Many industries are seeing their profits rise and fall with the whims of Mother Nature. The winter tourism industry may be a canary in the coal mine of the erratic weather the world will increasingly face in the future.
According to a recent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report, more than 23 million people participated in winter sports (skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling) in 2010, which contributed an estimated $12.2 billion to the U.S. economy. The industry supported an estimated 211,900 jobs that paid salaries and benefits totaling $7 billion while generating $3.1 billion in state, local and federal taxes.
It is clear that skiing and snowboarding are big business. But they are becoming a less stable part of the economy.
The NRDC report found that the erratic snowfall totals over the past decade have cost the downhill ski resort industry an estimated $1.1 billion in aggregated revenue between low and high snowfall years. Basically, the good years have been great, and the bad years have been terrible.
The NRDC claims that unless action is taken to slow the speed of climate change, the industry will see even more fickle returns in the years to come. “In order to protect winter—and the hundreds of thousands whose livelihoods depend upon a snow-filled season—we must act now to support policies that protect our climate, and in turn, our slopes,” states the report.
Of course, this is only one industry. There are others—airlines, outdoor event planners, summer tourism—that rely on dependable weather. More and more segments of the economy are likely to start feeling like the bad years are less because of bad luck and more because of bad societal behavior.