Drought in Europe has become an increasingly concerning issue over the past few years, with record-breaking temperatures and dry spells affecting many countries across the continent.
According to the European Drought Observatory (EDO), between 2018 and 2020, over 1,000 areas across Europe were affected by drought. The drought affected several countries, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, resulting in lower crop yields, water restrictions, and increased wildfire risk.
The snow cover in the Alps has decreased by up to 30% in the last 50 years, according to a study by the European Environment Agency (EEA). The study also shows that the snow season has become shorter, with snow arriving later in the season and melting earlier.
According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the Swiss Alps have lost around 1.4 meters of snow depth on average since the 1970s, and the trend is expected to continue.
The French Alps have also seen a decrease in snowfall, with a 25% decline in snow cover since the 1960s, according to a study by the French National Center for Scientific Research. In an even more detailed analysis published this year by Bruna Alves The number of snow days has been decreasing since the 1960s. According to Météo France, there would be five fewer snow days every 10 years. While in 1963, there were 200 days of snowfall, there were only 115 in 2017. The same is true for heavy snowfalls (one meter of snow and more), with a significant falling recurrence over the decade. In 2017, only one day with more than one meter of snow on the ground was recorded. The years without heavy snowfall have multiplied since the end of the 80s.
In the Pyrenees, snowfall has decreased by up to 30% over the past 50 years, while the Balkans have seen a decline of up to 20%.
Economic consequences on tourism
The impact of reduced snowfall on ski resorts can be devastating.
According to a report by Inntopia, a tourism industry data provider, the total revenue from the 2018-2019 ski season in Europe decreased by 7.7% compared to the previous season.
In 2019, the French ski resort of Les Deux Alpes was forced to close early due to a lack of snow, costing the local economy an estimated €10 million. In France, the ski industry generates an estimated €11 billion in revenue and supports around 120,000 jobs. A study by the French Ministry of the Environment found that a 50% decrease in snowfall would result in a loss of €5 billion and 38,000 jobs.
In Spain, which is one of the most affected countries by drought in Europe, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range has decreased by up to 60% in recent years, leading to a reduction in water resources, and the closure of ski slopes with loss of revenue and jobs.
According to the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, the number of skiers in the Swiss Alps has decreased by almost 25% in the last two decades.
In Italy, during the current 2022-2023 ski season, less than 80% of ski runs were open in the Italian Alps. In the Apennines, less than 10% of slopes were open, due to the average lower altitude of the destinations.
Economic consequences on real estate
One of the industries that have been greatly impacted by drought in these destinations is real estate (second houses in ski destinations). The lack of water resources and high temperatures have led to a decrease in the value of properties located in these areas.
According to a study by the Spanish property valuation firm Tinsa, the value of properties in areas affected by drought decreased by an average of 1.8% in 2022. This trend was particularly noticeable in rural areas, where the dependence on agriculture and water supply is higher.
Real estate prices in popular ski destinations such as Chamonix, France, have already taken a hit.
A study by the Swiss bank UBS found that property prices in Chamonix have decreased by 7.5% since 2012 due to the lack of snow and the resulting decrease in demand from buyers. In contrast, non-ski destinations in France have seen an increase in real estate prices of 6.5% during the same period.
In addition to the decrease in property value, the lack of water resources in these destinations has also led to an increase in the price of water. In 2022, the price of water in parts of Spain increased by 25%, which has further affected the economy of the region.
Economic consequences on hotel rates
Similarly, hotel occupancy rates in ski destinations are decreasing, which is causing hotel prices to drop. With less snow and shorter ski seasons, hotels are struggling to attract guests and are forced to lower their rates.
In the Swiss resort town of Verbier, hotel rates have decreased by 8% since 2012, according to UBS.
In Austria, some ski resorts have reported a decline in occupancy rates, with a 5% drop in bookings in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to the Austrian Hotel Association. This decline is attributed to the lack of snow and the resulting poor skiing conditions.
But not all ski destinations are suffering equally. Some areas, such as the Dolomites in Italy, have seen an increase in tourism due to the lack of snow in other parts of Europe. The Dolomites have invested in snow-making technology, which allows them to guarantee snow on the slopes, even during dry spells.
Overall, the trend towards drought in European ski destinations is concerning for the industry.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, the ski industry could lose up to $1.4 billion per year by 2050 due to the impact of climate change. This will have a ripple effect on local economies, including real estate prices and hotel rates.
As the frequency of droughts is expected to increase in the future, it is essential for the ski industry to adapt and find sustainable solutions to maintain its economic viability.