. She has a BA in Politics and an MA in Tourism, Environment and Development. Ms Klimmek is particularly interested in sustainable tourism and marine conservation and has worked as a dive instructor in Egypt and Palau. She has also completed internships with the UNDP, Blue Ventures and the IUCN. The author may be reached through her LinkedIn profile.

This article is based in a dissertation submitted as part of a MA degree in Tourism, Environment and Development at King's College London.



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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (14 Jan. 2014) – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and TravelMole are looking for destinations in the region that are demonstrating that sustainable tourism products and services are viable and exciting travel options for visitors to the region in their annual Sustainable Tourism Awards.


Individuals, groups, organizations and companies in any of the CTO's member countries are invited to submit entries for a number of award categories including the Caribbean Excellence in Sustainable Tourism Award; Destination Stewardship Award; Sustainable Accommodation Award; Community Benefit Award; Heritage Protection Award; and the Biodiversity Conservation Award.


Qualifying entrants will have developed unique and attractive tourism products or are implementing initiatives that embrace sustainable tourism concepts and core values. Entry criteria are aimed at identifying and showcasing sustainable tourism best practices among CTO members that improve long-term competitiveness of tourism businesses and destinations while preserving the inherit quality and authenticity of the product or services. All entries must be submitted via

"Winners will demonstrate comprehensive efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, increase use of renewable energy, preserve the natural environment and create exciting, value-added experiences that are also sustainable." said Gail Henry, CTO's sustainable tourism product specialist. "We want our awards to be recognized as a standard bearer that will signal to visitors that the winning entity has reached a level of excellence in its sustainable tourism practices."
TravelMole's publisher and editor-in-chief, Graham McKenzie, encouraged Caribbean destinations to embrace sustainable tourism as the way forward.


"The CTO/TravelMole Sustainable tourism awards have now established themselves as the leading programme of its kind in the region. Genuinely assessed and judged, the awards stand out as a beacon of recognition for sustainability. In a region such as the Caribbean where tourism is such a high revenue earner and employer, it's imperative that the unique attributes that make the region so attractive are preserved and developed sympathetically with the environment". McKenzie said.


The deadline for the entries in the CTO-TravelMole Sustainable Tourism Awards is Friday 31 January, 2014.

Value of Bear Viewing in BC, CanadaWASHINGTON, DC— 8 January 2014: A new study released today finds that bear viewing ecotourism in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest “generates far more value to the economy” in terms of revenue, taxes, and jobs than the older and more well-established trophy hunting of grizzly and black bears.  The study by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), Economic Impact of Bear Viewing and Bear Hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, determined that in 2012, bear viewing in the Great Bear Rainforest, which has been growing rapidly over the last decade, generated 12 times more in visitor spending than bear hunting and over 11 times in direct revenue for BC’s provincial government. The study further found that bear-viewing companies directly employed an estimated 510 persons in 2012, while guide hunting outfitters generated only 11 jobs that same year.


The CREST study, the first to compare the economic value of these two sectors of wildlife recreation in the Great Bear Rainforest (GBR), comes in the midst of public controversy over trophy bear hunting.  In 2012, the Coastal First Nations, representing some 20,000 First Nations people who are seeking greater control over the GBR, announced a ban on trophy hunting of bears throughout the region. They argued that, among other reasons, trophy hunting is threatening the growing ecotourism industry centered on bear viewing.  The BC government, contending that the province has the sole authority to regulate hunting, has continued to authorize hunting of black and grizzly bears in the GBR.


“Given the sensitivity of the debate and the range of statistics being cited for the value of hunting and viewing, CREST decided to undertake an impartial, academically rigorous analysis to try to nail down the numbers,” says CREST Co-Director Dr. Martha Honey who led the project.  The study was conducted by CREST researchers at Stanford University and in Washington, DC, together with two BC-based experts.  “Our findings clearly show that bear viewing is today of far greater economic value than bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest and that bear viewing is a growing, while bear hunting is declining.”


Other Key Findings Include:

1. The study identified 53 bear-viewing companies and only four guide outfitter hunting companies operating in the Great Bear Rainforest study area in 2012. The companies involved in bear-viewing said they expect their businesses to grow over the next decade, while most of the hunting outfitters have experienced a decline in business and several are seeking to sell their businesses.  


2. Bear viewing is a key factor bringing international tourists to the GBR from Europe, Asia, and the United States. While the total number of tourists coming to the GBR for bear viewing could not be fully determined, 25 of the 53 companies surveyed reported hosting 11,369 visitors in 2012. That same year, there were 74 hunters from outside BC, 80% of whom are from the United States. Therefore non-resident bear hunting is more dependent on a single market—the U.S.--than is bear viewing, and the number of U.S. hunters coming to BC dropped 20% during the recent economic crisis.


3. The results of a new BC government-commissioned study, Expenditure of British Columbia Resident Hunters “appear inflated in a number of areas” and its estimate that resident hunting generated $230 million in BC in 2012 “may have overinflated the number of hunter days and spending per day.” (This study does not provide separate estimates for the GBR) Given these uncertainties, “it is not really possible to say how accurate the [government’s] 2013 study is.”


4. Whatever the actual amount, resident hunting in BC and the GBR “represents a circulation of already existing money rather than new money entering the province.” According to statistician Jim Johnson of Pacific Analytics who is a lead author of the CREST study, “resident hunting therefore should not be viewed as providing any substantive net economic benefit to the BC economy.” In contrast, non-resident hunting does bring new revenue into the province.


5. The BC government’s administrative apparatus overseeing bear hunting “is complex, cumbersome, and costly.” Government technicians said “they had no information on the cost of managing bear hunting” and they were “unable to answer the basic question [posed by the CREST study]: How many bears are hunted and killed each year within the Great Bear Rainforest?”


The CREST study was carried out according to Stanford University’s research protocols and used the same National Accounting criteria that Statistics Canada uses to determine the economic importance of all industry sectors. The research included surveys of bear viewing companies, visitors, and guide outfitters; in-depth interviews with government officials, businesses, Coastal First Nation leaders, hunting and wildlife viewing associations and organizations involved in the GBR; and an extensive literature review. In addition, CREST entered into a research agreement with BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations to obtain documents, statistics, maps, and other materials related to bear hunting.


The study, Economic Impact of Bear Viewing and Bear Hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, can be downloaded at

by Andrzej Bil



Climate change is seen as potential threat for the tourism industry; winter sport tourism in particular is highly vulnerable to any climatic changes. Due to the recent intensity of climate variability, a greater consideration of strategies to mitigate and adapt to those changes should be undertaken by businesses so as to continue operating. This study investigates the impacts of climate change on low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County, Poland and assesses the adaptation strategies of ski lift operators. Interviews with ski lifts operators and mountain rescue team member were conducted while questionnaires were also given to local ski school companies. The research results point out the continuing trend in global warming over the last few decades, and indicate visible effects of climate change in Polish ski resorts. All of the researched ski centres stated that climate change is seen as a threat to the winter tourism industry as a whole, thus the ski operators came up with strategies which have been implemented to adapt to the negative effects of climate change. Those strategies has been determined and critically assessed.



Mountain tourism is highly dependent on natural resources and environmental conditions, especially in alpine regions where the climate has strongly influenced the form of tourism development (ski tourism). These areas are the most jeopardized by climate change because of the interdependent characteristic of the economic activities. Climate impacts would extend beyond resources, activities, and regions where actual effects are primarily observed (Rose et al. 2000). Tourism sector will face the direct impacts of weather variability and global warming as well as indirect impacts caused by the associated industries (fishery, agriculture, infrastructure etc.) which are also exposed to climate change. Hence the quality of the service provided by the tourism operators could dwindle, affecting their company’s processes and income. Most of the ski resorts in the researched areas are family run businesses which have not prepared formal business plans so as to assess the risk associated with climate change and to develop adaptive strategies.   

Winter tourism generates vast amounts of income for the economy and poor climatic conditions could badly harm tourism operations as well as local communities which in some regions are exclusively dependent on winter tourism. Winter sport tourism is characterised by the vigorous participation of visitors in various activities therefore they seek favourable weather conditions, such as adequate snow level and precipitation. It is likely that climate change will alter the tourism pattern which would have various consequences on the particular areas (Surugiu et al. 2010). There will also be "winners" and "losers", both in terms of regions – where some ski resorts are considerably more vulnerable than others – and in terms of the ski areas themselves, with low-lying ski areas being considerably more vulnerable than areas with high altitudinal range. Recent reports have admitted rising losses in winter tourism due to reduction of snow cover in Europe (OECD, 2007).


1.1 Aim of this paper

The overall aim of this paper is not only to measure to what extent the impacts of climate change affect the operations of low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County, Poland but also to identify sustainable adoption strategies to maintain welfare of ski slope owners and local communities.  

By undertaking questionnaires and interviews with the key stakeholders it will be possible to form a view on the future of the winter sport tourism in Poland under the threats of global climate change.


1.2 Research Question

‘How is climate change affecting low and high ski resorts in Tatra County, and what has been done to manage these impacts?


1.3 Objectives

In order to answer research questions a number of research methods will be used during data collection, to gather sufficient and adequate information.  Numerous objectives have been set to make the overall aim more achievable.

  • To conduct secondary research in order to determine the climate change phenomena and evaluate the socio-economic significance of winter tourism sectors to recognize the importance of further strategy adaptations
  • To determine the primary research by sending e-questionnaires to the ski schools and to conduct interviews with mountain rescue team members in order to establish the popularity of the skiing and snowboarding activities nowadays.
  • To conduct interviews with the ski resort owners so as to establish current situations of the winter sport sector and to identify the future adaptation strategies to mitigate impacts of climate change.



Poland is located in Eastern Europe; it is bordered in the north by the Baltic Sea and Russia, in the east by Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, in the south by the Slovakia and Czech Republic and in the west by Germany (map 1). The country has a population of 38.7 million with nearly 2 million living in the capital, Warsaw (Turner 2000).

Map 1: Poland & Tatra Mountains


Poland is a modern and lively central European country which offers a diverse range of touristic products. From the endless sandy beaches and the ‘land of the thousand lakes’ the remnants of the ice age throughout the Central Europe’s largest forested areas; to the jagged peaks, steep rocky slopes and beautiful glacial lakes of the Tatra Mountains in the south, Poland is attracting tourists from all over the world. Located in the centre of Europe, Poland is a weekend and vacation destination for people with a variety of interests. Apart from the scenic land range, Poland has to offer a wide range of cultural attractions and events. Numerous museums, palaces, churches and castles depict the heritage, history and significance of the Polish nation.

Poland is a typically lowland country where approximately 3 percent of the country’s area is located 500 meters above sea level, nevertheless this 3 percent represents around 10 000 square kilometres. The Tatra Mountains are located in the southern part of Poland and are unique in the whole Carpathian arc due to their alpine landforms. This is the highest land occurring between the Alps and the Ural and Caucasus mountains. The Tatra Mountains contains an area of 750 square kilometres, of which 150 square kilometres lie in Poland. As air temperatures decrease and precipitation increases with altitude, the snow cover increases both in duration and depth. In the top area, the snow cover starts to form at the end of October and it disappears in late May. The snow cover is at its maximum at the end of March (Klapa 1978). In the Tatras, as in typically high mountains, the weather variations are vast and frequent strong force winds which cause pressure spike and rapid snow melting in winter. The Tatras are characterised by temperature inversion.

There are more than 100 towns and villages in the Polish Carpathians and Sudety Mountains which developed ski infrastructure however most of them are on the small scale as well as poorly equipped. The majority of Polish ski resorts are located in the Carpathian Mountains, among the popular are Zakopane, Bialka Tatrzanska, Wisla and Szczyrk. The village of Zakopane has been called ‘the winter capital of Poland’ and it is an iconic winter holiday destination for both domestic and international tourists. Zakopane is located in the Tatra County within Tatra Mountains range, where the research will be carried out. In winter, the Tatras region sees a remarkable phenomenon known as temperature inversion. In the valleys, it is colder than in the higher parts of the mountains which have impact on the length of the snow cover on the lower altitude areas (Interviewer: K3). The Kasprowy Wierch is located 1987 meters above the sea level (a.s.l.) and it is the highest located ski slope within the Tatra County offering good conditions for winter sports. The ski season usually lasts until May. Another well developed ski resort is Bialka Tatrzanska, the neighbouring town of Zakopane. Bialka is located 910 m a.s.l. and has 16 kilometres of ski trails in total. Further away from the Zakopane village, Spytkowice ski resort is located on 808m a.s.l. which attracts vast amount of visitors who do not wish to travel further south.




2.1 Global Warming

Climate system is dynamic and fluctuates constantly. Nevertheless over the last century, global average surface temperatures have increased by 0.8°C (IPCC, 2007a). Based on observations of global air, ocean temperatures, changes in snow cover and sea level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it is unequivocal that the climate system has warmed (fig.4) (IPCC, 2007a). The year 2005 was reported as being the warmest year in several thousand years and in 2011 the global average surface temperature was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA Scientists. The research maintains a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have been observed since the year 2000 (NASA 2012).

