Alpine Pearls: Supporting environmentally friendly travel
SUPPORTING ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TRAVEL
Project Status: 2006 – Ongoing
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Tourism is inherently linked to the movement of people, thus, mobility to and from the destination as well as in the destination is an important topic in regards to sustainable tourism development. As a label for environmentally friendly travel, Alpine Pearls has focused on sustainable tourism since its foundation in 2006.
To participate in the Alpine Pearls network, tourism destinations need to fulfil a comprehensive criteria catalogue regarding sustainable tourism with a focus on soft mobility. Alpine Pearls then supports member destinations in their desire to reduce CO2 emissions caused by tourism and become a sustainable destination. Improving and expanding the offer of environmentally friendly tourist offers and supporting environmentally friendly mobility are the main tasks for our member destinations.
The member destinations work hand-in-hand to develop offers for holidays without a car yet with guaranteed mobility. For that, different solutions are developed, for example shuttle buses, free access cards for public transport, e-car rentals, bike rentals in summer and snowshoe rentals in winter and different options for ‘fun mobility’, like the opportunity to rent recumbent bikes, Segways and a vast range of softly-mobile activities like hiking, horse riding, nordic walking, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, ice-skating and much more.
Alpine Pearls commits to implement the objectives of the Alpine Convention as defined in the protocols “Tourism” and “Transport”.
CONTRIBUTION TO MOUNTAIN PROTECTION
Our environmentally-friendly initiatives in our member villages implement a huge number of softly mobile alternatives to private cars during the holiday, with 100 % guaranteed mobility. Tourists are encouraged to leave their car parked during their stay or even arrive with public transport in order to reduce CO2 emissions. A good network of public transport as well as shuttle services and taxis provide full mobility without car in the villages. In most of our member destinations Guest Card holders can use these mobility services for free. E-Bikes and different environmentally friendly fun-vehicles offer great adventures without CO2 emissions. The project “Alpine Pearls Hosts” connects all this with the accommodation providers. They create special offers for holidaymakers without car, they make a focused advertisement for arrivals by train and provide free luggage transport from the railway station, shuttle services around the destination, hiking buses, rental station with e-bikes and offer their guests local food from the region. Guests are encouraged to leave their own cars at home or not to use their own cars during their holidays, to respect nature and to spend their holiday with the nature, not against.
The quality of nature as well as nature preservation in our destinations is crucial in being a member of Alpine Pearls. We encourage our member destinations to protect their environment, strengthen their co-operation with conservation areas in the region and develop touristic offers in tune with nature. To be a member of Alpine Pearls, our destinations need to support and reinforce the use of regional products, folk culture and tradition. Furthermore, the destinations need to conserve and maintain their natural, regional aesthetic.
Case study: One of our member destinations is the village of Werfenweng in Austria. Core of the soft mobility offer in Werfenweng is the so-called “SAMO-Card”. This customer service card receive guests who arrive by train or bus OR leave their car key with the tourism info (price: 10 €). Holders of the SAMO Card can enjoy 100 % mobility guarantee thanks to a huge variety of local environmentally mobility offers they can use for free, e.g.:
- E-shuttle services to next town and railstation, E-taxis in the village, night taxi
- 12 e-cars to rent charged by solar power, Biogas cars with biogas produced of grass
- Cost-free rental of vehicles in the village center: E-bikes, Pedelecs, E-Mountainbikes, Electro scooter, Segways, Twizy and many more e-vehicles, Mountainbikes and bicycles, scooter and vehicles for small children, special bikes like tandems, etc.
- Additional free advantages and offers / summer + winter: bus tours, guided hiking tours, bicycle taxi, entry to swimming lake, tour with horse coach/sledge, ice skating including rental of skates, trekking with lamas, guided hiking tours, guided snow-shoe walking tours, rental of sledges and cross-country equipment and much more.
COLLABORATION WITH LOCAL COMMUNITIES
For Alpine Pearls the contact with the local community is essential. We are regularly in contact with the municipalities of our member destinations and with their tourism information offices. Furthermore, we meet our partners and interested locals annually at our general meeting where we work together in workshops, meetings and lectures.
By participating in the projects GEMS and Mobility.Camp.Alps we focus is on the residents of our communities. In these two projects the local community is asked to participate and give their ideas to push forward the sustainable developments in the regions.
Five of our member destinations (Werfenweng -A, Bad Reichenhall -D, Bled -SI, Forni di Sopra -IT, Moena -IT) involve their citizens in networking activities during the next two years, within GEMS project – inteGration and Solidarity European Models for Sustainability, co-funded by the EACEA Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union. The project aims to define, across five international events, innovative models for Alpine local development, able to answer common challenges of the current European scenario. The project establishes a pilot action for civic engagement in the Alpine Region, which will be promoted among all municipalities of the Alpine Pearls Network.
