Alps and Tourism


What Role Do the Alps Play within World Tourism?

by Fabrizio Bartaletti, University of Genova - Institute of Geography


To a question of such importance, we can answer only by induction. In fact, the figures supplied by UNWTO (2006) merely concern the international arrivals of each country; yet, on average, more national than international tourists visit the Alps. In addition, the Alps are not surveyed as a unitary region and the integration of data of the different countries leads to several problems. Anyway, based on the analysis of various national, regional and municipal sources (see data on overnight stays in the Alps), the international arrivals in the Alps may add up to about 30 millions, or a little less than 4% of world’s total number (806,8 million in 2005) and almost 7% of the European ones. This share of tourist arrivals is nearly as high as in Italy as a whole: 4,5% and 8,3%, respectively). Yet, if the Alpine tourist destinations in those respective countries are grouped, the Alps rank virtually as the second largest tourist destination in the world after the Mediterranean coast (though this region records about four times as much visitors as the Alpine region).

Many interesting places of the Ligurian-Provençal sector of the Maritime Alps are not yet developed as tourist destinations. The same is true for many places of Piedmont Alps, as the village of Ostana in the Cuneo province (left picture). On the other hand, the mammoth buildings (here the Campo Smith complex at Bardonecchia, Piedmont) make it unmistakably clear, that tourism has a substantial influx on the Alps and its landscape (Source: F. BARTALETTI).
Within the Alps, there are 4,5 million tourist beds (of which about 1,2 million in hotels), and more than 300 million nights are spent in the Alps every year. If second homes are to be included, the total number of beds would increase to 9,9 million (without Austria and Bavaria) and the overnight-stays to 545 million. About 30 resorts record more than 1 million overnight-stays, for instance Oberstdorf (2,4) and Oberstaufen (1,2) in Upper Allgäu (Bayern), Sölden (2,02) and Saalbach (1,96) in Austria, Davos (2,1 including apartments) and Zermatt (1,86) in Switzerland, Chamonix (5,3, including second homes) and Val d'Isère (>2) in France, Madonna di Campiglio-Pinzolo (1,7), Cortina d’Ampezzo (1,6) and Bardonecchia (1,5) in Italy, all including second homes.

These figures show that tourism, has a considerable weight within the economy of the Alpine space. Nevertheless, tourist areas are distributed unevenly across the Alps, and are increasingly dependent on the winter season and downhill skiing. This raises doubts in terms of sustainable development and recently must face the problems caused by climate warming.
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Further Readings & Links

CIPRA (2007)
This issue of CIPRA-Info discusses the often difficult path towards sustainable tourism in the Alps.

The first (and till now, the only) report about mountain tourism in Italy at a regional level.

A tourism benchmark study about the Grisons