Most of the warming since the middle of the 20th century is very likely to be due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere (IPCC, 2007a). Based on the ‘Special Report on Emission Scenarios’ (SRES) for greenhouse gas emissions it is projected that by the end of the 21st century temperatures are likely to raise from 1.1 to 6.4 °C, compared to the end of the 20th century (IPCC, 2000). Those global average temperature alterations have significant effects on local, regional and global levels as, for instance: sea levels rise, floods, drought, changes in temperature, human health and wind patterns (IPCC, 2007b)


Figure 1a: History of the global temperature differences in °C.

Figure 1



To explain the rise in the global temperature over the last decades it is urged to assimilate the term described as ‘greenhouse effect’. Following is a brief explanation of this phenomenon:     


The greenhouse effect positively affects the Earth by warming the surface and providing life on the planet, without this process all energy would travel back into space leaving the Earth at the temperature below -15°C. Fortunately the Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere composed of various greenhouse gasses (methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor) which absorb some of the energy reflected by the Earth’s surface. This process traps the heat in the atmosphere and keeps the Earth surface about 30°C warmer than it normally would be. This process is commonly known as the ‘natural greenhouse effect’ (fig.2.2). The Earth emits greenhouse gases in a range of ways like: forest fire, animal digestive processes, natural soil and ocean processes, volcanoes and decay of plant materials. These gases regulate the Earth’s temperature and keep the planet inhabitable by human beings who tolerate a certain range of temperature.


However over the last 150 years more greenhouse gasses are released to the atmosphere, trapping the heat and increasing the strength of the greenhouse effect. The in their Fourth Assessment Report recognized and evaluated the probability of the future changes in the climate conditions. The projections show that within 20 years of ongoing emissions of Green House Gases to the atmosphere on the current level or above, it is likely to cause vast climate change disruptions. Also there is an increased probability by 25 percent that the average temperature on Earth would increase by 2°C (IPCC 2007a).


Figure 1b. The greenhouse effect.

Figure 2

Available from:


2.2 Climate Change in Poland

Climate conditions in Poland have changed remarkably in the last decade compared with the norms set up by climatologists for the earlier periods. Gorski and Kozyra (2011) developed maps of Poland illustrating the distribution of temperatures in various locations (Map 1.2). Significant warming took place especially during the first half of the calendar year where winters became milder and mostly lacking in regular snow cover. From ten maximum values of mean annual temperature recorded in the period 1951–2000 in Poland, six of them occurred during the last decade of the 20th century (Kożuchowski and Żmudzka 2001).


Map 2. Mean air temperature in Poland in the years 1941–1990 (A) and the temperature predicted for 2011–2020 (B).

Map 2
Source: (Gorski and Kozyra 2011)


Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic (2005) are certain that the most substantial climate changes are observed in winter (<0°C), which is characterised by the largest temperature variation. Apparently, thermal winter begun relatively early during the last decade of the 20th century but its length shortened significantly. In south-eastern Poland (Przemysl) which is the closest research station to the Tatra Mountains, the length of winter season decreased by nearly a quarter of its average duration in a 50-year period (fig.2.2).


Figure 2. Mean duration of thermal winter (<0°C) in the period 1951–2000 and its changes in the period 1991–2000.









NW (Szczecin)

41 -20 

SW (Wroclaw)

50  -16 

Central (Lodz)       

77  -5 

NE (Suwalki)

100  -12 

SE (Przemysl)

78  -14 

Source: (Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic 2005)


Besides, years with the lack of winter or winters where sessions have split into two or three sub cold periods separated by thaws, became more frequent in the end of the century. Winter sessions terminated by the distinct and ongoing warming up is called a “coreless” winter. As a result of thermal winter disappearance the “coreless” winters started to arise more regularly during the several consecutive decades of the last century (fig. 2.3).


Figure 3. The number of years with “coreless”* winter (CLW) and with the lack of thermal winter (LW) in the successive decades of the period 1951–2000 in different parts of Poland.















































































Source: (Kozuchowski and Degirmendzic 2005)


Domonkos and Piotrowicz (1998) investigated the series of winter temperatures from the meteorological station in Cracow-Poland and in Hungary during 1901-1993. Cracow lies within close vicinity to the research area (less than a 100km) so applying the researcher’s findings could give additional arguments to the discussion. Authors examine the characteristics of seasonal averages, the number of extreme cold days, the length of a cold season, and the annual absolute minimum of mean daily temperatures (fig.6). Results show an insignificant decrease in severity of Central European winters. The rate is greater for Cracow which may be conditioned by various factors, such as increase of development and urban effect. The decreases of the cold seasons and the increase in the seasonal averages are two most significant changes. Low numbers of extreme cold occurrences also contributed to decrease in severity of winter season.

Figure 3. (a) Mean temperatures of winters (December–February), (b) Length of cold seasons, (c) Seasonal sums of cold 5-day events (November–March).

Source: (Domonkos and Piotrowicz 1998)



 Figure 3a


Figure 3b 


Figure 3c


In fact in Poland, at least until the November 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP19) in Warsaw, there had been small interest in climate change beyond a narrow circle of experts and ecological activists. Other members of society were pretty unresponsive towards these issues. However, the European Union directives as well as energy and climate change package changed this situation, albeit slowly. The official position, both of the Polish government as well as of the majority of society, is not to question the progress of climate change nor the necessity to fight this phenomenon and its effects. However, the situation looks much worse when we look at the awareness of the needs and consequences of adaptation to climate change. And this is the case not only in Poland, but in the whole of Europe (Zmijewski 2009).


2.3 Impacts of Climate Change on Winter Sport Tourism

Climate has been classified as a main driver for tourism and major destinations attribute (Hu & Ritchie, 1992). Tourists seek particular climate conditions while deciding on the type of holiday or specific activities which they will participate in. However, recent issues of climate change could have a negative impact on some tourism destinations, making some tourism activities impossible.

In mountainous areas, the effects of climate change can create issues such as a decrease in the snow cover, frequent avalanches, floods, storms, and other extreme weather anomalies. These events are already occurring on a bigger scale compared to the last decades. Despite the optimistic projections of World Tourism Organisation regarding the global tourism industry, mountainous tourism is experiencing crisis, uncertainty and stress which are mainly the consequence of climate change and global warming. Nevertheless other factors will have an influence on the mountain tourism prosperity, such as: competition of other tourist destinations, a growing economic and territorial divide between small and large resorts, new recreational patterns, a loss of share in the tourism market, etc. and they should not be neglected (Bourdeau 2009).

Global climate change is likely to be the most severe environmental threat and it should be challenged to mitigate the negative impacts. Despite the global economic importance of Tourism and the significant influence of climate on tourism patterns, the vulnerability of the tourism sector to climate change remains to be adequately assessed (Perry, 2000). Winter sports and in particular ski tourism seem to be one of the most dependent economic sectors on climatic conditions. Resorts and whole regions, which rely on this economic sphere, have become sensitive to the snow cover depth and duration as essential conditions for practicing this activity. Several reports have been conducted in order to assess and estimate effects of the climate change on winter tourism, by analysing the relationship patterns between climate and tourism.

Research carried by Koening and Abegg (1997) looked at the impacts of the three snow-deficient winters at the end of the 1980s on the winter tourism industry in Switzerland. Authors stated that ski resorts in lower altitude areas were highly exposed to the snow deficit thus suffered numerous consequences. Then again the ski slopes at higher altitudes benefited from the lack of snow in lower areas due to increased demand. The figures of the ski lift companies in higher areas increased significantly in years with poor snow conditions. Furthermore research which investigates the snow reliability under current climate conditions and under a 2ºC warming of the Swiss ski resorts, show that 85 per cent of the ski areas are snow-reliable merely under current climate conditions. However, this number is likely to drop to 63 per cent if the temperatures were to increase by 2ºC.

Similarly, Breiling and Charamza (1999) were convinced that climate change will alter snow cover depth which will have impacts on the winter tourism operations and skiing districts. Their research covers data of 30 winters from 1965 to 1995 across six Alpine regions in Austria and uses a model which describes seasonal snow-cover depth related to the resort altitude.  Data have been modified according to a scenario of temperature and precipitation change (2 °C warming, no precipitation change) and achieve a new simulated snow-cover depth, which remains between 47% and 79% of the previous snow cover.  A 2 °C warming implies a decrease in snow depth in all districts, but the loss is greater in lower altitude ski resorts. According to theorist’s scenario, the economic impacts will bring income losses and adaptation costs, but magnitude and time frame remain uncertain.

Climate change represents a real threat for the mountain ski resorts, especially for those situated at an altitude below 1500 m. Research by Surugiu et al. (2010) examines the low and medium altitude ski slopes looking at climate fluctuation and tourism activity in Predeal resort, one of the prime winter tourism destinations in Romania. Various analyses were conducted such as co-integration and regression models in order to enhance understanding of the climate effects on the tourism flows. Research highlights that tourism activity became vulnerable to meteorological characteristics and that the regression results indicate a negative association between temperatures and tourism, which means that an increase in air temperature will decrease tourism pattern. 


Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) expanded the area of research of climate change impacts on tourist demand. Research was conducted in selected ski resorts in Slovenia and employed methods of enquiry to determine skier’s perception of climate change and how this perception could potentially impact tourist resorts. The results of the survey showed that climate change would have a great influence on the structure of tourist demand and the frequency of visits. Authors believe that the decline of 50 percent of the current number of skiers would mean a vast loss of profit and the majority of small and medium sized ski resorts would probably stop operating. Thus changes in climate conditions have strong implications to influence tourist behaviour. Numerous literature resources on climate as a resource of tourism have affirmed that weather and climate elements are important in decision-making processes; they also explain how tourists, destinations and tourism businesses are affected by climate change (Yu et al 2009, Beckens 2010). Furthermore research indicates the factors which would influence skier’s decisions when choosing a destination, in case of snow deficient winters. Ski resorts with features such as artificial snowmaking, competitive ticket prices, arrangements of ski tracks, remoteness of ski centres, catering and hospitality offers, are more likely to stay competitive, simply because skiers will include these features in their decision-making process. However it is crucial to stress that these offers will not fully compensate for the deficit of snow which is fundamental for winter sport activities. According to the results of the survey, people who are directly responsible for the development of winter tourism in Slovenia were less conscious of climate change and issues associated than skiers which were well acquainted and aware of the potential consequences of climate change.

The Tourism industry tends to focus merely on marketing and the facilitation of economic growth.  However such ambitions of growth are likely to be at odds with international and national emission reduction aims. The Climate Change agenda and an increase of public awareness of the potential impacts of climate change enforced tourism stakeholders to become more involved in planning, adapting and responding to climate change (Nichollas and Holecek 2008). However the low awareness of the relevance of tourism sector to climate change and how the impacts could be addressed, lack of collaboration between relevant agencies and limited capacity of public sector resulted in little commitment to climate change aspects by the tourism sector in the past (Becken and Clapcott 2011). Nevertheless a study carried out by Duchosal (2007), which mainly involved ski resorts at low altitude in the French Alps, indicates that the majority of businesses are totally aware of the impacts of climate change but still do not know how to manage them due mostly to the lack of sufficient information. Those resorts totally rely on the winter season since the summer one is not profitable enough to sustain the revenue, thus all respondents do not envisage closing down the resorts even in the worst conditions.

2.4  Winter Sport Tourism and Market size

Mountain holidays are considered as being the third most popular way of spending leisure holidays in Europe; it is estimated to represent around 12 percent of the total market share. Figure 5 indicates the significance of mountain regions as the domestic tourist’s motivation in Poland.  Proportionally almost half of the journeys are taken in the winter season (Freitag 1996). It is expected that most of those winter mountain holidays are associated with winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Thus winter sports create a massive and very competitive market to all winter holiday destinations. 


Figure 5. Visited regions by domestic tourists in Poland (in %) (a) short 1-4 days, (b) 4-14 days


Visited region (%)














Lake areas



























Visited region (%)



















Lake areas
















Source: Institute of Tourism. Available from:


The skiing market sector is estimated at around 70 million skiers and 11 million snowboarders worldwide. Europe accounts for approximately 30 million skiers including those who ski only within their own country (Hudson 2003). Data of ski resorts gathered by Snow24, combined with Lazard’s (1996) statistics about ski lifts and ski visitors, depicts the main winter holiday destinations (fig. 4). While Western European resorts remain the most popular skiing destinations, research carried out by Flagestad and Hope (2001) suggests that the number of ski visitors during the 1980s and 1990s indicate that the Western European ski market is stagnant. Nevertheless Eastern and Central European ski markets, including, Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria are exceptions. The Eastern and Central European market is characterised by rapid growth resulting in an average growth for the whole continent reaching 2.5% annually (Smith and Jenner 1999). Countries like Poland and Bulgaria, which previously were not associated with the worldwide famous ski destinations, appeared in a number of Swedish travel agencies. Moreover both countries remain relatively good value for money due to the weak currency which resulted in a high visitor turnover, in particular among families and mix ability groups. Poland in particular could have chance to emerge globally as the main Eastern European winter holiday destination since the Polish resort of Tatra Mountains and Slovakia joined forces to increase chances in staging the Winter Olympics in 2022. This event could have boost the development, quality and promotion of the region and could increase the number of visitors to the Eastern parts of Europe.

