Thursday, June 9, 2011

Green travel on a snowy white mountaintop

Dr. Peter Brandauer of Alpine Pearls accepts the 2011 World Travel 
& Tourism award for destination stewardship. Photo by Doug Bardwell

A mountaintop might be the last place you would expect to find traffic congestion, but if you lived in one of the six countries sharing the European Alps, that’s exactly what you were faced with. The countries of Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Slovenia and Italy all share a network of highways connecting these alpine areas, and as they’ve gotten more and more popular, the traffic began to increase to annoying proportions.

A coordinated approach to the problem was the only way to improve the situation, but who would take the lead? With six separate countries involved, there was no nation stepping up to take the lead.

That’s when a small group of volunteers began to suggest some solutions. First in one city, then another, and then another; until people began to take notice that achievements were actually obtainable.  Eventually, all six countries agreed to take part in the initiatives to provide cleaner public transportation for the cities in the mountaintop network.

Alpine Pearls was formed as a non-political, transnational umbrella organization to coordinate the environment agenda along this mountainous region. Headquartered in Austria, they succeeded in setting up environmentally sensitive shuttle buses to transport people from one town to another. By providing buses, the numbers of vehicles were minimized and their carbon-footprint was greatly reduced.

In a later move, they purchased a fleet of bicycles which can be used for free by anyone who agrees to leave their cars parked while enjoying their holiday in the mountains. They now also offer electric two wheelers in the form of Segways and “Alpine Flyer” electric bicycles.  No matter how steep the ascent, with these powered electric vehicles, you arrive at the top with all your energy unspent.

While doing their part to protect the environment, Alpine Pearls also fosters the folklore and culture of the alpine communities they serve.  It was this multi-pronged approach that so impressed the judges in May 2011, who awarded Alpine Pearls first place in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Travel for Tomorrow Award in the Destination Stewardship category.

Accepting the award, Karmen Mentil, managing director said, “I offer thanks to all 24 members – our pearls – who do an excellent job of mitigating our carbon footprint while offering fun- filled holidays, and at the same time, ensuring we leave something for future generations.”

To learn more about Alpine Pearls, see their website:

To read more about the other Travel for Tomorrow award winners, see

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