Millhäusler A, Anderwald P, Haeni M, Haller R M (2016) Publicity, economics and weather – Changes in visitor numbers to a European National Park over 8 years. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 16: 50-57. [10.1016/j.jort.2016.09.005]


Visitor census;Swiss National Park;Management;Publicity;Alpine tourism


Regular visitor counts within National Parks are commonly used as an indicator for their “economic success”. The Swiss National Park celebrated its centenary in 2014 with correspondingly high media coverage. It was therefore of interest to what extent this increased publicity translated into an increase in visitor numbers and thus into economic benefits for local communities. Based on visitor counts over five automatic slab sensors buried under footpaths over eight consecutive seasons (2008–2015), we examined visitation patterns with respect to economic (exchange rate between Euro and Swiss Franc) and social/institutional factors, weather and media coverage. Month was the most important predictor of visitor numbers, followed by exchange rate, temperature, precipitation, holidays and media coverage. Peak visitor numbers occurred during the red deer rut in September. Visitation increased with increasing value of the Euro against the Swiss Franc, increasing temperature and media coverage, and decreasing precipitation. Positive responses to increasing temperatures were most pronounced in the colder month of October, and negative responses to precipitation were weakest when temperatures were high. The exchange rate between Euro and Swiss Franc had its greatest effect during mid-season and also modified sensitivity of visitors to weather. During high media coverage of the park, visitors were less sensitive to precipitation. However, our results show that even high media coverage around a special event cannot compensate for external factors which cannot be influenced; particularly an unfavourable economic situation has far greater effects on visitation rates and thus the local economy around a protected area. Management implications We show that variation in visitor numbers to the Swiss National Park is mostly determined by month, the economic situation in Europe (i.e. the exchange rate between the Euro and the Swiss Franc) and air temperature. Economic, social/institutional factors, weather and media coverage interact in determining visitor numbers. The results are likely applicable to most protected areas which at the same time represent expensive tourist destinations; although public relations by the park management in such areas cannot make up for a poor overall economic situation, targeted advertising efforts can at least modify hikers’ sensitivity to adverse weather conditions.

LWF Classification

Network: LWF, Sites: Nationalpark, Category: ISI,