Figure 4. Skiing Worldwide




Skiers Visits (million)







United States
























Czech Republic


















Source: (Hudson 2003)

The Polish skiing sector has been established for decades, however for a long period it catered merely for the domestic market. Approximately 20 percent of Poles stated that they went skiing at least once a year (Zemla 2008). The turning point occurred when Poland became a member of the European Union (EU) and consequently the popularity of the outbound and inbound ski tourism increased. The opening of Polish borders under the Schengen agreement, the opening of the Polish air space to low-cost airlines and the development of the main road systems gave a boost to tourism in Poland. The European integration process has changed the operational conditions of most ski resorts in Western and Central Europe: they were given an opportunity to enter new markets but also had to face new competitors. It is a very challenging task for Polish ski resorts which were accustomed to depend on domestic tourism. The big quality gap between Polish and foreign ski resorts puts pressure on the Polish ski resorts which will need to evolve and adopt strategies to remain competitive internationally. Polish ski-resorts are extremely overcrowded and a 20 minute queue for a ski lift is nothing out of the ordinary. This is due to the high popularity of skiing in a country with a very limited supply of mountainous areas. As a result, ski lift operators do not seek to improve their services as their income is dependent, almost completely, on weather conditions. Hence, Poland has many small ski-areas with appalling infrastructure and poor quality of service, which partly explains why there are almost no foreign tourists on the slopes. Polish skiers have not been very demanding and have accepted the offer as long as it was provided at a reasonable price. Nevertheless, since Polish ski resorts have become more expensive than other neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Czech Republic, Polish ski resorts could face a very competitive market environment. It will be a challenging task for most of the Polish ski resorts to adjust suitably to the new trends, especially when they were used to having a full occupancy rate on the slopes, as long as there were good snow conditions. Some of the ski operators have already started to adapt to the market challenges by improving existing and developing new ski areas. This includes both quantitative growth, represented by the increasing number of ski facilities, and qualitative growth, connected with the growing number of high standard lifts, snow guns and service quality.


3. Methodology

This chapter represents and justifies the research methods which were undertaken in order to pursue previously defined objectives. To understand the research question more effectively it is necessary to employ the secondary and primary research techniques.  The report used a multi-method approach of the research which included more than one method of collecting data which therefore allows for an ample understanding of the researched topic (Veal, 2006). The research strategy encompasses the quantitative and qualitative methods to obtain the social opinions together with basic statistics.


3.1 Secondary research

A wide range of the academic reports have been studying the climate changes in order to have a better understanding on the impacts of global warming and the potential negative outcomes which could affect ski resorts in the future. These evidences would help to justify the needs to adopt the alternative strategies for the ski lift operators. To specify the evidence of global warming to the researched area, interviews were conducted with the Institute of Meteorology in Zakopane to determine the historical data of the temperature and snow cover thickness. However due to the institute’s regulations in order to obtain those statistics a purchase was required. Lack of disposable finance compels to obtain those records from the other resources such as: previous researches, graphic analysis and other temperature simulators and this are evaluated in the literature review. These data figures are still relevant and accurate however are not up to date like previously intended.  Furthermore secondary research determines the overall development of the tourism industry in Poland and it is assessing, with an emphasis in particular on the winter tourism sector, to determine the importance of this industry in terms of the economic aspects. Still it is a challenging task to evaluate the economic benefits of tourism industry due to the complex structure, intersectional links and the different stakeholder’s interests. Nevertheless the purpose of this research is to emphasise the significance of the winter holiday market not only from the ski lift operator’s point of view but also from the local residents perspective whose income rely on this industry. Thus the bigger consciousness of the future climate trends should be taken into consideration to develop adaptive plans by the ski resorts to keep them open.


3.2 Primary research


3.2.1. Interviews

Interviews are a form of qualitative research and are one of the main data collection methods used by social researchers, as a Hammersley and Atkinson (1995) stated: ‘the expressive power of language provides the most important resource for accounts. A crucial feature of language is its capacity to present descriptions, explanation and evaluation …’

Unstructured, in depth interviews were used to gain information from the ski lift operators on their opinions concerning the issues of impacts of climate change on the winter sport tourism and the implications of these issues. It is crucial to determine the ski lift operator’s perception as their operations are directly affected by climate changes and thus the tourism pattern is highly dependent on this. This method was useful for investigating participant’s opinions and to discuss the topics and answer the questions in their own way using their own words. The method tends to have flexible agenda with a list of themes to be discussed which makes the interview more informative and open (Jennings 2005). Freedom for the respondent to answer freely is important in giving them a feeling of control in the interview situation. However this version also has its disadvantages, specifically in terms of the time consuming of collecting and analysing the results (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:139). Open questions used in this unstructured interview approach can cause confusion either because of the lack of understanding of the question by the informant or by the lack of understanding of the respondent's answer by the interviewer (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:140). Nevertheless, open-ended questions are very important. Gray (1987) demonstrated this in her study when participants wanted to tell their stories, opinions and perceptions therefore needing open-ended questions to enable them to talk freely (Jensen and Jankowski 1991). There are clearly advantages and disadvantages for using any interview method. It allows questioning to be directed as we want it and we can elucidate points that need to be made clearer. The technique does however rely on the respondent being willing to give accurate and full answers (Breakwell, Hammond and Fife-Schaw 1995). They could frequently lie due to feelings of nervousness, memory loss or confusion. On the contrary, they may also provide very elaborate answers in an attempt to figure out the purpose of the study (Wimmer and Dominick 1997:162). Validity and reliability of the interview data may be influenced by these (Breakwell, Hammond and Fife-Schaw 1995:238-239).

The interview was divided across topics such as: skiing history, trends and tourism patterns, ski resort development, and the issues of climate change and adaptation to climate change and shifting in tourism trends. Face to face Interviews were carried out in three different ski resorts within close vicinity to each other (map.3). Two of the resorts are considered as low altitude ski centres, and one is consider as high altitude and is the highest ski resort in Poland.  First interview (map 3, interviewer S1) was arranged with an owner of the ski resort, thus the information gathered during the meeting was more detailed in terms of the history of the skiing pattern. The second interview on the other hand (map 3, interviewer B2) was arranged by the owner of the ski resort with the operational manager which was employed three years ago. Nevertheless, since he has been highly concerned about the environmental importance for the future of the business, his sustainable approaches to winter tourism drew interesting future adoptions to climate change. The high altitude ski operator set up the interview with the employee from the head office who has been working for the company for the last 13 years (map 3, interviewer K3).

Except the ski lift operators, an unstructured interview with the mountain rescue team was carried out to verify the number of casualties and reported accidents involving skiers. This study could indicate the current popularity of the skiing and snowboarding activities in Tatra County.

Interviews are a method which are characterised by interactive processes between interviewer and interviewee, which means that it should include observing and listening to the interviewee as well as recording notes. One of the methods of recording data is using a voice recorder which is most suitable during the interview and useful afterwards when it comes to analysing the results. However audio recording was not permitted by the Interviewers and the alternative way of taking notes was the method undertaken in order to record the data for the evaluation and conclusion. In this case, key points and aspects were noted during the interview in order to sustain an interactive discussion. After the interview the full conversation was written up by drawing on the notes and from recall of the interview content.


3.2.2.    Questionnaire

In order to find out statistics and opinions about the skiing and snowboarding activity trends during the last five years, questionnaires and surveys were used as a method of collecting data from the local ski schools. The importance of this data could indicate to what extent popularity of skiing and snowboarding, as a main activity of the winter sport tourism, has changed over the specified period. Ski schools will be directly affected by the climate fluctuation as their income merely depends on the number of skiers that use their services.

As Holmes (2009) stated, ‘Questionnaires are inexpensive and a quick way to produce and complete’. Since the budget and time to conduct this report was limited this method of data collecting seemed to be the most appropriate. It did not cost anything and did not take too much time because the questionnaires were carried out via electronic mail. However, the time period required to collect e-mail interview data differs. Some researchers reported a delay of several months before data collection was completed, while others completed within a week. This variation occurs because it may take days or weeks before a respondent replies to an e-mail message.

The length of the data collection period depends on several factors, including: the number of questions asked, the degree of commitment or motivation of the participants, the quantity and quality of data gathered, and access to the Internet. Some studies show that the longer it takes to complete an interview with a participant, the higher the possibility of dropouts or frustration to both the researcher and the interviewees (Hodgson, 2004).

The survey included a number of open and closed questions, open questions allow the participant to expatiate on their answer, where closed questions contain options to decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or to choose preferable answers.

Nine ski schools were identified and questionnaires were sent to all of them via the internet. It is likely that more ski schools or independent instructors are present in the region however they have not been recognized. Since Brent (2004) points out that 30 is the minimum number of questionnaires that should be obtained in terms of producing efficient statistics, due to the limited amount of ski schools this number could not be achieved.  Henderson (1990) argued that a response rate of 20-30 per cent is fairly typical for a mail survey. A relatively good rate of response (5 out of 9) on surveys made valuable and sufficient data to elaborate. This could be due to the anonymous nature of e-questionnaires, since many people perceive online communication as anonymous because there is no in-person contact hence, little accountability. This anonymity may explain why some people are more eager to take part in e-mail surveys (Hodgson, 2004).


4.  Result presentation and discussion

This chapter analyses data collected during the field study. Interviews and questionnaires will be presented jointly since some questions are articulated to the same topics. The results will be presented in according themes: ski trends and winter tourism sector nowadays, climate change and its impacts on the winter tourism in Tatra County, and strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The map below illustrates the location of the interviewed ski lift operators and each coloured cloud indicate particular interviewer which will be quoted in the further sections.

Map 3. Location of interviewed ski resort in Tatra County  

Map 3

4.1 Skiing trends and winter tourism in Tatra County nowadays

The numbers of skiers and snowboarders are having a greater influence on the prosperity of the ski operators and related businesses. In fact they provide the direct contribution of the income to the ski resorts. In the literature review by Zemla (2008) it is stated that a big proportion of Poles are taking part in skiing activities, nevertheless this study should expand and include the important aspects such as:  joining the UE and opening the European boarders, introduction of low coast airfares, changes in climate conditions and tourist’s motivations; which are having a direct impact on domestic tourism market. The numbers of Poles traveling within the country decreased significantly since 2006 (fig. 5) This trend may have long term implications, since the outbound tourism increased and the forecasts made by the Polish Tourism Institute suggests the continuing in rising patterns of Poles traveling abroad (fig. 6)


Figure 5. Domestic trips by Poles in 2006 and 2011 (in millions)

Figure 5
Source: Institute of Tourism.


Figure 6. Polish outbound tourism forecast (in millions)

Figures 6
Source: Institute of Tourism.


The results from the e-questionnaires suggest that the 80 per cent of the respondents from the ski schools are unhappy about the last five years of the winter sessions, reminded that 20 per cent corresponds to one ski school representative stating that it has not changed significantly (fig. 7).


Figure 7. Ski school level of satisfaction last 5 winter seasons

Figure 7 

Despite that the minority of the respondents indicate the climate variables could affect those trends, the majority are favourable that: the increase of the numbers of the ski resorts and ski schools in south Poland, the inexpensive cost of the airfare tickets which creates new tourism patterns and the overall skiing market downturn, are the factors that have the greatest impacts on the prosperity of skiing sectors according to the ski schools (fig. 8).


Figure 8. Factors impacting ski schools

Figure 8 

The numbers of the people taking lessons and using the services of the ski schools slightly dropped or stay at the same level (fig. 9). All of ski schools employ skiing instructors, which for most of them will be seasonal jobs as the skiing season lasts up to 6 months, thus the importance of the employment can appear crucial in terms of the livelihood of those individuals who depend on the employment in winter tourism sectors. Yet the statistics show that most of the ski schools employ the same number of instructor as they had in the past (fig.10). Those findings from the ski schools works as an indicator of the skiing trends, and they could give the insight of the present and the future of the skiing sector. The mature, professional and hobbyist’s skiers do not use the services offered by those schools, simply because they have already acquired those skills. Although the decreasing numbers of the participants to ski schools could have effects on the future of the ski resorts as less skiers could be present.


Figure 9. Numbers of ski school participants

Figure 9 


Figure 10. Number of employed instructors.

Figure 10


Interviews with ski operators gave a slightly different angle on the issue. Both of the low altitude ski operators stated that they are satisfied with the last five years of the winter seasons and the numbers of skiers are increasing year by year. The ski resort in ‘Spytkowice’ achieved a steady but significant increase in the revenue for the last five years, thus the new development took place and the upgrade of the ski lifts contributed to the quality of the skiing experience and to increase the skiers throughput on the ski lift. The majority of the skiers and snowboarders who visited the ski resort in Spytkowice are domestic visitors, both locals and from outside the region. An advantage of this ski operator is that it is situated furthest from the main hub of Zakopane and closest for the visitors from inland. The owner of the resort emphasized that many visitors do not wish to drive further down south to the overcrowded resorts.  Nevertheless he feels anxious, as plans for development of a new ski resort, closer to Cracow has been introduced and this could have an effect on the number of visitors in the future, similarly to the ski schools as competitors were the factors which influence schools prosperity the most.