By integrating the local population and heighten their awareness for the aspects of sustainable tourism, the authenticity of sustainable tourism offers should be increased. In addition, the protocols of the Alpine Convention should be integrated stronger into the strategies and touristic offers, to make the Alpine Convention better known at the local level. Mobility.Camp.Alps is a project that is carried out in several steps, in particular through workshops, involving the local population. Communication and the exchange of ideas are key elements, as they help to reconcile different perspectives and experiences as well as cultural differences. During the workshops, various methods are used, for example “BarCamps”, which are open meetings with different working groups, whose contents and procedures are defined by the participants themselves.
The Alpine Pearls’ members also do their best to include the local population in their soft mobility offers. Werfenweng for example created “WirSaMo”-Offers (“We are softly mobile”). These are special packages for the residents, allowing to use the soft mobility offers if they reduce the use of their car. The residents get special discounts and tariffs, so they can use the mobility offers and do their part to help in the conscious use of resources.
Furthermore, as we have 25 member destinations, we work together with a lot of local and regional authorities, e.g. municipalities. We also work together with national authorities like the Federal Minstery for the Environment. We work on different projects co-funded by conveying devices, where we also work with governmental organisations.
ENCOURAGING MOBILITY AND PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
All our member communities are investing in methods conserving natural resources and promoting soft mobility. They are flagship-communities for soft mobility and alternative methods of transport and often win prizes for their action in sustainable tourism.
One example could again be Werfenweng, where electro mobility is daily business. For a village with only 1.000 habitants there are exorbitant actions to reduce pollution by cars. They provide a wide range of softly mobile mobility offers and are a worldwide role model. Additionally they reward guests who don’t use their car, by giving them a SaMo-Card with a lot o benefits. For example free horse carrier rides, free lama trekking and free fun-mobility offers. With all that actions Werfenweng shows is that holidays without a car are not only possible, they are relaxing, comfortable and a really good idea.
Another example where a lot of our members go far beyond “business as usual” are the free acces and mobility cards, which are provided in a lot of villages. By setting up the card-system or members try to reduce traffic in their villages and the surroundings. Guests can for example use public transport, busses or boats for free by showing their card, or they get special offers or services. With that method the use of cars is reduced, and they are investing in conserving the environment. There are lots of examples for Alpine Pearls members providing those types of card, for example: Arosa, Bad Reichenhall, Berchtesgaden, Bohinj, Interlaken, Mals, Neukirchen, Ratschings, Villnöss or Werfenweng.
But the Alpine Pearls members have not only mobility in their focus, they also try to protect the environment. A good example for that is Villnöss in South Tyrol. Villnöss is energy-independent. They have district heating with biomass and three hydropower plants for electricity generation. The Alps are supplied with electricity without diesel aggregates and all sewage water is clarified. Beside that they do their best to promote the regional culinary offers and the local traditions. With guest cards and innovative visitor management systems they inform people about services and eco-friendly mobility offers. With special guided nature hikes and offers designed for kids, like the Dolomiti Ranger, they bring the protection of the Alps into the minds of the guests and increase their sensitivity for nature.
Or another Alpine Pearls venue Arosa – their skiing area is a sustainable climate skiing area, where they give their best to increase the awareness for themes concerning the environment. For example with an energy-carpet, where people walking on the carpet can produce energy or with the offer allowing them to use a ski pass as a ticket for public transport. Additionally they offer a climate-neutral winter package, where unavoidable CO2-emissions can be compensated by investing in climate protection projects. They have as well a guest card for free use of public transport and they are building a nature park to raise awareness for sustainable tourism.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT OF ALPINE PEARLS
Alpine Pearls was developed within the Interreg B projects of the alpine region “Alps Mobility“. The foundation was co-financed by the European Union and was originally implemented by 17 tourism destinations from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. The Austrian Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water was the lead partner.
Since 2006, Alpine Pearls has been organized as an association with a few permanently employed people, working in the project and daily businesses of Alpine Pearls.
There is a yearly conference where all partners come together and discuss progress. The financial management is based on a yearly budget, appointed at the yearly member conference. Each participating community has one vote on the member assembly. Additionally this general assembly is the chance to build a sustainable network and exchange ideas and experiences.
Alpine Pearls Tasks and Activities:
- Organisation and administration
- Communication, image campaigns
- Quality control
- EVTZ and projects funded by the EU
- Other activities
The project Alpine Pearls is still in progress and hopefully will be for the years to come. New members are identified and cooperation with existing ones is improved, so that the pearls of the Alps can contribute to the conservation of nature resources.