This year more than 80 cable car operators came to see the mountain experiences on site and to exchange ideas with each other. This also included cable car colleagues from Germany and South Tyrol and our partners from the Schladming-Dachstein Tourist Office, the Austrian Tourist Office and the Culinary/Regional Enjoy Network.
SUSTAINABILITY AT THE BEST AUSTRIAN SUMMER MOUNTAIN LIFTWAYS
Austria-wide survey among the certified summer cable cars (Fachverband Seilbahnen WKÖ) on the status quo of operational sustainability measures
Sustainable offers have become an important criterion for many guests when choosing their holiday and are also actively requested by employees. The best Austrian summer mountain railways also see it as their responsibility as a cable car industry to create mountain experiences that are in harmony with the needs of nature, the environment and the region. In order to process the topic transparently, the quality initiative of the Cable Car Association will present the results of an Austria-wide survey on the status quo of operational sustainability measures for the first time at its summer conference.
Quality initiative makes sustainability a key issue
For the ropeway industry, sustainability means taking measures in an economic, ecological and social dimension. "Basically, sustainability is nothing new for us at the best Austrian summer mountain railways," explains Kornel Grundner, spokesman for the seal of quality in the Association of Cable Cars in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. “The issues of year-round employment and tourism are particularly important for sustainable regional development. This has been one of our core goals for over 20 years. In addition, there are issues of resource conservation and energy efficiency, climate-neutral mobility and regionality. More than 90 percent of our members state that the issue of sustainability is of high to medium importance to them.”
This relevance is also evident at this year's summer conference in the Schladming-Dachstein region. Partnership-based, cross-company cooperation has always been one of the basic principles of the seal of approval. At the summer conference, the member companies discuss current issues of the alpine mountain summer in order to jointly develop strategies and offers that stimulate summer tourism in the mountains. This year not only the results of the sustainability survey will be presented at the conference. In addition, some best practice examples report on their solution approaches in various sustainability areas and their personal motivation. This promotes exchange on the topic and inspires other mountain railways to take similar measures.
Almost all cable cars are already implementing sustainability measures
The survey proves that sustainability measures are not only classified as relevant, but are already being implemented in practice. Almost all members (98 percent) implement steps in the field of nature and landscape protection in their company. More than 80 percent of them strive for recultivation and greening programs or integration into the landscape. Around 74 percent take measures to conserve species and plant diversity.
If you look at the area of resource conservation, the situation is similar: 92 percent of the cable cars are already taking measures. The focus here is primarily on the use of local materials (81%), measures for efficient water management (77%) and recycling measures and waste management (67%). 83 percent of the cable cars take measures to improve their energy efficiency. First and foremost is the procurement of energy from 100% renewable energy sources (80%). A good 60 percent also ensure energy recovery in cable car operation.
"It's not enough just to make the cable car operation climate-friendly or to offer sustainable nature and mountain experiences," explains Grundner. "It's also about getting the guests and employees involved in the topic and creating awareness for the sustainable use of our resources and nature." Around 90 percent of the summer mountain railways surveyed motivate their employees to behave in an environmentally friendly manner. Training and instruction are extremely important. Around 90 percent also take measures to teach their summer guests how to deal with nature in a sustainable way. The mountain railways primarily rely on the use of information boards or signs with instructions on how to behave.
Expansion of quality criteria and sustainability standards
"Most of the best Austrian summer mountain railways are already implementing strong measures in all three areas of sustainability: in the social dimension, the economic dimension and the ecological dimension," Grundner summarizes the results. "Sure, there's still a lot to do. We are honest and don't want to hide anything. The path to a climate-neutral future is not over yet. However, thanks to the survey, we now know where we stand as an industry, where we are already well positioned and where there is a need to catch up. This is an important step in the right direction.”
The survey shows that over 90 percent of the mountain railways surveyed would like to implement further measures to promote sustainability in their operations in the next 5 years. The results are further processed in the "think tank" of the seal of approval. Not only the public should be informed about the status quo. In addition, best practice examples within the industry are identified. Recommendations for action are made for the members and information materials are prepared. In addition to the survey, the 160 quality criteria will be expanded to include sustainability criteria this year. "If we take our role as a quality initiative seriously, the issue of sustainability must also be reflected in the certification and recertification process," says Grundner.
About the “Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways” seal of approval
The quality seal Best Austrian Summer Mountain Railways is an initiative of the Association of Cable Cars (Austrian Chamber of Commerce). The seal of quality unites the experts and pioneers of local summer mountain tourism and now has 76 members with 91 themed mountains. The seal of quality is an important decision-making criterion when choosing a destination, especially for summer vacationers with no mountain experience. Only companies that meet at least 160 quality criteria become members of the best Austrian summer mountain railways. Specialized in five theme worlds - adventure, family, panorama & nature experience, enjoyment, art & culture - the members have to pass a recertification every three years.