The Kaunertal Nature Park and Glacier Region of Tyrol, Austria, has been part of the Tyrolean environmental project “Clean Alpine Region” (CLAR) since 2020. As stipulated by the initiative’s framework, the popular alpine resort is committed to adapting nature-friendly development measures, achieving energy sustainability and running a soft tourism business which aims to preserve its natural character. It is therefore considered a model region in Austria. Its latest mobility concept is also geared towards climate protection: From now on, emission-free e-shuttles will connect important tourist destinations and central hubs in the Kaunertal region.
Pioneer in soft tourism
Mountain landscapes are increasingly affected by global changes, with extensive consequences for nature, the environment and local people. Particularly the tourist industry is at the forefront of discussions about the protection of the Alps – though an important economic factor in many regions it is also the decisive point for drastic changes in the landscape and – with increasing tendency – a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, to conserve and protect nature and yet maintain a long-term economic perspective, more and more Alpine resorts across Europe are now actively striving towards a more sustainable tourism business.
The nature park and glacier region Kaunertal, located in the Ötztal Alps in Tyrol, Austria, is considered a pioneer in the practice of soft tourism. In November 2020, the alpine mountain region won a place in the environmental project “Clean Alpine Region” (CLAR) for its committment to climate protection and its sustainability practices particularly in the energy sector. The initiative is run by “Lebensraum Tirol Holding Group”, a consortium chosen by the Tyrolean government to strengthen the state’s business and living qualities while also preserving its landscape.
As part of a new, major mobility concept, the Kaunertal has now presented its first CLAR-initiative: an electrically operated shuttle which connects some of the region’s most popular destinations and offers guests a direct ride to its main attraction, the “Kaunergrat Nature Park House”.
Quiet and emission-free
The new taxi fleet, officially called “CLAR Kaunergrat Nature Park eShuttle”, consists of two all-electric Mercedes-Benz eVito Tourers and will be available from June 18 (oder BE/AE June 18th) to October 15 (oder BE/AE October 15th), 2021. The cars commute twice a day between the village Feichten and the Kaunergrat Nature Park House, thereby covering approximately 23 kilometres (BE)/kilometers (AE). Further stops include the valley communities Unterhauser, Vergotschen, Platz, Kauns and Kaunerberg. Guests can get on and off at the bus stops of the respective communities.
The shuttles’ daily journey begins at 9.15 a.m. at the wellness centre (BE)/center (AE) “Quellalpin“ in Feichten and ends at the Kaunergrat Nature Park House; the return trip is scheduled for 4 p.m. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes. The Kaunertal tourism office kindly asks its guests to pre-register for a seat through the website www.kaunertal.com for the cars can only hold 16 people at once. The ride itself is free of charge.
The company providing the e-shuttles, “Rietzler Reisen”, powers the cars solely with energy generated by its domestic photovoltaic system, thus operating them in a completely CO₂-neutral manner. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the signifcantly quieter e-cars also help minimize noise exposure. This sustainable mobility offer is so innovative it’s the first of its kind in the entire Tyrolean Oberland area. Since the Kaunertal’s e-shuttle project is offered through the CLAR programme (BE)/program (AE), the state of Tyrol as well as the European Union assume most of the operational expenses.
Funding for visionary initiatives
The CLAR-project was first launched in 2020 by the “Lebensraum Tirol Holding Group” to promote local tourism destinations committed to climate-friendly advancements and energy sustainability. The initiative aims to bundle and strengthen already existing municipal energy and climate projects in order to develop the province of Tyrol as one of the most climate-friendly Alpine nations. Four regions in Austria are currently designated as CLAR model regions – the Kaunergrat, the Kufsteinerland, the Pitztal and St. Johann. They are now expected to plan out and implement at least seven future-oriented climate protection programmes (BE)/programs (AE) within a period of 22 months under the professional guidance of the agency “Standortagentur Tirol”.
The first project goal has been achieved
With the implementation of its “green shuttle”, the CLAR Kaunergrat has managed to achieve its first major project goal. Severin Wegener from the tourism association “Tourismus Kaunertal” says, his office plans to turn the e-shuttles into a permanent offer at the park – provided they are well received by their customers.
The region has already adapted different sustainability measures like rainwater recycling, near-natural silviculture and climate-resilient fruit orchards and is currently working on other projects as part of the CLAR initiative like renewing the heating systems of local tourism businesses for use with renewable energies and sensitising (BE)/sensitizing (AE) both guests and locals to climate-friendly practices through the publication of a “green guidebook”.
The Kaunertal’s guests are actively involved
The well-known energy expert Elisabeth Steinlechner supports all “Clean Alpine Regions” as coordinator. She is pleased with the Kaunertal’s considerable advances towards becoming a more climate-friendly tourism region. “It is important for our guests to know that they’re able to travel climate neutrally within the park”, she says. “We want them to actively participate in our efforts. The new e-shuttles allow us to tackle this issue head-on and prevent uneccessary CO₂-emissions by offering eco-friendly access to the park’s hiking and educational opportunities. E-mobility is a great way to protect our living environment and natural areas and the conversion of our public transport services thus inevitable. We would like to further expand this offer in the future.”
Free „CLAR Kaunergrat Nature Park eShuttle“: daily from June 18th to October 15th 2021
Departure at 9.15 a.m. from the wellness centre “Quellalpin”, Feichten 134, 6524 Kaunertal, Austria. Arrival at THE Nature Park House Kaunergrat at approx. 10 am.
Return trip at 4 p.m. at THE Nature Park House Kaunergrat, Gachenblick 100, 6521 Flies, Austria. Arrival in Feichten at approx. 4:45 p.m.
Information and binding registration at www.kaunertal.com.
Text: Laura Geigenberger
Lead picture: Beatrix Haslwanter
Captions: TVB – Tiroler Oberland – Kaunertal – Severin Wegener