Bialka Tatrzanska resort expanded hugely throughout the last few years, and has experienced high popularity among the winter sport enthusiasts. The ski centre’s manager stated that the last five years have been very prosperous for the resort as additional ski lifts have been developed; new tourist products have been introduced and new innovative business enterprises have been commercialised. Due to the rising number of foreigners visiting the resort, the quality of service has been put as the priority of the business strategy for the next few years. An executive pointed out that for the last two years the number of visitors from abroad increased; from the eastern parts of Europe during the Orthodox holidays and from the western parts as Poles living elsewhere visited home land with their new foreign colleagues, friends and family.  


The highest resort in Poland; Kasprowy Wierch in Zakopane village has been established as a main skiing hub in the country. In the 1930s this ski resort was one of the most popular in Eastern Europe, with four different ski slopes. Nevertheless for the last decade of 20th century development, of the new low altitude ski centres have put a greater pressure on the resort in order to maintain the tourist numbers and the image of the ‘winter capital of Poland’. The huge advantage of this resort is that it is operating throughout the year. During the summer the main cable car is running and visitors can do a round trip or one way and walk down or up another. While during the winter only two remaining ski lifts are operating on top of the mountain. The interviewer acknowledged that the number of skiers and snowboarders went down enormously in the last ten years; still the overall number of visitors had not decreased significantly as the mountain is highly visited by non skier tourists.


The greatest decrease according to the interviewee tends to be noted among the families. An increase in the numbers of the ski resorts in Tatra County with varying levels of difficulty for skiers, better quality of the infrastructure within the resort and the led by ski slopes running during the night seems to be the main reason to attract vast amounts of families and winter holidaymakers. The fact that Kasprowy Wierch is a mountain within the National Park, any additional development of the infrastructure for skiers is limited due to the law regulations. Other important factors which could affect the declining numbers of skiers and snowboarders on Kasprowy Wierch could be the relatively high ski pass prices, compared to the Slovakian resorts which operate within a 100 kilometre radius from Zakopane. The Interviewee stressed that they collaborate with the Slovakian main resorts and information indicate an increase of the polish skiers and snowboarders in Slovakian Tatra Mountains. Nevertheless this study should be taken into consideration and more details explored.   Poor numbers of skiers was also confirmed by one of the mountain rescue team members, who has been interviewed at the mountain rescue team station on the Kasprowy Wierch. The interviewee admitted that for the last two years there has not been many rescue interventions during the winter season with fewer skiers or snowboarder’s participation. Two seasons have been investigated and as previously stated there has been a decreased number of interventions on Kasprowy Wierch and an increased number in low altitude resort such as, Bialka Tatrzanska ski resort (fig. 11).


Figure 11. Numbers of rescue intervention by mountain rescue team.
Figure 11


Information gathered in this section helps to assess how: skiing, ski resorts and other related industries operate currently and how this could affect the future of the winter tourism sector. The results from the ski schools indicate the overall downturn in the ski tourism demand; however it should not be merely based on those findings. Some ski schools which did not answer on the survey could eventually run without any loses, and also it has not been researched about any individual ski instructors which probably also could operate independently across the region. In terms of current financial recession for some people ski schools could be an additional and unaffordable expense to the overall skiing holiday expenditure. Thus for some individuals it would be preferable to try to self educate, or ski with a fellow who already knows how to ski rather than using ski school services. Nevertheless the reasons why the skiing sector may face those issues do not refer to the climate conditions and impacts of climate change. Also the information gathered from the rescue teams are sufficient and relevant, however the advance in technology and access to the better equipment could affect the decreasing numbers of injuries on the Kasprowy Wierch. Still the number of the rescue interventions did not decrease in other resorts. As more accidents are happening in Bialka Tatrzanska it reflects on the success of the ski resorts.


4.2 Climate change and its impact on winter tourism on high and low altitude ski resort in Poland.

The comprehensive literature review pointed out the evidence of global warming and the effects of climate change. The questionnaire results from ski schools indicated that climate change played a minor role in the factors which could affect skiing in  Poland. Nevertheless the studies which have been evaluated throughout literature review indicated that the climate change has or surely will have a vast impact on the winter tourism sector. All researched ski centres admitted that they were not concerned greatly about climate change while conducting the business plan for their resorts. Nevertheless they stated that some anxiety arose due to the deeper concern of scientists, government and the public itself about the potential impacts of climate change. Kasprowy Wierch has its meteorological station on the top of the mountain and an interviewee acknowledged that the mean air temperature is increasing each year, and the strongest rise in temperature is observed in particular throughout the winter season (fig. 12).


Figure 12. Mean air temperature on Kasprowy Wierch (1951-2006)

Figure 12 

Source (K3, 2013)


These calculations in changes of mean yearly air temperature form Kasprowy Wierch proved progressive winter warming from -2.4°C (1980–1981) to 1.2°C (2000- 2001). The trend direction in this case is indicating the size of the monthly changes in temperature, and throughput the 56 years of the research temperature increased by 0.7°C. If those trends will be continuing, together with an increase of the GHG emission to the atmosphere, the temperature forecasts by Gorski and Kozyra (2011) could eventually be on the agenda. An increase in the mean air temperature has an impact on the snow cover and as a consequence on the quality of skiing activities. The insight of the last three winter seasons in terms of snow cover suggests that a high inconsistency in the snow cover put pressure on the skiing activity in the highest ski resort in Poland.  As one of the strategies to overcome this issue could be the adoption of artificial snowmaking, however the use of this technology is difficult to implement on Kasprowy Wierch for the economic and environmental reasons which will be explained in the next section. Thus the years with snow deficit could decrease the tourism demand and as stated by Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) in a literature review, tourist’s behaviours will alter and those ski resorts with the artificial snowmaking could gain from the changes in snow conditions on Kasprowy Wierch. 


An interviewee emphasizes that an increase in the occurrences of the strong warm and dry foehn winds, blowing throughout the northern slopes became a threat for the Tatra Mountains. As pleasant as a sudden burst of warm weather can be for many people, foehns are bad news for businesses such as ski resorts. One of the many nicknames for foehn winds is ‘snow eater’ and for good reasons: the warm, dry winds quickly melt the winter snow and often result in flooding, and in a lot of slush. Several times the cable car on Kasprowy Wierch had to be closed down due to the high wind speed.


An increase in mean air temperature observed by Domonkos and Piotrowicz (1998) in meteorological stations in Cracow acceded to identify the continuing rise in the air temperature in south Poland. Despite the overall satisfaction of both low altitude ski resorts referred to, both resorts acknowledged that an increase of the temperature is a massive threat for the ski slopes. An artificial snowmaking technology has been introduced in order to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, and both resorts ascertained that they have been spending more income each year to accommodate the artificial snow in their ski slopes.


One of the greatest threats and impacts of climate change is an increase in the number of weather anomalies. As an interviewee from Kasprowy Wierch stated that the foehn winds occurred more frequently in the last decades which have an effect on the tourist’s experience. On the other hand the interviewees from Spytkowice and Bialka Tatrzanska, accented the issues of droughts at present which prevent the artificial snowmaking operations. The meteorological observations indicate that in the last 25 years the number of droughts in Poland has increased. Records show that between 1982-2006 droughts occurred 13 times, compared to the 6 droughts in 1951-1981 (Lorenc 2006). These figures show that the frequency of droughts in Poland has doubled. It is a threat which could have long run implications in the way the low altitude ski resorts operate.

According to the interviewees, an increase of the air temperature and wind occurrence, decrease in snow cover depth and frequent droughts are the most visible impacts of climate change on the researched area so far. Those events started to amplify their occurrence in the last few years, yet as report by Duchosal (2007), most of the ski resorts do not know how to tackle those issues in order to adapt to the effects of climate change.


4.3 Strategies to adopt and mitigate to climate change


In sections above, several negative effects of climate change which influence the ski resorts in Poland have been highlighted, since research by Surugiu et al. (2010) suggest that with an increase in negative effects of climate change the decrease in tourism pattern is likely to alter. Applying this theory it is in ski operators interests to adapt to the negative impacts of climate variability and to come up with strategies to mitigate those impacts for both, skier’s satisfaction and to maintain the revenue.


Artificial snow making is the most common adaptation strategy used by ski resorts to maintain good snow efficiency (Burki et Al., 2005). Artificial snow is used to enlarge the operating season and to increase the range of climate variability. Artificial snow making used to be interpreted as a luxury that only some ski areas could afford. Yet nowadays it appears to be viewed as a necessity. Snow cannons are used in most of the low altitude ski resorts if it is applicable and certification is issued. Spytkowice and Bialka Tatrzanska resorts have developed this method ever since. Nevertheless, even this method has some limitations with the most important being access to the water resources and appropriate temperature which is below zero degrees. Due to the frequent droughts as indicated in the section above, the water resources became very limited to accommodate huge demand of all ski resorts which support their slopes with snow canons. Manager of Bialka Tatrzanska resort acknowledged that the last two years have been pretty dry thus the water resources were running out at a dizzying pace and government authorities had to designate a specific water allowance law for each resort. As a result of those droughts some of the ski resorts were forced to close down for several days during the high season.  Moreover, the deficit of water also touched the local residents who also did not have access to the water resources in Tatra County.




On the slopes of Kasprowy Wierch the artificial snowmaking is not utilized, yet artificial snow production is technically possible, but only using water sources distant from the slopes. This development is costly and needs a new technical infrastructure to changes in the outflow balance of the drainage basins. The examination of the potential effects on the nature of the artificial snowing of the ski slopes of Kasprowy Wierch has revealed that possible admittance of this activity would result in significant, strong nature changes, worsening the natural conditions (Kot 2010). It is, therefore Kasprowy Wierch which relies entirely on the natural snow precipitation and any changes in snow depth could affect the visitors demand and motivations.


Vrtačnik Garbas (2007) proposed his hypothesis that the ski centres with additional development of infrastructures, attractions and other features are likely to stay competitive under the climate change issues while enhancing and maintaining ski resort revenue. Also resorts have made substantial investments to attract the growing market of non-skiers. A research by Guillot, (2006) demonstrates that in France, an average skier is skiing four hours per day, and that one out of four visitors in French ski resorts do not ski at all. Seeing that Kasprowy Wierch resort meets several obstacles to implements artificial snow technology and sufficient infrastructure for winter holidaymakers, the executive team focus on the strategies to enhance numbers of summertime visitors. While the low altitude ski resorts such as Bialka Tatrzanska expanded their resort portfolio of: health and spa tourism with thermal spring pools, opening of a new hotel with features to attract business tourism, and running the production of their own snow canons and trading to other ski operators. On the other hand Spytkowice resort is highly popular among the families due to their variety of amenities for youngsters and their parents in the ski centre where a couple of Ski lifts with flat slopes create a safer experience for children and piece of mind for parents.


Spytkowice resort developed a new strategy scheme which is operating from this season onwards. Ski operators engaged in cooperation with other ski resorts within neighbouring Counties, as one of the tactics to adapt to climate changes. The main concept of this strategy is that skiers can purchase a single ski pass which allows them to use several other resorts. The owner of Spytkowice ski centre pointed out that those multi-resorts ski passes are becoming popular, as skiers can experience different ski slopes with a variety of difficulty levels. Moreover, different ski centres can have diverse slope conditions and with this ski pass skiers have flexibility in terms of choosing where to ski.




5.1 Summary of findings


Since IPCC revealed facts about global warming and indicated that those trends are continuing to rise, greater concern has been given to this phenomenon in order to establish potential cost and benefits of climate change impacts. The tourism industry in particular is highly exposed to those effects as some sectors in tourism could gain or lose revenue due to the negative impacts of climate variability. Thus climate change represents a challenge for the tourism activity in the 21st century and especially for the ski resorts where the Northern Hemisphere is in particular submitted to global warming. As Sergio Savoia, director of World Wide Fund for Nature, European Alpine Program in Bellinzona, stated that ‘Low-attitude ski resorts will simply go out of business, and skiers will have to go higher and higher to find snow’. The fact that most of the Polish Ski resorts are low altitude this theories could harmful several ski resorts, this study was conducted to investigate whether or not this statements have implications.

The aim of this paper was to establish to what degree the impact of climate change has affected the low and high altitude ski resorts in Tatra County in Poland and to investigate what type of strategies have been undertaken by those ski operators in order to mitigate and adapt to the climate variability’s nowadays. Also throughout the study the importance of winter tourism market has been stressed as it plays a crucial role to the polish economy.

From the research it can be seen that despite the indicator of climate change such as: an increase in mean air temperature, increase of droughts and decrease of the winter seasons, the ski resorts operate successfully. Nevertheless the huge skier’s loss can be found in Kasprwoey Wierch resort which belongs to the group of high altitude ski slopes. Applying those findings to the theories highlighted in the literature review which indicate that, high altitude ski resorts will be a winner and would increase the number of visitors due to the poor skiing conditions compared to low altitude ski slopes, are contradictory. The results of the interviews confirm the theories that the ski resorts with a good infrastructure development and additional attractions on slopes will stay competitive on the market, such as resorts in Spytkowice and Bialak Tatrzanska. The management of both ski centres express their concern about negative effects of climate change, but they are convinced that as the temperature below 0°C will remain throughout the winter season they will still operate with or without natural precipitation, as the new technology of artificial snowmaking is widely available. In fact the interviewers of low altitude ski slopes indicated that in the past they were never force to shut down ski lifts due to the lack of snow throughout the season, while the numbers of days where Kasprowy Wierch was closed due to either, lack of snow or strong winds, increased. The results from the questionnaire suggests that there has been a decreasing trend in participating in skiing activities, as the ski schools attendance has declined. These findings could have a long running implication for ski resorts as the numbers of new skiers will remain unstable. Additionally the information gathered from the mountain rescue teams show that skiing activity is decreasing on Kasprowy Wierch and shifting to the low altitude ski resorts which is a common pattern nowadays. It seems that the strategies to adapt to climate change are easier to achieve in the low altitude ski resorts, as there have been numerous limitations for Kasprowy Wierch resort. This is likely to have an impact on the decreasing numbers of skiers, although it may change in the future, if any new strategies to adapt to climate change would be presented. 


