Around 120 million tourists visit the Alps every year making the impact of tourism on Alpine nature considerable. New waves of ‘mass tourism’ threaten to destroy pristine wildlife areas – the very thing that attracts tourists in the first place.
A top industry in the Alps, tourism is also a major driver of urbanisation. Large tourist resorts have an area consumption rate that is far greater than that of a non-tourist community. In addition, touristic areas also experience an increase in motor traffic. This is especially problematic for remote and sensitive Alpine regions which would otherwise be safe from urban sprawl.
Now, modern adventure sports (mountain-biking, canyoning, or paragliding) and some motor-based leisure activities are entering areas previously untouched by tourism. This is causing major disturbances to wildlife in the Alps and poses very direct threats to biodiversity.
One of the most ecologically devastating forms of leisure activities in the Alps is winter ski tourism. There are currently about 300 ski areas throughout the Alps where 10,000 transport facilities serve more than 3,400 km² of ski areas. The construction of ski runs causes irreparable damage to the landscape. The increasing use of snow canons sets off additional problems by their use of water, energy, and chemical and biological additives.
But not all forms of tourism threaten Alpine nature. In fact, sustainably designed tourism can be used instead to promote the protection of natural areas in the Alps.
What We Do
Not all forms of tourism are inherently destructive. On the contrary – well planned and sustainably designed tourism can be used to promote the conservation of natural areas. WWF is using tourism as a conservation tool.