These components are described here individually. It needs to be recognised that whilst there are benefits of them in isolation, real transformation comes from them working together.
1. First / last mile
2. Travel to destination
3. Travel around destination
4. Traffic / parking restrictions
5. Baggage transfer
6. Destination marketing & governance
1. First/last mile – Enablers
1a. First mile
“First mile” is getting from home to the start of the main approach travel journey – rail station, coach station, or (perhaps) rideshare meeting point.
Whilst not a significant carbon emitter in itself, it helps reduce the friction of using a sustainable mode for the main journey. In this respect, first mile solutions need to allow for appropriate luggage carriage (e.g. including bikes or SUPs etc), or work alongside baggage transfer services
Solutions & examples
This currently usually involves use of taxis, local buses or lifts from friends & family. In some cases, one-way car clubs or bike share might be used.
As of January 2024, LNER are trialling the 70 minute flex ticket that lets passengers “…travel on any LNER train up to 70 minutes before or after your originally booked journey”.
UK opportunities & needs
- Integrate first mile into whole-journey ticketing. Ideally this would be embedded into a home-destination whole journey ticket, but some framework for standardising first mile add-ons (c.f. Plusbus) would be a significant step forward. This might involve rail & coach companies striving to make transparent “to station” taxi fares transparent and well publicised at the stations that they serve.
- Suggest first mile solutions in whole-journey marketing propositions
- Market the (existing) ability to use Plusbus to allow for journeys to trains
1b. Last mile
“Last mile” is about linking the approach travel (rail station, coach station/stop, rideshare drop-off point – often at destination “gateway”) to either the visitor’s actual destination – accommodation, attraction, meeting point, start of walk etc or in-destination transport options.
Three aspects of integration are important:
- “cheek to cheek” transfers – making sure that the transfer between the approach mode and last mile is seamless, and that timetables link and that there is flexibility in last mile timetabling & departures to allow for delays in approach travel
- ticketing – whole-journey ticketing or deals that link approach travel with last-mile
- information & marketing
A visitor’s final destination in a rural area is likely to be away from main transport corridors, and so effective last mile services need to allow for this by being flexible.
Solutions & examples
Established solutions are public transport and taxi services that serve the arrival gateways (rail/coach stations). An increasing number of accommodation providers offer some form of pick-up service.
Zermatt shuttle – train linking valley road-head at Tasch to Zermatt
- Werfenweng’s W3 shuttle provides free door-to-door pick-up from local mainline rail stations to visitor’s accommodation if pre-booked. Been Wenged describes a personal experience of using this service.
- The destination marketing of various destinations provide clear advice and information on approach + last mile travel, such as Werfenweng and Seefeld.
“With the Stubaitalbus (Regiobus 590) from Innsbruck, you can reach any place in the Stubaital and many starting points for hiking in the valley and all four skiing areas“
- Most buses serving rail stations in the Swiss alps are equiped with bike racks to enable rail-to-destination access by bike
Visp rail station (Switzerland): buses at station equipped to carry bikes; rail departure signage indicating capacity for bike carriage
- Many hotels and other accommodation in Switzerland’s car-free destinations offer “concierge” pick-up at the entry rail station or bus gateway
- An increasing number of hotels and other accommodation in the UK are also offering dedicated rail-station pick-up services, especially if they are located in more difficult-to-access locations, but where access to local attractions is easy, such as the Langdale Hotel.
- Pitchup.com lists over 500 campsites where pick-up from a local station is provided to enable car-free camping.
- In some locations in the UK, car clubs vehicles and car rental is available at rail stations. For instance, Co-wheels cars with bike racks are located at the Lake District’s three stations (Oxenholme, Windermere and Penrith); Enterprise have four car rental depots around the Lake District, and an increasing number of car rental depots offer automated rental – enabling pick up & drop off out of hours; campervan rental in increasingly available for pick up near to destination gateways.
