These blogs generally are about

  • experiences of specific places
    • Ghent “So this is what traffic-free tourism looks, sounds and feels like. How did this happen?” There is loads here that could relate to rural destinations. It all starts from really capturing what are the core assets and qualities of a place, crack a future-looking mobility plan that builds from the qualities of the place rather than sitting on top and ruining it, and wrap all of this together – confidently – to provide modern, sustainable, distinctive visitor offers that contribute to the health and liveability of local residents and businesses
    • Werfenweng “Been Wenged” e-mobility plus the shuttle network are provided so that visitors can explore the local quiet lanes without their cars. Indeed, the whole set-up is designed so that people can either not come by car at all, but if they do, they don’t need to use it once they have arrived. It works.
    • Hydra & Spetses “A tale of two car-free islands” plus a postscript
    • Saas Fee “Saas Fee – could it be close to in-destination visitor travel perfection?” It’s the Saastal Card than really made my jaw drop…Just to be clear, this lets me get anywhere I want to go while I’m here
  • More general ideas
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Subsidy? Investment? Visitor levies? But for what?
13th October 2023
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Does anything lead to a manning of the barricades more in the UK than discussions of taxation? Almost all of the visitor destinations at which I have been ogling during this study receive what we would consider significant year-on-year funding from different forms of visitor levy and business contributions (considered as investment, not subsidy – but more of that below). Does this mean visitor levies are a must in the UK? It’s just not that simple.

Perhaps the most notable difference between my study destinations and UK destinations is the culture and mechanisms of how things are funded, the locality » Continue Reading.

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Overtourism? There’s a lot of it about.
19th September 2023
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The reluctant poster-children of Venice, the Acropolis and Mt Fuji suggest that overtourism is the preserve of the global bucket list destinations. My recent visits to neighbouring similar sized villages – two car-free, one not – suggests that even in the smallest places, it is a problem. Closer to home, it is almost becoming a depressing norm that summer in the Lake District triggers occasional reports of air ambulances being needed and bus services being suspended due to congested roads.

So welcome to Wengen (pop: 1,300, 372,287 visitor nights per year, visitor intensity (i.e. » Continue Reading.

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Out of the tunnel…
18th September 2023
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I’m being squirted back into the real world both in reality – courtesy of Eurostar – and as my glorious trip comes to an end – so now lots of Zoom meetings and writing up. For those of a certain age, it’s like the little man “that popped upfrom nowhere” to invite Mr Ben back to reality.

You may have spotted that my trip also involved quite a bit of running – often to compost thoughts after meetings. In Saas Fee, I found myself in the most surreal position of accidentally running through the finishing straights of a half marathon » Continue Reading.

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Mind the gap: who owns carbon emissions from visitor travel?
18th September 2023
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This is a common question I have been asking in the destinations I have been visiting. It’s perhaps not surprising to reveal that I don’t have an answer – at least not a consistent one. The question did however lead to some interesting conversations and reflections.

Firstly, it’s probably fair to say that all visitor destinations welcome visitors from different countries. With the largest slice of emissions for the whole visitor journey being in the journey to the destination, those pesky frontiers don’t help. Trans-national agreements such as those through the Alpine Convention (on carbon reduction from transport, mode » Continue Reading.

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StReS C – a simple checklist for reducing carbon emissions of the whole visitor journey?
18th September 2023
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Responsibility – both formal and felt – for visitor travel carbon crosses many different types of organisation and scales – from trans-national to sub-destination scale. Given the complexity, absolute responsibility is a bit of a hot potato and often viewed as SEP (Someone Else’s Problem). This doesn’t mean that the sense of importance by individuals and cultures within organisations is not genuine, but that the lack of formal responsibility means that other priorities are more important for them. In short, if carbon emissions aren’t cut, no-one is going to get the sack.

Given that this is how things are, what » Continue Reading.

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Beauty in the sadness of deglaciation
8th September 2023
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Apart from the deafening alarm bells ringing about the impacts of carbon emissions, I find (the resulting) collapsing of glaciers really … sad. I’m not alone; I read a brilliant article by Bernd Ritchel in an Otztal visitor magazine in 2019 almost grieving for the loss of familiar glaciers “My thoughts revolve around the tours of my youth and my helplessness in the face of global warming… all I can do now is to be grateful and to enjoy what is still left”.

I wandered the margins of the Langflue and Feegletscher this afternoon above Saas Fee. It was » Continue Reading.

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Saas Fee – could it be close to in-destination visitor travel perfection?
8th September 2023
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Oh heck. I’m giddy after a meeting with Matthias Supersaxo, head of Sass Fee Tourismus (and a big thank you for your time Matthias).

In short… OK, Saas Fee “the pearl of the alps” is a bit drop-dead gorgeous… mountains and glaciers keeping guard over the village, traditional timber barns and houses mixed in with inevitable newer visitor accommodation buildings.

But the bit making me giddy is the transport & tourism stuff. I’m here to dig underneath both Saas Fee being car-free and the Saastal Card.

Sass Fee was only connected by road to the rest of » Continue Reading.

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A tale of two car-free islands: post script
1st September 2023
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We found ourselves chatting to a bus driver on Spetses yesterday. He’d been driving for decades, and fairly unprompted opened up about changes on the island.

He bemoaned what has happened in the last 25 years, especially the mopeds everywhere spoiling the calm that used to characterise the island. He said that there used to be buses 26 times per day, compared to the current 5. “Everyone” used to use the buses, water buses and water taxis. There are still water taxis, but they are priced as a treat.

This changes the whole idea of how the island’s mobility used » Continue Reading.

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A tale of two car-free islands
31st August 2023
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I’m getting into the soundscapes of different types of destinations. Ghent was all about “busy calmness” and a hubbub, but in the last week I’ve been to the two Greek islands of Hydra and Spetses. Whilst just over a dozen km apart and both car-free, they couldn’t be more different. Hydra was all calm chatter, an occasional distant drone of a ferry or boat and the braying of its donkeys; if this sounds rather idyllic, it was.

Whilst Spetses is car-free for visitors, this doesn’t extend to mopeds. Did I mention mopeds? Forget calm chatter … Spetses’ soundscape » Continue Reading.

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and then sometimes…
23rd August 2023
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Oh dear. First step of Venice to Greece by ferry, car free… i.e. getting to the big ferry from Venice. Ugh.

Even the swamps of the internet provide no useful information and there was a perpetual sense of the best laid plans being defeated and our booked and paid for ferry sailing by without us.

Google maps was no use here. The key local ferry from Venice to its detached main ferry port didn’t appear and the ferry terminal was just blank space. Somewhere deep in the bowels of a Google search was a post of glee suggesting that this » Continue Reading.