Coastal tourism along the German Baltic coast is one of the most important economic sectors in the region. For several years, the number of overnight stays shows an increasing trend. But at the same time, tourism is highly dependent on weather conditions. With regard to projected climate change impacts it can be assumed that tourism in the Baltic Sea Region will profit from warmer temperatures and a prolonged bathing season as well as facing a number of disadvantages due to sea level rise, coastal erosion and, thus, higher costs for coastal protection and beach management. This gives rise to the current discussion on how coastal regions can adapt to the on-going and expected changes. Climate change is a global issue, but impacts show a highly geographical variability so that specific case studies are required that take into account the regional or local conditions to develop possible future management strategies. Therefore, perception analyses (of tourists, residents or citizens) are more and more involved in decision-making and planning processes. But until now, such analyses and surveys mainly contributed to the development of short-term strategies. In the context of climate change, the role tourists' perception plays in long-term planning is also a question of interest. Should it be involved in the development of future adaptation strategies?
To answer this question, we analysed regional climate impacts with respect to the past and the projected future and carried out a survey in summer 2010 at three beaches in close proximity to the German coastal town of Rostock. In total, 713 questionnaires were evaluated. The analysis of climate data shows that changes are taking place but that they can only be detected through statistical analyses of long-term observations. The survey reveals that tourists' perception of changes is clearly limited in time and space, very subjective as well as selective. Therefore, the results of the study are characterized by high uncertainties due to the complex topic of climate change, and influences of the process of perception itself. For these reasons, the benefit of perception analyses in the context of climate change might be of limited usefulness for the development of long-term adaptation strategies. The study also gives valuable hints for alternative approaches and necessary steps for regional climate adaptation in coastal tourism regions.