Numerous studies have been conducted on the issue of climate change and possible outcomes which could affect winter tourism sector. Most of these reports are mainly predicting those impacts for the next few decades (Steiger and Stotter 2013; Hendrikx et al 2013). Nevertheless few of them are actually indicating evidences which are occurring at present and developing strategies in order to adapt or mitigate those impacts. Report by Burakowski and Magnusson (2012) indicates socio-economic impacts of climate change which strives New Hampshire region in United States, where ski resort industry is estimated to have lost $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years over the last decade (November 1999 - April 2010). Additionally the employment impact is a loss of between 13,000 to 27,000 jobs. In European Alps due to the poor weather condition some ski station has been shut down. Abondance is the French Alps' first ski station to fall apparent victim to impacts of climate change where snow fell only 20 days in 2011 and town officials have been seeking private buyers for the ski area for several years with no big interest from investors. In order to prevent further shut downs ski resorts are determined to underline further strategies to adapt to climate change, in their development plans. An advance in technology is a crucial factor for ski resort in order to stay competitive and to remain good ski conditions for visitors. Firstly, an artificial snowmaking is the most common strategy. Study by Scott et all (2006) point out that, snowmaking was found to extend the average ski season in Eastern North America by between 55-120 days. However there are serious concerns in this practices which are discussed in the next paragraph. Secondly weather derivatives introduced since 1990 did not gain much enthusiasm, until 1999 as Asian market concern, and structured a weather derivative scheme to protect against low snowfall in the Japanese ski resort Nagano. Under the deal concluded with Nagano ski resort, the minimum number of skiing days was 15 in a period of two months between December 1 and January 31. A skiing day meant a day where snow depth was above 10 centimetres. For every skiing-day below 15, the resort received 10 million yens from SocGen, up to a total of 150 million. For skiing days above 15, the resort would then have to pay SocGen a similar amount per day, but that was offset by a rise in sales due to increased skiing potential. Thirdly, Revenue Diversification is one of the key strategies to develop new compelling entertainment offerings which cater to the non-skiing consumer. For instance, in Switzerland, stations at lower altitudes are trying to lure visitors for dry toboggan runs, "wellness" treks, or for taking lifts above the cloud line to enjoy the sunshine. While more passive activities involve high-end day spas, retail shopping, indoor pools, and fine dining establishment. Some of the large ski operators tend to acquire or develop resort in dissimilar geographical locations such us Booth Creek, the fourth largest ski resort owner in North America. In 2004/2005 due to the poor snow condition in the Pacific Northwest at Summit at Snoqualmie company could relocate employees to their two California resorts and honoured Summit at Snoqualmie season passes at other resorts in their portfolio thus reduce some of the financial losses. Last but not least is an importance of cooperation for climate adaptation in tourism between relevant stakeholders. In order for cooperative initiatives for climate adaptations to be successful, individual actors within a tourism region must first of all find a motivation to engage in activities which lead to climate change adaptation. In may 2013 more than 100 ski areas sign climate declaration, calling for United States policy action on climate change.

As indicated above, the huge deficit of snowfall and decreasing length of snow cover in recent years, forced ski slope operators to adopt suitable strategies in order to stay competitive on the market.  Research by Rixen et all (2011) showed that, under climate change scenarios, the average ski season is expected to be reduced by 37-57% by 2050, threatening the winter sport tourism industry. For these reasons, ski lift operators have invested significantly in artificial snowmaking technology to assure reliable snowcover and maintain the snow season as long as it is possible. With snowmaking technology, the average season is expected to be reduced by 7-32% by 2050. While snow making during dry winters can temporarily solve economic issues, it also brings environmental consequences. Snow making machines require low temperatures, air compressors and water pumps that are both very large and expensive. The production of artificial snow itself needs large amounts of energy and water. Water defeat linked with artificial snowmaking across the Alps is comparable to the annual water consumption of a city with 500,000 populations. Furthermore, this demanding use of water for artificial snow production and tourism occurs when water levels are usually at their lowest level. According to interviewer at the ski resort in Bialka Tatrzanska additional investment has been dedicated to purchase snow making equipment such as tanks, pipelines, etc. in order to storage or transport water beforehand. However those equipments alters landscapes and the ecosystem, and a great deal of energy is required for water transportation. Another significant environmental concern which, contribute considerably to the ski resorts operating expenses, is power consumption. The use of snow canons, air system and water pumps require big amount of energy. 10,000 snow making guns consume 108 million of kWh each season. Similarly, the pumps that provide water to the snow canons are often run by diesel engines, which expel a high level of air pollution. Thus for instance Vermont (USA) has the best air quality of any state, snow making machines produce a large proportion of the state's air pollution. In Vermont, ski resorts produce 25 percent of pollutants, boosting levels of smog and acid rain. Furthermore artificial snow is, four times denser, fifth times harder and heavier than natural snow, which have a propensity to waterproof the soil that it covers and makes soil erosion easier. Artificial snow delays the seasonal defrost, occurring quite later for ski resorts which have snow making technology. According to study by Wipf et all (2005) ski resorts have a direct impact on local bird communities and density, contributing to the modification of their habitat and food sources. A main food source for many bird species is invertebrates, whose population decreases with the development of artificial snow and longer snow cover.


5.2 Critical analysis of the study

Interviews have been arranged straight after the examination period and before the new semester to allow enough time to properly interpret the data gathered and apply it to the report. It was intended to interview 7 different ski resort with different ski slopes altitude. However this time scale has been underestimated due to the fact that this period was the busiest time in Poland considering the winter holidays. This incoherence had an unpredictable consequence, also a heavy snow fall made it difficult to move freely on the roads leading the interview appointment to be postponed by the other parties for several days and to limit those interviews to three. To avoid those issues it would be preferable to conduct the study in a different period than peak season. In terms of the weather disruptions it is difficult for a researcher to predict atmospheric conditions and despite that most of the ski lift operators run throughout the winter, a different time of the year could affect the quantity and quality of the research findings.

5.3 Recommendation for further research

For future studies, it might be of interest to research the tourist’s perspectives and their motivation to participate in winter sport tourism in the spot light of the impacts of climate change and how tourists would adapt to those changes. As so far it is tourists who have the greatest adaptive capacity of all those involved in the tourism sector; however there is a little interest among those who travel the most to modify their travel patterns in order to minimise the negative effects of climate change. Changes in tourism behaviour could be the greatest challenge to reduce their contribution to the GHG emissions. Research by Becken (2007) indicates that many tourists are reluctant to give up their privilege of travelling and tourists concerns over the climate change are unlikely to stop them from travelling. However those perspectives could change together with an increase of awareness and educational factors.


About the Author
Andrzej Bil is a recent graduate from the University of the West of England, UK where he obtained a BA degree in Tourism Management. He seeks to apply his knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable tourism development. Andrzej's areas of interest include International Tourism Development, National Parks, Event Management and Research.





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Survival International18 December 2013 - Survival International Press Release


The Ayoreo are outraged at new revelations that Paraguay has granted a license to bulldoze the last refuge of their uncontacted relatives. Paraguay has caused outrage by quietly granting cattle ranchers a license to bulldoze a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which is also the last refuge of uncontacted Ayoreo Indians.


Paraguay's Environment Ministry (SEAM) has violated national and international law by issuing an environmental license to ranching company Yaguarete Pora S.A. which puts the lives of the uncontacted Indians in extreme danger. Contacted members of the tribe have been working tirelessly to gain legal title to the land inhabited by their uncontacted relatives. Many Ayoreo who were in the past forcibly brought out of the forest now suffer from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, and many have died as a result. The Ayoreo expressed their outrage at the revelations and said, 'Our relatives came out of the forest in 2004 because they were under pressure from the ranchers, because they had no peace. If the bulldozers start to make a lot of noise, our uncontacted relatives will be forced to hide where there isn't any food and they will suffer. We want to continue using the forest, and for the ranchers to stop harassing our relatives who remain there.'


Satellite images reveal that Brazilian beef company Yaguarete – owned by Sr. Marcelo Bastos Ferraz – has already started destroying vast stretches of forest inhabited by the uncontacted Ayoreo. The rancher's beef is destined for the European market – prompting Survival International to write to the European Commission over Yaguarete's activities. Ironically, Yaguarete is part of the UN Global Compact, an initiative set up to encourage companies to abide by principles that 'support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights'.

Survival's Director Stephen Corry said today, 'Government officials risk sacrificing Ayoreo lives in their greedy scrabble for foreign profits. Cattle ranching is steadily destroying the last refuge of Paraguay's only uncontacted tribespeople. Sooner or later, beef produced illegally on the tribe's land will be on supermarket shelves in the EU.'


For more details visit

by Diana Condrea*



This article explores one of the most ambitious ideals of the tourism industry, that opening up the last and most remote wilderness of the Planet to tourism, will inspire and empower tourists to act in favor of its conservation. Nonetheless, this noble and highly-desirable goal is not backed-up by solid and extensive research, much needed to shape the future of polar tourism as these areas are facing today more dangers than ever before: climate change, tourism expansion and natural resource exploitation plans. In-depth interviews with tourists who have travelled one or more times to Antarctica were used as a main research method, using the Interactional Framework (Powell et al., 2009), Kellert's typology of environment values and the Responsible Environmental Behavior Model (Hines et al., 1986) as theoretical approach. The results suggest that conservation ambassadorship is a potential outcome for those tourists who have the strongest emotional connection with Antarctica, who attach it a high moralistic value, whose identity and travel behavior was influenced by the polar experience. These tourists are experienced in nature-based activities, have powerful pro-environmental attitudes and, if engaged, could perhaps take actions to promote conservation. More research, both quantitative and qualitative, is necessary to determine the variables that could enhance some tourists to act as conservation ambassadors.

1. Introduction

Researchers and practitioners argue that tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and it seems that despite global economic and political unrest, people continue to travel, creating and recreating new destinations of interest. The contemporary tourist changes his or her identity and claims to be a traveller, an individual in search of post-modern experiences, losing interest for traditional destinations like European capitals and willing to flee to the end of the world to explore the unexplored and touch the untouched. How much they take back from the experiences that often immerse them deeply in unique natural settings is not yet known for sure. Even less is known on what they give back for the protection of the places they visit, not even when these places are the last great wilderness the world has left like the Antarctica.
Several authors argue that immersing in this type of scenery will make the tourists become the ambassadors of its protection (Splettstoesser, 2000). However, this statement is not supported by extensive research that is very much needed in order to develop and strengthen sustainable tourism in Antarctica before irreversible impacts occur. And looking at the fast rates of tourism growth in the Polar Regions, an increase of 344% of ship-borne tourists in 13 years and by 917% of land-based tourists in 9 years (Snyder, 2007), the need for consistent and well researched advice is both obvious and urgent.


In this sense, the present article will explore the possibility of potential ambassadorship attitudes and behaviours occurring for tourists who have travelled to the Antarctica. For this purpose, the author collected and analysed the narratives of those who have been there across three relevant theoretical frameworks: Interactional Framework (Powell et al, 2009), Model of Responsible Environmental Behaviour - REB (Hines at al., 1986) and Kellert's typology of environmental values (Kellert, 1998). (Ed. Research for this article took place between April & March 2012).


2.Theoretical background

One of the pioneers of Antarctic tourist expeditions, Edward Lindblad, justified his option of opening the Southern ice for tourists by arguing that "You can't protect what you don't know" (, April 8, 2012). Almost half of century later, the members of the IAATO are still connecting their commercial activity to:


"enhance public awareness and concern for the conservation of the Antarctic environment and its associated ecosystems" in order "to create a corps of ambassadors for the continued protection of the Antarctica by offering the opportunity to experience the continent first hand" (IAATO, org, April 8, 2012).


