Tourism Sector Perceptions of Vulnerability to Environmental Change in Glacier National Park, U.S.A.

Nicholas Youngstrom, The University of Montana


Glacier National Park, a highly visible example of climate change impacts, is also extremely important for local inhabitants that depend on park resources to generate tourism. Consequently, if those resources are altered, tourism could be adversely affected. To explore this range of climate change impacts on the human community, as well as how vulnerability is perceived and experienced, twenty-three operators in the Glacier region were interviewed. These interviews were then analyzed using content analysis, which allowed themes related to vulnerability to be detailed. Operators identified several ways in which they experience vulnerability to climate change, particularly through wildfire, extreme weather, and heavy snowpack. In particular, access to Going to the Sun Road and media sensationalism were key factors identified. A few operators thought the longer summer season might benefit them. Operators are adapting to these impacts by undertaking “green” business practices, diversifying their businesses, and shifting marketing away from Going to the Sun Road. Results indicate that vulnerability is experienced differently among the operators depending on how they leverage resources. Additionally, social factors and multi-scalar processes are significant determinants of adaptation in this study area.


© Copyright 2013 Nicholas Youngstrom