How does the Baltic Sea smell?

Joint activities to foster ecological tourism on the island Fehmarn (case study Germany)

The island Fehmarn is a very popular holiday destination on the German Baltic Sea coast. The municipality counts over one million overnight stays per year, with an increasing tendency. The tourists are very welcome! However, with more tourists comes the question about how to involve them and make them feel responsible about protecting the environment and the climate. Hence, Land-Sea Act supports the Municipality of Fehmarn to develop an ecological tourism concept. In summer 2019, we surveyed a total of 127 tourists on the island to learn about their attitudes and habits concerning ecological and climate friendly holidaying.

We found out that most guests visit the island during the summer months, mainly couples and families, to spend 1-2 weeks relaxing on the beach, eating well, and spending some time with biking, sightseeing, and shopping. To get around more easily, 95% of the tourists travelled with their own car.   We also asked the tourists whether they would alter their habits of visiting Fehmarn because of the predicted potential climate changes. About 46% of the surveyed guests stated that potential health risks would probably cause them to stay away (Figure 1). More extreme rainfalls (lasting on average for 4 days) would be the reason for 35% of the tourists to stay away, whereas swimming prohibitions due to jellyfish and blue-green algae (lasting on average for 3 days) would deter 25% and 21% of the tourists from visiting Fehmarn. 

Figure 1: Potential reasons for tourists to not visit Fehmarn anymore in the future, as percentages of tourists [%] that would not visit the island due to these reasons; the surveyed tourists had multiple choices; (127 tourists surveyed in summer 2019).


Concerning our question about which kind of activities the tourists would like to see on the island, 79% answered that they want measures to reduce single-use plastics (Figure 2). 55% wished for more seasonal and regional food products and 50% would like to see a reduction of pesticides and herbicides.


Figure 2: Measures and activities tourists would like to see on Fehmarn, as percentages of tourists [%] that would like to see these measures and activities implemented; the surveyed tourists had multiple choices (127 tourists surveyed in summer 2019).

Based on the results of the survey, we are currently writing the brochure “How does the Baltic Sea smell? – A guidebook for ecological holidays on Fehmarn”. The brochure contains background information about the tight relationships between the environment, humans, and their (consumption) behaviour, as well as recommendations about ecological ways to travel, eat, stay, and entertain oneself on the island.

Furthermore, we are currently developing an ecological certification and information system for holiday accommodations. These developed green standards should then be implemented all over the island in the upcoming years.

Both, the brochure and the ecological certification system, will continuously be improved and broadened in the next years. For sure, many more activities for strengthening the ecological tourism sector on the island will follow in their footsteps.


Read more on German case study Climate change adaptation and sustainable tourism here.

Prepared by Hannah Sophia Weber (BEF Gemany) /August 2020/