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The impact of weather and climate on tourist demand: the case of Chester Zoo


Warmer, drier summer weather brought by global climate change should encourage use of outdoor leisure facilities. Yet few studies assess the effect of current weather and climate conditions upon visits to leisure attractions.

Statistical time series models are used to analyse the short-run impact of weather and the long-run impact of climate upon visits to Chester Zoo, England. Temperature has a non-linear effect on visit levels. Daily visits rise with temperature up to a threshold around 21 °C. Thereafter visitor numbers drop on hot days. Visits are redistributed over time in accordance with the weather. Visitors discouraged by rainy weather one day turn up later when the weather improves. Otherwise, visitor behaviour is mainly influenced by the annual rhythm of the year and the pattern of public and school holidays. Out-of-sample tests suggest almost 70 % of the variation in visit levels can be explained by the combination of weather and time of year.

Climate change is likely to redistribute visitors across the year. But it does not follow that “summer” visitor behaviour will transfer to spring and autumn. Day length, existing patterns of human activity and availability of leisure time constrain visit levels regardless of better weather. The main implication of potential climate change is the need for physical adaptation of the tourist environment as temperatures rise and rainfall diminishes in summer.

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The paper was part of a project on “Climate Change and the Visitor Economy in England’s Northwest” funded by DEFRA, the Environment Agency and the former NWDA. The advice of management at Chester Zoo and the considerable help of six anonymous but diligent referees from earlier submissions to this journal are warmly acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Jonathan Aylen.

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Aylen, J., Albertson, K. & Cavan, G. The impact of weather and climate on tourist demand: the case of Chester Zoo. Climatic Change 127, 183–197 (2014).

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  • Repeat Visit
  • Inclement Weather
  • School Holiday
  • Tourist Demand
  • Drey Summer