ALPINE PEARLS: Sustainable tourism from journey to destination

Mountain Protection

2018 Nominee

Project Status: 2006-Ongoing
Location: Austria. Active In: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland

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”.


The project benefits the community on different levels.

  1. As a marketing tool Alpine Pearls generates new guest/customers for local businesses, thus ensures income and employment.
  2. Most of the gentle mobility offers are available for locals as well. By bringing tourism and soft mobility infrastructure to (remote) alpine villages the transportation offers for inhabitants improve consequently.
  3. Destinations which used to be overrun by motorised individual transportation (cars) get the chance to improve their quality of life because of less air and noise pollution and more public space (which used to be occupied by parked cars) – a more quiet atmosphere and cleaner air will benefit all inhabitants and might attract more guests/customers.

The project approaches locals and inhabitants trough different EU Projects like GEMS or Mobility.Camps. Alps which motivate inhabitants and local tourism operators to get actively involved in planning and preserving their own village and establishing a more sustainable development of transportation infrastructure.


For the implementation Alpine Pearls collaborated with different institutions and authorities. As the 25 destinations, represented by Alpine Pearls, are all members of the organisation, we interact closely with the municipality and the assosiated tourism board and the regional and (sometimes) national destination management organisation. To improve public transport offers we also have to collaborate with train companies and transportation providers. We meet our partners and interested locals annually at our general meeting where we work together in workshops, meetings and lectures. Furthermore we work on different EU-funded projects on mobility within the alps. GEMS:

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.


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 rangers, 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.


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.


Alpine Pearls supports stewardship in mountain regions by empowering local initiatives and projects with the broad Alpine Pearls expertise in project implementation and soft mobility. The main objective of the GEMS project is to enhance motivation and participation among inhabitants to work for livable and sustainable alpine communities. It offers a platform for small to medium scale projects, to present their goals and find new inspiration and motivated participants at the same time. In addition the local (volunteer) projects benefit from the network and the knowledge of Alpine Pearls.


Alpine Pearls uses different channels of communication. On the B2C level its mainly trough different social media channels, newsletters, articles, press releases and trips. In addition the Alpine Pearls branding is visible on the websites of all members and Alpine Pearls host (certified accomodations). Tourist informations and hosts offer brochures and folders to visitors.

In addition projects, such as GEMS, STREET and Mobility.Camp.Alps enhance awareness of the Alpine Pearls objectives.

On a B2B level Alpine Pearls also uses the communication channels mentioned above. In addition we organize a number of meetings, assemblys and work groups to communicate, share ideas and join forces.

The UIAA would be of great help to make Alpine Pearls even more visible to the UIAA target group of passionated alpinists. We think that these people are a great fit for Alpine Pearls destinations because these travellers are looking for prestine nature, protection projects and options to spend their holidays in a sustainable way. That is what Alpine Pearls offers.