Climate Change & Tourism

The Great Lakes region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage combine to attract tourists from all over the Midwest. Tourism is important to the region’s economy; however, there are stresses already evident. Perhaps the greatest current stress to the tourism industry is its own inherent instability.Tourism is primarily a service industry that is seasonal and highly dependent on low wage and benefit-free positions to staff its busy times at both eating and lodging establishments. Economic prosperity or woe during any given season is frequently dependent on normal weather fluctuations and other variables like gas prices and general consumer confidence. For instance, skiing and ski resort operation in the Great Lakes is more economically threatened by small snowfall fluctuations than its competitors in the Far West. So, relatively minor changes in snowfall can significantly reduce skiing days and total industry revenue generation.

Regional stresses on tourism include water quality concerns about the Great Lakes (primarily Lakes Michigan and Erie) and continuing difficulties with the influx of invasive species. Both of these factors negatively affect the attractiveness of the biggest resource in the region – the Great Lakes.

Climate Change Related Stresses:
·Lengthened Tourist Season - Higher average temperatures translate into longer tourist seasons in the fall and spring. It is likely this will result in a longer season, especially in the fall, with increased economic activity
·Great Lakes Whitefish – Less ice cover could cause rapid decline in whitefish population because of increasingly unprotected spawning areas
·Reduced time for leaf viewing
·Winter Sports Reduction - Reduced ice coverage and snow depth will harm the ice fishing, snowmobiling and skiing industry

·Increase in Exotic Species – Because colder winter temperatures have kept some of the exotic species at bay, increased temperature could greatly increase invasion of exotics

Assessment report on Tourism (PDF) available here

Tourism in the region continues to grow significantly across the board. This in turn is leading to resource overuse and will ultimately lessen growth of this sector unless additional resources (hotel rooms, campsites etc.) can be developed in response to demand.

Assessment report on Tourism (PDF) available here

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