But how effective is this claim? Defined as:


"the process of advocating the preservation of the continent by those who have been on the "ICE" and so have a first-hand experience of the values being sought to protect" (Maher et al., 2003),


the ambassadorship behaviour is seen as the result the polar experience has on the tourist (Mahler et al., 2003; Splettstoesser, 2000):


"There are probably no greater ambassadors for Antarctica than tourists who have been there and disseminate information about its fragile environment and need for its protection after they return." (Splettstoesser, 2000: 54)


Despite its admirable ambitions, this potential ambassadorship is not backed-up by sufficient empirical findings regarding post-visit behaviour of tourists (Stewart et al., 2005; Mason, 2005) who "may also simply leave their mark on the environment and never think about it again" (Mahler et al., 2003: 2008). As Powell et al. (2008) observe, there is a clear lack of research regarding the impact of the Antarctic tourism experience on precise cognitive, attitudinal or behavioural outcomes. The scarce existing research indicates however that the Antarctic operators have the potential of educating the public through a combination of interpretation, operation guidelines and voluntary efforts that would allow IAATO members to influence future environmental behaviours (Powell et al., 2008). In this context, interpretation can be understood as:


"...a process of communicating to people the significance of a place so that they can enjoy it more, understand its importance and develop a positive attitude to conservation. Interpretation is used to enhance the enjoyment of place, to convey symbolic meaning and to facilitate attitudinal or behavioural change." (Mason 2005: 175)


Effective interpretation appears to be the vital element for creating the ambassadors corps (Powell et al., 2007) and the relevancy of this claim is supported by research done in other nature-based tourism cases like the Galapagos (Powell and Ham, 2008) or Penguin Islands (Hughes, 2005). In the Galapagos case, Powell and Ham argue that:

"...well-designed and delivered interpretation during the ecotourism experience can increase knowledge of the host-protected area, supportive attitudes towards resource management issues facing the host-protected area, general environmental behavioural intentions and philanthropic support of conservation" (Powell and Ham, 2008: 467).

In the case of Antarctica, educational efforts based on interpretation are an important part of the soft visitor management techniques employed by the tour guides of the IAATO members, but few researches actually investigate the way people use interpretation to understand the destination or if it really leads to a behavioural change (Mason, 2005).

Given the lack of theoretical-based studies regarding an actual change in the post-visit behaviour of polar tourists towards the protection of the two regions, it seems adequate to introduce and discuss relevant research regarding the impact of other forms of nature-based and wildlife experience.


The Interactional Framework

Powell et all. (2011) argue that due to the combination of the physical and social environments that characterizes nature-based tourism experiences, this type of tourism can be analysed as part of an interactional system. The author will apply this approach to explore the case of Antarctica tourism, considering the interactive relationship between the key elements of the framework presented below:

Figure 1 Interactional model of the nature-based tourism experience (Powell et al., 2011: 764)


Figure 1


Responsible Environmental Behaviour (REB)
The variables that determine tourists to behave responsible towards the environment is without a doubt one of the most crucial point of tourism research. One potential explanation was offered by Hines et al, back in 1986, the authors connecting REB to the interaction of situational factors and the intention to act that is further determines by severable variables as: knowledge of issues, knowledge of action strategies, the perceptions of one's ability to change things trough own behaviour, attitudes, verbal commitment and an individual sense of responsibility. The REB model is presented in the figure bellow:


Figure 2. The Model of Responsible Environmental Behaviour (after Hines et al., 1986-1987 in Lee and Moscardo, 2005: 549)


Figure 2


Kellert's typology includes nine values that reflect different values people can assign to nature. Developed initially to evaluate attitude towards animals, the typology was consistently used also to more general aspects of the human-environment relationship (Farnham, 2007).
In the case of the Antarctica tourists, the author considers that Kellert's typology helps assess their environmental values by exploring how they "attach meaning to and derive benefits from nature" (Kellert, 2005, p.34). The nine values are summarized in the table below, with the mention that the aesthetic and humanistic values are grouped together because it was considered they were closely related.


Table 1: Kellert's typology (Kellert, 1998)





Material and practical importance of nature


Immersion and direct involvement in nature


Knowledge and understanding of nature


Physical attraction and beauty of nature/Affection and emotional attachment to nature


Spiritual and ethical importance of nature


Symbolic significance of nature


Mastery and control of nature


Fear and aversion of nature




Taking into consideration the constructivist perspective of the research and the need to elicit rich-data content, the author opted for the use of interviews "probably the most widely employed method in qualitative research" (Bryman, 2008:436). This method appeared as possessing a high degree of flexibility, needed to collect the needed information and to allow the interviewees' own personal perspectives to emerge.
In order to assure "the comparability of the interviewing style" (Bryman, 2008:439) and given the need to address specific issues regarding the tourists' experiences and their wider perspectives, semi-structured interviews were considered as the next optimal step. This decision was also based on the need to ensure the complementarity of findings. An interview guide was therefore developed and four main groups of questions were further created in order to collect the data needed for the analysis process.

The interview guide

The first category addressed the elements of the Interactional Model of Powell et al. (2011), applied in the fourth chapter, and asked questions regarding the characteristics of the trip like duration, activities, quality of lectures, group size. The second group of questions focused solely on the experience and its most and least favoured moments and its perceived outcomes. Their respective answers were analysed using Kellert's typology of environmental values, a vital aspect of understanding the complexity of the experience and the level of closeness with natural settings. This typology has been used by several researchers to understand people's attitudes towards nature and the general outcomes they perceive by interacting with it (Kellert and Ham, 2011; Rauwald and Moore 2002).

In order to predict a potential responsible environmental behaviour using the REB framework, a third category of questions was created, in fact the largest, in order to obtain interviewees' perspectives (awareness, knowledge, attitudes, behaviour) on environmental issues regarding both the Polar Regions and the Planet. Three questions from the Revised New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) of Dunlap et al. (2000) were included. Although predominantly used as a complete 15 questions scale in surveys, the author considered necessary to employ some of its questions, that could forge a comparative approach between a more general and a polar perspective, in order to asses interviewees' attitude on environmental issues. Originally developed in 1978 by Dunlap and Van Liere, the NEP scale has since become the most widely used instruments of measuring environmental attitudes, possibly due to the universality of beliefs it measures (Hawcroft and Milfont, 2010).
As mentioned, these three groups of questions were designed to collect the needed data for applying the three instruments used in the analysis. Nevertheless, taking into consideration the research aim, the author considered useful to create a fourth category that addressed questions regarding tourists' perspectives on other fellow tourists and a possible post-visit behaviour advocating for the conservation of the Polar Regions. The age, nationality and profession of interviewees were also addressed so that the portrait of the respondents was complete.

Data collection

Using this interview guide and keeping in mind the focus of the research, four in-depth interviews via Skype were realized between April 20 and May 10, 2012. Given the difficulty to find and interview the polar tourists face to face, the Internet and more precisely Flickr, a social media platform of photo sharing, were used as the main departure point in searching for respondents. The relevancy was therefore constructed departing from the popularity of photos from polar trips inside several groups focused exclusively on this topic. As a result, around 30 persons were contacted through Flickr and almost all replied. However, less than a half were willing to take the interviews through Skype, the chosen online instrument, and several cancelled or abandoned in the last moment. It is not therefore possible to argue that a theoretical saturation was achieved, however the ones that were completed brought an important set of rich and interesting data that allowed the author to pursue the goal of this paper.

4.Data analysis

Four in depth interviews with four tourists who travelled to the Southern Polar Region will be analysed, using first Kellert's typology of environmental values to bring out the outcomes and the nature of tourists' experiences in Antarctica, followed by the impact of the Polar experience on tourists' environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviours seen through the use of the Interactional Framework (Powell et al., 2011) before predicting a possible REB in the final part of the chapter.

The experience

Departing from the premise that the tourist experience and its perceived impacts are strong indicators in shaping a potential typology of polar tourists, the author addressed several questions to capture an honest and complete image of it. As mentioned before, the nine environmental values from Kellert's typology, summed up in eight variables by mixing aesthetic and humanistic, will be the main instrument to discuss tourists' experiences.
The four experiences presented next bring us four very distinct approaches of the human-environment encounter in Antarctica. Asked to describe their experience, tourists' storytelling is covered in reflexivity and cognitive dissonance. Each one brings to light a new layer of the complex relation between humanity as a society of development and consumption and the menaced natural environment in one of its most fragile spots on Earth. It is therefore not surprising that the experience of their encounter is sometimes highly moralistic. As JM, a 63 year-old American, acknowledges:

"It's...the Antarctic to me is a life changing experience. When you realize the beauty down there and you realize, you know, how brutal it is, but how fragile it is and you see the organization of the tour-operators being so literally scrub your boots when you go on shore, you scrub your boots when you come off shore ...and I'll never forget, on the first trip somebody dropped a tissue and walked away from it and they literally stopped everybody and said this cannot's kind of like when you like at pictures from Space of the Earth and you realize how small it is. You just realize that this is a place of unimaginable beauty, but we could destroy it".


Travelling to Antarctica clearly emphasizes ethical concerns regarding the protection of the natural environment seen as brutal in its immensity, but at the same time extremely fragile and in need of complete protection. Experiencing the "unimaginable beauty" that represents in his own words a transformative moment "a life changing experience", JM becomes highly aware of the destructive potential of humans and connects his own individual responsibility by emphasizing the protection measures taken by IAATO tour-operators and announces a potential ambassadorship behaviour.
A different outcome is perceived by OJ, a 43 year-old Norwegian, whose main encounter with Antarctica is a scientific one, underlining the important educational component of polar trips in the South:

"I think our experience was very good. In a way, we felt very privileged to go there and to see these areas so we were very happy to go there and see this. And I think we learned a lot about the animal, the marine life, the birds and I think maybe we are a little bit more humble to nature after this".


Besides the cognitive impact, an additional emotional outcome can be identified as OJ is feeling privileged to have been in the vast landscape and, as a result, of his learning process becomes aware of his humbleness as a human in front of nature's complexity. For the next respondent, a 41 year-old British woman, the experience has a strong aesthetic and humanistic value as she is clearly attached to its beauty and wilderness and acknowledges the exceptionality of the natural scenery by her feeling privileged to be there. For SM, her strong emotional connection could set the base for a possible ambassadorship:

"It's...I feel very privileged to have been there, the scenery is absolutely fantastic, it's just an amazing ... yeah, you feel amazed and privileged to be there because the scenery is so untouched and unspoilt and so dramatic and remote. I mean it was one of the best things I have ever done".


From establishing a point of reference in someone's life, the Antarctic experience turns into a deception for MJ, a 45 year-old American who does not encounter the destination image she had formed before departure:

"...well the reality of Antarctica as a tourist is quite different than what's in the brochures. It makes it sound as if it's thin incredible place that is unique and wild and you're gonna have a great adventure. I mean, that's ridiculous. You and a hundred of your friends can't just pop down and have a great adventure in Antarctica".

She regrets not choosing a different type of touristic package like kayaking or camping which would have allowed her to experience a dominionistic outcome of surviving in a harsh environment, an image closer to what she perceives as more authentic when compared to the feeling of falsification she gets from the trip:

"you're not Shackleton building a hut and surviving the winter. I mean you're staying in a cabin, you're being fed three meals a day and you're sort of being shuttled around in these masses".

Interviewed tourists strengthen their main values or add new ones when thinking about the way this experience affected their lives and views of the world. JM consolidates his ethical perspective and moralistic dimension considering that the direct contact with nature "incrementally changes your view of the world and it's that, you know, since that we can't just keep abusing were we leave". Meanwhile OJ ties a symbolic value between the experience of feeling humbled by nature, whose power gives it a negativistic value, and its spiritual consequences:

"I'm a bit more humble to nature and I think it's also a very special way to see that we as people, compared to its elements, we are very small. So just a powerful wind will blow us off at sea in a way, a bit more humble, a bit more...hopefully a bit more wiser about some things in life and also good because being away like this in the middle of extreme elements makes you think at people at home and your family and friends and maybe you feel that you appreciate to be together with them and yeah..."

A completely different impact is perceived by MJ who despite her disenchantment with the polar experience, gains sufficient scientific information to address a moralistic value of protecting Antarctica against the damages of potential mass-tourism:

"...well what I did take back from Antarctica was, I learned a lot about conservation and I concluded that perhaps we have too many people going to Antarctica as tourists and actually that I'm not sure whether I can really get behind budget travel to Antarctica at this point"

We cannot however predict a potential ambassadorship behaviour for MJ given the absence of strong attachment towards the continent. As she admits: "I mean Antarctica was just one of many many places so it wasn't like I went there and then said 'Wow, I'm gonna change my life". From an opposite perspective, experiencing Antarctica has opened a new world for SM and set the premises for her extensive nature-based travelling. She strengthens her humanistic value and adds a scientific one, making her, along with JM, a potential ambassador candidate:

"I think my first trip to Antarctica definitely did [affect her life], hence going back so many times and in the Arctic. I guess it made me more interested in finding out more about the history of these places. I didn't know too much about the history of the exploration of Antarctica or the Arctic. When I first went, it was something I vaguely knew from school. I guess it just made me want to go to more and more remote places as well and just continue to travel a lot".

Although attaching different values to describe their experience and being differently affected by it, all respondents attach a strong aesthetic and humanistic perspective when asked about their favourite moments. The connection between them and the polar wilderness, emphasized by its iconic species, the whales and the penguins, gains a naturalistic perspective as they feel completely immersed and integrated in the natural world that accepts them without any fear:

"...I was shooting a video and I was down on one knee and the lens cap was kind of hanging on a string under the camera and a friend of mine suddenly said: Jim look down and there was a penguin standing two inches from me, looking at the lens cap. So they have no fear of humans because it's, you know, many years since they've been hunted or gone after them down there" (JM).

