Tyrol wants to become one of the most climate-friendly tourism regions in the Alpine region. To this end, some impetus has recently been given - with the tourism strategy of the state of Tyrol "The Tyrolean Way" and sustainability coordinators in the tourism associations. But can sustainability really trump short-term profit or is this goal set too high for a stronghold of tourism? The project CLAR - Clean Alpine Region shows in practice that sustainable management in tourism brings broad added value and can succeed.
Tyrol's mountains, clear streams and lakes, lush meadows and blossoming alpine landscapes are both natural jewels and livelihoods. They are the foundation on which the remarkable success story of Tyrolean tourism of the last 70 years is based.
Formerly impoverished communities deep in the valleys rose to become ski capitals known throughout Europe. Tourism boomed and brought prosperity and quality of life to the population. Today, it is a central economic factor in Tyrol: every third euro is earned in tourism and every fourth full-time job is found in tourism and tourism-related businesses.
This success was not always undisputed. With the Piefke Saga, Felix Mitterer pointed out the excesses and negative consequences of unrestricted tourism with biting sarcasm and social criticism as early as the early 1990s.
In any case, one indisputable fact is that the impressive natural landscapes are an essential foundation of the country's tourism offerings. In hardly any other industry is the influence of functioning ecosystems on economic success as directly tangible as in tourism. Cost reductions in the energy sector, increased innovation potential in companies and competitive advantages are further drivers.
In this way, tourism can play a key role in climate protection, climate change adaptation and independence from fossil energy imports. This is because international megatrends such as sustainability and neo-ecology are becoming increasingly noticeable, and pressure from guests and from the tourism industry's own population is growing. Another turning point was the Corona pandemic.
In order to achieve a secure future for tourism, the project CLAR - Clean Alpine Region was launched in 2020, a project of the Lebensraum Tirol Holding Group and a lighthouse project of the Tyrolean sustainability and climate strategy.
A number of Tyrolean regions already have initiatives to their credit; within the framework of the CLAR project, these were bundled and strengthened in a holistic approach with new projects to be submitted as part of the call for proposals. Great importance was attached to a technical breadth and diversity of the measures. The decarbonization of the entire energy system, the conservation and protection of soils and biodiversity, and sustainable economic development that takes social justice and environmental responsibility into account play an important role in all activities.
For example, the four CLAR regions of Kaunergrat, Pitztal, St. Johann - Kitzbühler Alpen and Kufsteinerland have implemented projects in a wide range of thematic areas over the past year and a half. These include, for example, customized electromobility offers, cooperation with guests and locals to make everyday life more climate-friendly, the use of renewable energies for heating by means of a "Get out of oil" carefree package, the optimization of snowmaking facilities and storage ponds, the qualification of companies in the regions and the marketing of regional products, the generation of energy from food leftovers from mountain restaurants, the revitalization of a storage pond as a local recreation area or the heating of water by heat pumps and photovoltaics.
The added value generated by the project is manifold:
- Support sustainable, integrated regional development and regional value creation in line with Tyrolean strategies and in synergy with national and international goals.
- Due to the smart project organization, strengthening and intensification of cooperation at the state level, between the state and regions, and at the local level.
- Building a cross-fertilizing community that is stronger than its individual parts.
- Scalability of results and evaluation based on international standards via the Austrian Eco-label for Destinations.
We achieved international attention: the NECSTouR, the European interest group of sustainable regions, communicated the CLAR regions as pioneers. In December 2021, the Kaunertal region participating in the project was the only region in Austria to receive the "Best Tourist Village Award" from the UN World Tourist Organization, and in May 2022, the Vice Mayor of Kaunertal gave the opening speech at the High Level Thematic Debate on Tourism at the UN Headquarters in New York at the invitation of Abdullah Sharif, President of the UN General Assembly.
On their way to more climate protection and sustainability, the four CLAR regions are financially supported by the EU and the province of Tyrol. Two other regions (Alpbachtal and Seefeld) are involved in the project as observer regions. Energie Tirol, Tirol Werbung, the Department of Regional Development of the Province of Tyrol and the Standortagentur Tirol accompany the regions in the implementation of the measures. In the regions themselves, CLAR managers coordinate the work for a healthy life and economy in alpine nature in cooperation with TVB and regional management.