Sustainable Tourism – in Austria, it comes naturally

From organic farming practices in the valleys, right up into the mountains where ski lifts are powered by renewable energy sources, a sustainable mindset weaves its way through Austria. For tourists, it's an added value to know that holiday memories needn't to leave an environmental mark.

Sustainable tourism – in Austria it’s only natural

The protection of the environment and its resources is a pressing issue, reflected by the recent surge in calls for immediate and extensive action against climate change. Austria’s aim is to be climate neutral by 2040: ten years ahead of the European Union’s goal. This dedication to expanding its leading eco-friendly credentials is evident in the country's tourism industry, in which sustainability is a central pillar.

From organic farming practices in the valleys, right up into the mountains where ski lifts are powered by renewable energy sources, a sustainable mindset weaves its way through Austria. Most importantly, these initiatives were not to introduced to attract the millions of visitors welcomed by the country's tourism sector annually. Here, coexistance with nature is a way of life, visible throughout all sectors and localities. For tourists, it's an added value to know that holiday memories needn't to leave an environmental mark.

It’s safe to say that Austria’s natural landscape and green mentality underpins holidays in Austria. Even a city stay turns into a moment surrounded by nature when taking a  break in one of the many parks that characterise cities such as Salzburg, Graz and Vienna. Without even realising, many guests stay in accommodation built in accordance with ecological construction and passive house building standards.

Austria is also the leading European country for organic farming, with 80% of producers committed to Austria’s programme for environmentally balanced agriculture. ‘From farm to table’ is a common mantra across Austria’s gastronomy and hospitality sectors, reducing unnecessary ‘food miles’ across the board.

Reducing the carbon footprint of travel is similarly at the forefront of Austria's transport enterprises. Electrically-powered buses and trolleys run in Salzburg, and in a measure to decrease traffic, free public transport such as hiking buses and ski shuttles are in operation across the country. Car-free zones in of Innsbruck’s inner city and Graz’s Old Town lighten the use of vehicles further. 

Here are just a few of the Austrian standouts catching the attention of today’s conscious travelers:

Alpbachtal – a local planning bylaw from 1953 makes Alpbachtal’s traditional wooden architectural style mandatory for all new buildings, preserving both its heritage and alpine look. This has even led to Alpbachtal being voted ‘Austria’s most beautiful village’. There are also some 105 working farms in the Alpbach valley, about the same number as 100 years ago – a true ‘living history’ in these parts. www.alpbachtal.at

Gmünd – this once medieval centre in the province of Carinthia is now a unique artistic hub and a fine example of a small town revitalised, assuming renewed identity and cultural relevance. To date, Gmünd, has refurbished some 15 buildings that had long stood empty and now host a collection of galleries, workshops, art studios and special exhibition spaces. Nicknamed ‘the artists’ town of Gmünd’, it is a testament to Austria’s dedication to a continuing, self-nurturing arts culture appreciated by locals and tourists alike. www.künstlerstadt-gmünd.at

Graz – Austria’s second largest city, casually cool and colourful in character with a laid back attitude, soon lets visitors in on its best known feature – its food! A real hotspot for all things culinary, including a number of festivals celebrating its gastronomy, a definite ‘to-do’ is a visit to one Graz’s many farmers markets that dot the city. 350 farmers from the immediate vicinity guarantee fresh, organic products with very little mileage attached. www.graztourismus.at.

Hohe Tauern National Park – the largest protected area in the Alps, spanning some 1856km2 of untouched nature across the three provinces of Salzburgerland, Tirol and Carinthia. The numbers are impressive - 266 peaks over 3,000m, 551 lakes, 279 streams and rivers, and 250 glaciers. A third of all plant species native to Austria grow here.  www.hohetauern.at

Innsbruck – this alpine jewel and capital of the Tirol is popular for its enviable location which offers the draw of a pedestrian-friendly city with plenty of character lying in close proximity to incredible mountain recreation. Thirsty for an active holiday? You’ll find it here. Did you know that there are over 140 drinking fountains around Innsbruck? Many are real eye-catchers and could be considered art installations in their own right; at least one dates back to 1806. All water is fresh, crystal-clear mountain spring water, rich in minerals, and originating directly from the nearby Karwendel Nature Reserve. No need for plastic throwaway containers here. Simply reuse, refill and recharge with a taste of Innsbruck. www.innsbruck.info

Kitzbühel – internationally- recognised and synonymous with world-class ski, Kitzbühel has a healthy respect for what makes it such an all-season recreational draw for visitors. Care for its environs has led to its commitment to the ‘We Respect Nature’ project whereby visible, orange signage denotes areas that are off limits to people whether on a summer hike or exploring off piste in winter. This ensures that local wildlife are not disturbed or displaced and their habitat is protected and untouched. www.kitzbuehel.com

St. Johann in Salzburg – this pretty town nestled in the Austrian Alps has long prioritised the conservation of resources and the use of renewable energy. In 2008 it received the highest honour of the e5 program – a Europe-wide qualification and award programme for municipalities. A free ski bus runs in winter and e-bike rental in the warmer months are just some of the eco-friendly possibilities here. www.josalzburg.com

Tirol – why not consider a farm holiday in one of Tirol’s most peaceful and inspiring locations? It’s a fun, fresh air, and hands on experience for the whole family during which guests can gain insight into local life, taste organic and free-range regional fare, and even help with chores around the farm if you choose. ‘Farmstay Tirol’ signs can be found outside 400 working farms in the province. www.tyrol.com

Zell am See-Kaprun – a year-round resort destination, famed for its glorious mountain, lake, and glacier scenery. Its local mountain – the Schmittenhöhe – is home to Austria’s highest E-motocross park offering electric, freeride motocross bikes. Enjoy a clean run with no fumes or noise pollution! Lessons for adults, teens and children are available. Down in the valley, there are free charging stations for electric cars and if you need assistance on the mountains in winter, local rescue services use electric skidoos. www.zellamsee-kaprun.com