MJ makes a similar observation for the lack of fear of whales that allows her to be part of the natural setting: "And the whales were very social, they're just not afraid of humans".
The unique naturalistic opportunity tourists have the chance to experience here overcomes the negativistic value they attach when speaking about their least favoured moments of the trip. The bad weather and the inherent dangers of crossing the Drake Passage are seen as a necessary risk, a sort of test for their determination of going there:

"Of course, you know, there's big like Titanic, these big ice mountains and there will always be a possibility that you can run into an ice mountain or something like that. I don't know, I think most of these thought pass through your mind before you go so you make some sort of personal statement for yourself and if you think the risk is too big, then you don't go there". (OJ)

and in the end a mandatory part of their adventure: "You may have terrible weather, you may have rough seas, but that's all part of the deal". (JM)
MJ is the only one who does not include weather in her storytelling as a factor affecting her experience. Her least favoured moments are human-induced and we will further explore them next using the Interactional Model.
Before proceeding to this section, it is however necessary to sum up the preliminary findings reached after applying Kellert's typology on tourists' experience in Antarctica. Travellers' emotional perspective and attachment for the unique landscape as a result of the direct interaction is the strongest way they "attach meaning to and derive benefits from nature" (Kellert, 2005, p.34). The aesthetic and human values are followed by the scientific dimension, from this perspective, Antarctica tourism having achieved its educational purpose, developing interest and learning curiosities through its lectures and interpretation.
Although significant in number of references, the negativistic value connected to the climatic conditions does not shade the general positive experience and is seen as part of tourists' initiation process in the great wilderness. Equal in number of references, but considerably stronger in terms of content and experiences, the naturalistic value emphasizes travellers' desire to go back and their complete immersion in the Antarctica scenery.
Less referenced, the moralistic value is nevertheless the most substantial value of JM, the respondent who until this point exhibits the strongest potential ambassadorship behaviour.What determines each respondent to attach these values and what are the possible changes in their environmental knowledge, attitude and behaviour after their trip will be further discussed, addressing each experience separately for a more accurate and complete analysis.

Interactional Model

The Interactional Model developed by Powell et al. (2011) will be further used in order to explain how different variables influence the outcomes and the potential environmental awareness of the tourist as a result of the nature-based experience.
The author will start by introducing JM, a 63 years-old American, whose experience of Antarctica has the strongest moralist and ethical perspective, clearly connecting the need for conservation and protection of the continent with all the aspects of the trip. This is partly explained by his travel experience, he has been already two times in Antarctica, both trips having a total duration of five weeks. Furthermore, JM has an extensive nature-based travel experience that he admits changed his perspective on the world, thus having a transformative impact of making him more aware on the present environmental issues. He is creating a distance between himself as a nature person and the rest of the travellers, linking an educational and ethical perspective to his trips:

"You know, both my wife and I have always been very much nature lovers and I categorize travel as nature-travel versus people-travel. People-travel to me is the trip to Europe where you see the castles and that kind of thing and it's always kind of been at the bottom of our list. We've been to Africa, we've been to the Antarctic, Arctic, Patagonia, Galapagos, those are kind of places we like to see and I think each one of them incrementally changes your view of the world and it's that, you know, since that we can't just keep abusing were we leave".

Moreover, he is extending his role, attributing himself a political dimension of "environmental liberal" (JM) that is the outcome of his nature travel experience:

"...and 20 years ago or 30 years ago before I ever done any of these trips...I mean I always liked nature, but I guess I didn't had the connection with it and the need to kind of be aware of its protection".

Moving further to the independent variables of the framework and looking at the natural environment, we find out that JM has: "the strongest emotional connection with Antarctica". Apart from his clear nature interest, this is also explained by his positive interaction with several trip characteristics. He travelled with Lindblad Expeditions, the pioneers of polar tourism in the South, benefited from professional and extensive interpretation on shore and on the boat with numerous guides and immersed more profoundly in the natural setting through exploration activities like hiking. On both trips, the number of passengers was under 130 making the experience more personal, this adding to a scrupulous organization from the tour-operator: "the Lindblad National Geographic partnership is just super conscious of environmental issues and wildlife issues and all those things" (JM).
Using the Interactional Model, it could be argued that JM's personal characteristics and his highly positive interaction with the independent variables should influence him in increasing his environmental awareness and maybe change his environmental behaviour. This is in fact an accurate supposition, JM gaining more knowledge from the lectures on various polar topics and openly admitting changing his attitude and behaviour towards the environment after this type of experience:


"Yeah, I mean you know, if somebody asked me for a donation to the WWF 30 years ago I probably would have shaken my shoulders and say it's a nice idea, but it's not my money. As you go to these places and see them and feel them you definitely become more involved".

Moving to a completely different experience, we introduce MJ, an American woman of 45, who has been to Antarctica only once, for less than a week, and has no intention of going back. Some of her personal characteristics and trip features might explain her decision.


Although travelling extensively and thus having a significant experience as a tourist, MJ does not believe that travelling has more than a recreational outcome:

"I don't actually believe travel actually can change your life, I believe travel is a fun thing to do but I think it is overstated in regards to its affect to the people's day to day life".

MJ is very disappointed by her polar experience, partly because she does not encounter the image that motivated her to visit Antarctica in the first place, the great isolation and the exploratory adventure, and that, according to her, is a result of both tourism development and severe guidelines:

"The thing is that Antarctica has to be protected and as such I don't think it's responsible for these giant cruise ships to go down and run random who are not members of the voluntary treaty organizations but at the same time adhering to these very strict rules about what you can do and not do kind of makes the trip not particularly up to your expectations".

Her interaction with the trip characteristic is generally negative, as she feels harassed by other passengers, around 110 tourists on the boat, and criticizes the impersonal organization: "You bought into this concept of going into this remote place and having this adventure and it actually becomes this exercise in people-moving" (MJ).

She argues for the lack of quality of the overall trip as a consequence of it being a budget-travel, in a clear connection with her limited immersion in the natural environment. The overall negative outcome resulting from the interaction of her personal traits and the trip characteristics lead to weak increase in her environmental awareness. She admits having increased her environmental knowledge by learning on how damaging tourism is for the continent and further criticizes it despite her presence there as a tourists, in a possible attempt to distance herself from the dissatisfying experience she had. However, she perceives no change in her attitude:

"No, I think it was just the same as it was before. My attitude towards Antarctica has changed somewhat because I was not aware of the numbers of tourists going there previous to my trip. And I was not aware of the dangers of the cruise ships going down. So that I learned basically from the lectures".

After applying the Interactional Model on two very different experiences, we move forward to discuss SM's case, the British woman of 43, who has been already three times in Antarctica, almost seven weeks overall. She has a solid touristic experience all over the Globe, with a clear preference for nature-based settings like Madagascar, Borneo, Kuril Islands. Although her first time visit was the result of a coincidence, her deeply aesthetic and humanistic experience motivated her to travel further to the Arctic and go back twice to the Antarctic:

"I guess having been to Antarctica, I just became a bit obsessed with it and then I went to see how to Arctic was in comparison to the wild and pristine nature...and I guess is just something that got into my soul (laughing) and became a bit of an obsession"(SM).

Analysing her interaction with the first independent variable, the natural environment, we find out that it: "still feels more special [compared to the Arctic] for me because is so remote and no country owns it. It's such an effort and the cost to get to, it seems more special". The perception of uniqueness can also be understood as the outcome of a very positive interaction with the characteristics of the trips that allowed her a more extensive physical and spiritual immersion through activities like hiking and a more personalized experience due to the limited number of people in each of the trip: 100, 60 and 12. SM feels she benefited from the lectures of the guides that helped her improve her knowledge on the history and wildlife of the continent:

"I mean on the boats especially there are long periods of time when you're at sea...and they give lectures that are very comprehensible. They have specialists on various types of animals and some specialists on the history so, yeah, my knowledge of the area definitely increased from that..."(SM)

Taking into consideration SM's strong experience as a nature tourist, her powerful connection with Antarctica and her positive interaction with the features of the trip, we could argue that, according to the Interactional Framework, SM increases her environmental awareness as a result of her experiences in the polar region. This theoretical model proves to be useful once more, as SM believed she learned more about NGOs fighting whaling and more importantly acknowledging an impact in her attitude towards nature as a result of experiencing the peacefulness oh human-animal interaction. She also expresses a possible shift in her environmental behaviour:

"Probably, I mean going for the first time in Antarctica you just realize there's this whole continent that's completely untouched and unspoilt and the animals are not scared of you because they had no reason to be and it just makes you realize that, you know, you need to take more care of the planet and ...I guess I'm not a massive polluter apart from taking airplanes. I don't have a car...apart from my airplane usage, you know, I try not to use to many resources myself, and maybe that's something that comes with going there, having been to these special places, I'm not sure..."

The Interactional Model allows us to also understand why OJ, a 42 years -old Norwegian, who has travelled recently for the first time to Antarctica for about three weeks, does not feel that his attitude towards environment has changed after the trip. Mentioning his preference for nature travelling, he legitimizes this option through his Norwegian background:

"...and I think being raised in Norway and in Norway you know...we had lots of nature, lots of mountains, lots of rivers and we like to do physical exercise and to see beautiful things around us. I remember gymnasium, I was very interested in biology, and I think maybe the impact from my grandfather, I was very interested in experiencing nature".

OJ appears to have a solid experience in nature, but also a scientific interest in it. He travels to Antarctica to see it still intact given the menace of future climate change, but also due to a more symbolic meaning that his grandfather attached to the continent during his childhood stories. His interaction with the trip characteristics appears to be a positive one as no negative commentaries are made regarding the organization. From all the respondents, OJ has travelled with the largest number of tourists, approximately 200, but also experienced a limited immersion in the natural environment, shortened by another passenger's health problems that required them to turn the boat around, providing him with the feeling that something special was stolen away. Nevertheless, the various guides and their interpretation created a highly educational trip:

"We were very privileged you know...this was an expedition cruise, but it was also like being on a university at sea so it was very nice (laughing) cause we had these very good, superb lectures that brightened our eyes and I think we had better profit being there. We could understand more things with these lectures".

Despite his passion for nature travelling, his scientific interest in the continent and positive interaction with the trip, OJ does not perceive a change in his environmental attitude as an outcome of his Antarctic experience. He justifies it by his previous awareness achieved through his WWF membership, but admits nevertheless increasing his knowledge as a result of the lectures.
Taking into consideration that the same theoretical framework was applied to all respondents and the same aspects of their socio-demographics and trip features were analysed, we can conclude that the strongest environmental outcomes in terms of knowledge, attitude and behaviour are achieved in the case of tourists:

• Who have a passion for nature with a solid background in nature travel
• Who have an extensive and positive polar experience, preferably in smaller groups
• Who benefited from intense interpretation
• Who experienced a deeper immersion in the scenery

Given the fact that the Interactional Model was used at this point to test the factors that are influential in increasing environmental knowledge and attitude, a further instrument will be used to identify the potential environmental responsible behaviour of tourists and therefore their ambassadorship potential.

Model of Responsible Environmental Behaviour (REB)

In order to predict a possible REB it is first necessary to identify an intention to act, influenced by personality factors and the level of knowledge of issues and action strategies. The REB is also determined by several situational factors that will not be taken into consideration in the further analysis given the absence of relevant data regarding this aspect.

Addressing first the knowledge of both issues and action strategies, we can observe that all tourists display certain knowledge of environmental issues related to climate change for both Antarctica and the rest of the world. In order to elicit their knowledge on possible action strategies, all respondents were asked to think about the threat that tourism might pose to the polar region they visited. As it turns out, all of them identified sustainable and controlled tourism as the main action strategy to reduce harmful effects:

"If tourism can be humble, very safe and good and if the guides are professionals and if they have a good discipline, it's not a problem, then it's ok, but if people are left to do whatever they like to do I don't think that's good because then they start to scare off animals and do things they shouldn't do". (OJ)

Some went even further in addressing the possibility of using ecotourism in order to help poor countries develop without destroying their natural heritage:

"The ecotourism is starting to put some of these countries in a position where they can say: Hey we can preserve what we got and economically be better off when people come to visit". (JM)

Although displaying a common acceptance of sustainability as an action strategy, tourists' personality factors shape different patterns of attitudes and personal responsibility. Two of them, JM and SM, display a strong pro-environmental attitude regarding the use of natural resources, the abuse of the natural environment and human's domination on other species. Asked if people have the right to modify nature for their own needs, SM builds her attitude on her travel experience:

"I don't think we have the right to go in and cut down the rain forest for our needs. I mean Madagascar is a place where like 90% of it is deforested and that because they use wood for cooking and fuel and it's really devastating seeing, you know, what used to be rainforest, now just dry hills with tree stumps. So no, I don't think we should"(SM).

Presenting a similar strong attitude towards protection, JM indicates his own country, the US, as a major abuser of the environment, using his knowledge to connect environmental sustainability with economic development and emphasizing the need to stop the abuse before it is too late:

"...if you look at America, we absolutely just used and abused the environment through the industrial age and up to fairly recently when people started to say, you know, we need to stop. But it has a lot to do with the economic climate of any given country. I mean, many countries know can afford not to break the environment to the extent that they did 30-4-50 years ago, some countries, China, India don't have that luxury yet and maybe don't care, but I think ultimately, at the end of the day, we got to stop or there's not gonna be nothing left to live on"(JM).

As for the other personality factors, JM and SM are assuming their personal responsibility through their financial support for environmental NGOs and attempt to behave in a nature-friendly way. Based on these findings, we could argue that their intention to act is present and could predict a responsible environmental behaviour.

A change in attitude is visible for the next two respondents. MJ opposes humans' superiority: "I don't think that we as a species are necessarily more important than say the species of whales. I don't know if we need to be strip-mining the entire world", but does not display a general strong pro-environmental attitude and, at least from the available data, does not indicate taking actions of personal responsibility, therefore presenting a weak intention to act. A similar assumption could be addressed in the case of OJ, who advances a more utilitarian perspective on human-nature relation, assuming that modifying the natural environment is an inherent step for economic development. He uses his country, Norway, as an example of exploiting natural resources for the needs of industry and societal development:


" Norway we have these waters in the mountains and in order to get enough electricity here, we have these water power plants and in a way we do modification to the lands, to the rivers to produce electricity, so I don't think we can avoid it"(OJ).

While all other respondents clearly oppose hunting, OJ believes whale hunting is not unethical, belief that might be legitimized by his Norwegian nationality. Taking into consideration the absence of a strong pro-environmental attitude, we cannot argue that this respondent will assume a REB, a necessary prediction for identifying potential ambassadors.



This research attempted to explore if and how a potential conservation ambassadorship is one of the outcomes of tourists travelling to Antarctica, one of the more moral reasons used to open this last wilderness to the global tourism industry. Addressing this research question implied the need to comprehend how the interviewed tourists perceive nature and values they attach to it in report to their polar adventure and beyond, but also the interaction between the various components of their Antarctica experience. To elicit this kind of data, in-depth interviews built on three theoretical frameworks (Interactional Model, Responsible Environmental Behaviour, Kellert's typology) were preferred.

The same theories were used to analyse the very rich and complex data obtained following the interviews. At this point, the following conclusions can be presented:

The strongest and more common environmental values of interviewed tourists, according to Kellert's typology, encountered are the aesthetic and human which denote a great attachment possible only through the experience of a direct interaction with this polar wilderness. Nonetheless, the less referenced moralistic value is considered the main indicator of a potential ambassadorship behaviour as it connects love and respect for nature with the moral implications of its protection.

The polar tourists who are nature enthusiast and have extensive nature travel experience, who have previously visited the polar regions, preferably in small numbers, who have benefited from intensive interpretation and who have had the chance of a deep immersion in the Antarctica scenery are the most likely to possess the strongest environmental outcomes in terms of knowledge, attitude and behaviour.

While possessing the necessary knowledge of issues and action strategies, the personality factors appear to be the main determinant in indicating a potential responsible environmental behaviour, with respondents presenting strong environmental values backed-up by a solid experience and moralistic views towards nature appearing to be more likely to take personal responsibility, preceding a possible intention to act.

Summing up, two of the interviewed respondents were considered to present potential ambassadorship behaviour following their polar experience as they have the strongest emotional connection with Antarctica, connection that shaped their identity and perspective and their general travel patterns and attach it a high moralistic value,. The potential ambassadors are experienced tourists, with a strong preference for nature-based tourism activities, possess the most powerful pro-environmental attitude and are most likely to act for the conservation of this polar area. These tourists should be the ones targeted by responsible tour-operators in their efforts to build a sustainable and beneficial impact of polar tourism.

While this research article is limited by the small number of respondents, who nonetheless provided rich and extremely interesting data, the author would like to underline the necessity to develop more studies using both qualitative and quantitative methods to determine what triggers or what prevents polar tourists to become active conservation ambassadors.



Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods. Third edition. Oxford University Press, New York
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Web resources:

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Diana Condrea is Coordinator & Founder of Uncover Romania ( A sustainable tourism professional and CUM Laude Tourism Master graduate, passionate about nature and wildlife she enjoys researching the complex and challenging relation between nature protection and tourism development. She believes strongly  in the capacity of tourism to empower local communities while limiting negative environmental impact.

by Dr. Joseph Palacio*

Traditional Dugu Ceremony in Barranco, BelizeThere probably has not been as much public attention in Belize on the dügü ceremony as within the past two weeks, thanks to the statement said by a high level manager within the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) about the “dügü dance”. What was said at a joint press conference between the Government of Belize and NCL about the Memorandum of Understanding on the proposed investment at Harvest Caye opened the floodgates for opinions on the dügü ceremony and its potential insertion into large scale cruise tourism.

This certainly was not the scenario in southern Belize when the Cayetano twins – Sebastian and Fabian – and their siblings decided to build a dabuyaba, which they called the Marcelo Cayetano Complex a short distance from the cliff in the village of Barranco in 1996. Most of the materials came from the surrounding bush. The main circumstances leading to the construction were not unusual compared to the preparations for other dügüs in Garifuna communities. The family members had been having recurring bad experiences, such as illnesses and car accidents. The spirits of the ancestors appeared in dreams stating that they wanted a celebration. Some spelled out the details of what they expected at the feast. Buyeis were consulted and through their divination confirmed that indeed a dügü lasting a few days was needed by given ancestors. But where would this take place for there was no dabuyaba in the village at that time. The spirits directed that a new one should be built. Hence the beginning of the Marcelo Cayetano Complex (MCC)!

As the largest, best built and best appointed dabuyaba in Belize, the MCC attracted much attention from within Belize and neigbouring Guatemala. After 1996, dügüs have been held there almost every year usually between June and late August, a period which has now been dubbed as the yearly village dügü season. Interestingly, the ceremonies are getting bigger from the sheer numbers of participants. Nobody keeps an exact count but in what was certainly one of the largest, taking place this year, villagers estimated that between 300 to 400 persons came, certainly quadrupling our normal population of 100. At least for its small population Barranco can boast of itself as the Dügü Capital of Belize.

Why is this so? Because dugus are a function of history, the reason has to be found in the life pattern of our ancestors, who had lived in Barranco three and more generations ago. Many of those honoured had lived in Barranco, even if their descendants had migrated afterwards. Our research has shown that between the 1860s and the early 1900s several men and women had moved to the village. The in-migration was again repeated during the 1930s pulled by the banana boom. Unlike other Garifuna communities, Barranco was not first settled on a Carib Reserve or immediately adjoining large private landholdings, such as estates near New Town, the precursor of Hopkins. Barranco was first settled, according to accounts by the British themselves, on lands not owned or used by them. Land availability, therefore, became a beacon attracting many to the village from Guatemala and Honduras as well as further north in Belize.

Land is a major resource needed for a successful dügü to produce cassava bread, pigs, chickens, leaves, dyes and other accessories that are needed. Although most of these prerequisites have to be brought into the village at this time, it was the reality of a previous era of abundance that continues to remain in the memory of the ancestors being honoured.

Another main attraction of the village to the living as well as the spirits of our ancestors is the small face-to-face nature of the village setting. Having driven into the village, one can leave one’s vehicle and walk around, going house to house chatting with the residents as they sit by their verandahs. In other words, the overall ecosystem that lends itself for the dügü extends from the available land together with its bounty to the small rural village setting. A dügü in the village absorbs the attention of everyone, resident and visitor alike.

This brings us back to the debacle of the NCL allusion to the “dügü dance” they would like to feature at their property at Harvest Caye. The historicity embedded into the MCC and the intimacy of the small rural community cannot be repeated within the artificiality that NCL will reconstruct at Harvest Caye.

On the other hand, the NCL incident has opened the larger debate on the role of culture within large scale tourism, which is taking place all over the world, especially where indigenous peoples are found. In the case of the Garifuna we have a self-conscious culture that is diverse, vibrant and photogenic, which we have been sharing with others, including visitors to our shores. But as a nation we have the capacity to define what we will share with what visitors. The press release from the office of the National Garifuna Council President said it quite clearly, “The dügü is a sacred ceremony and is not performed as entertainment for any audience.”

Indeed, it was the combined work of many of us that led to the UNESCO 2001 Proclamation of Garifuna language, dance and music as masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. In accepting the Proclamation the government of Belize re-affirmed its commitment to maintain the dignity and integrity of Garifuna culture. Fortunately, the Garifuna have not waited for the government but have gone ahead to articulate their position.

To a large extent the basis for this has been the dedication of our people in communities, such as Barranco, that has given all of us the collective strength to uphold the dügü as the most sacred component of our spirituality. The MCC and other dabuyaba are performing a function extending far beyond our communities; and reaching out to all indigenous peoples and similarly marginalized peoples wherever they are.

Reprinted with permission of Dr Joseph Palacio and The Toledo Howler, the voice of tourism in southern Belize.


Dr. Joseph PalacioDr Joseph Palacio has a doctorate in anthropology and is a well‐known and respected figure throughout Belize and served as the first Belizean Archaeological Commissioner. He was born in Barranco but moved within a year to live and grow up elsewhere. Dr Palacio was educated at the University of Toronto, The University of Manitoba at Winnipeg and the University of California at Berkeley. He has recently moved home to his birthplace and was elected Chair of the Barranco Village Council in May 2013. 

Unite The UnionLondon (26 September 2013) - UNITE Press Release:
Protests against two top London hotels, which refuse to pay some of their staff the London ‘living wage’ of £8.55 an hour, will be staged tomorrow (Friday 27 September).

Unite, the country’s largest union, will be mobilising members in its hospitality branch to demonstrate outside the Radisson Edwardian May Fair, Stratton Street, W1J 8LT from 16.30 to 17.00 and the Holiday Inn Mayfair, 3 Berkeley St, W1J 8NE from 17.00 to 17.30.

Unite will be using tomorrow’s United Nations designated World Tourism Day to highlight the plight of the low pay of hotel staff, many of them women and from ethnic minorities, while the number of tourists visiting the capital soars.

Unite said that there are currently no employers within London’s hospitality sector which independently endorse and pay their employees the London ‘living wage’ rate of £8.55 an hour. Many of its members are forced to live on little more than the national minimum wage of £6.19, set to rise by 12p on 1 October.

Unite regional officer Dave Turnbull said: “Our protests tomorrow are focused on two hotels where we believe things should be different.

“The Radisson Edwardian May Fair hotel operates a franchise agreement with Carlson which owns the Radisson brand and the Holiday Inn Mayfair is owned by Intercontinental Hotels (IHG). Neither of these hotels pays its lowest paid workers the London ‘living wage’.

“However, both Carlson and IGH are signatories to the United Nations global compact. Employers, who are signatories to this compact, have given an international commitment to standards of decency, including the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

“We call on these two hotels, and all London hotels, to pay the ‘living wage’, so that some of the lowest paid workers in one of the world’s most expensive cities share in the current tourism boom that the capital is enjoying.”

In the first quarter of 2013 the tourism sector in London saw 3.4 million overseas visitors, a 4.2 per cent increase on the same period last year. This generated expenditure of £2.1 billion, up 11.5 per cent from already huge expenditure recorded last year during the Olympics and other key events.
In the summer, Unite presented its submission 'Hopelessly Addicted to Low Pay' to the Greater London Authority (GLA), demanding that the hospitality and hotel industries pay the London ‘living wage’ of £8.55 an hour.

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International Transport Workers' FederationLondon (24 September 2013) - ITF Press Release:

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) will push ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organization) in Canada today for action on flagrant abuses of aviation workers’ labour rights by airlines based in Qatar and the UAE.

The ITF will be at ICAO’s 38th General Assembly, taking place in Montreal from 24 September - 4 October, where it is proposing that ICAO and the ILO (International Labour Organization) must work together to address the problem. The ITF is already campaigning along with the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) for abuses to be remedied.

The ITF states that Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways are among the fastest growing airlines in the world. They employ more than 70,000 pilots, cabin crew and ground staff between them. More than 90 percent of their employees are non-UAE/Qatari nationals – all of whom have to rely on obtaining temporary work visas under a sponsorship programme. Although these foreign workers are vital to the success of the airlines, they do not enjoy the basic labour rights (including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining) which apply in their home countries and in virtually all the nations whose airlines compete with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

According to the ITF the case of Qatar Airways is the worst. For example, a standard hiring contract for thousands of the airline’s female workers reads: You are required to obtain prior permission from the company, in case you wish to change your marital status and get married. And: The employee shall notify the employer in case of pregnancy from the date of her knowledge of its occurrence. The employer shall have the right to terminate the contract of employment from the date of notification of the pregnancy. Failure of employee to notify the employer or the concealment of the occurrence shall be considered a breach of contract.

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented: “Earlier this year the ITF and ITUC spearheaded the successful resistance to Qatar’s bid to have ICAO moved to Doha*. The same democratic deficit that torpedoed that ridiculous bid is still in place in these airlines. At the time Qatar Airways’ CEO even went on record as saying: ‘If you did not have unions you wouldn’t have this jobless problem in the Western world’. The fact is that these companies are making a fortune from the efforts of hardworking staff who, undefended, can be discharged and deported on a whim.”

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow added: “Nations and companies cannot continue to turn a blind eye to abuses of workers in Qatar. International pressure is growing, from the ILO to the UN Special rapporteur on migrant rights the spotlight is on companies in Qatar to take responsibility for workers’ rights and follow global rules.”

This proposal is one of seven working papers the ITF will present during the ICAO assembly. Among the other papers to be presented are the need for the removal of national obstacles to the collection of safety-related information by airline staff; air pollution at airports; and cabin air quality and its impact on cabin crew.


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