UK opportunities & needs
Whilst last mile solutions are beneficial, a primary objective should be the integration of approach travel with in-destination transport services – such as illustrated by Seefeld.
Given existing conditions, the following should be prioritised
- Normalise the idea of gateways for rural destinations where these involve easy and reliable last mile services: cheek-to-cheek transfer, timetable flexibility
- Last-mile ticketing being a low-cost add-on to the approach travel journey; Development of “PlusBus” type models for rural destinations
- Clear, transparent pricing of existing last-mile services – bus, taxi etc.
- Accommodation and attraction websites, information & marketing prioritising non-car access options in their “How to get here” advice
2. Journey to destination – Significant CO2 source
The journey to rural visitor destinations is most commonly by private car (often >90%) and as a result is the most significant source of carbon emissions of the whole visitor journey, and often of a destination’s whole carbon budget (e.g. 43.5% for the Lake District).
Emissions per km by different modes are illustrated in the following graphic (although Lisa Hopkinson’s health warning on its over-simplistic interpretation is worth a read). With regard to reducing carbon from the journey to a visitor destination, this implies a prioritisation of mode based on least emissions per passenger km – i.e. coach, rail, high occupancy EV etc.
Solutions & examples
Lower carbon approach travel involves development of
- capacity and services for rail and coach
- review of practices in the rail industry – such as track closures & maintenance for times of peak leisure travel demand
- targeted marketing & information for travel by rail, coach and rideshare to rural visitor destinations
- Shifting destination marketing to encourage fewer, longer trips.
This is one of the Low Carbon Destinations three priority action areas.
Map showing times by train from key visitor origins to Seefeld. Similar maps exist in key car parks to suggest to the many returning visitors to take the train next time.
There are an increasing number of UK travel companies specialising in organising travel and holidays that avoid flying such as Byway travel. Whilst they address directly concerns such as travel time and by providing a travel disruption service, they market confidently the benefits of the experience of travelling overland and by sea.
There is a boom in sleeper rail services in continental Europe with rumours of new connections into London . This is part of a much broader shift to and normalisation of rail travel being deliberately chosen over flying. The recent mainstreaming of this is evidenced by positive press across the media including
3. Journey around destination – moderate CO2 source
Visitor travel within rural visitor destinations – such as National Parks and National Landscapes (formerly AONBs) – is mainly done by car – typically over 90% of miles travelled. Whilst this normally emits less overall carbon than the journey to the destination:
- it is still a significant source of a destination’s carbon emissions
- travel to and travel in a destination are linked and – to a certain extent – inter-dependent in terms of behaviour change and carbon reduction impacts
- there are usually well established partnerships who recognise the varied benefits of changing in-destination travel and are motivated to prioritise action within the resources available to them
- changing in-destination travel for the outcomes of decarbonisation usually lead to and/or align with a wide variety of other outcomes and priorities – such as quality of visitor experience, health & wellbeing, inclusion, benefits for local resident & business communities, landscape protection and nurturing prosperity.
3a. Integrated, extensive public transport – CO2 source
Across European destinations, widespread integrated public transport is regarded as an essential part of how destinations work and the visitor offer. It provides opportunities for destination information & marketing and products such as guestcards/travelcards as well as providing enhanced and more extensive services for residents – including access for people working in the visitor economy.
It is complemented and its effectiveness extended by active travel and micro/shared mobility.
Solutions & examples
World-class in-destination public transport can be characterised by:
- being extensive: scheduled bus networks linking key settlements and hubs – such as the Seefeld bus network; access is provided away from the scheduled services with demand-responsive services, often using smaller vehicles – such as Werfenweng’s W3 shuttle.
- being integrated:
- cheek-to-cheek transfer / mobility hubs – providing ease to change from one service or mode to another. e.g. Seefeld rail station
- ticketing & fares – enabling whole-journey travel via different services, modes or operators. In visitor areas, this usually happens via guest travel cards
- information & marketing – information about different transport options appear together regardless of mode or operator.
Seefeld station. Cheek-to-cheek integration between mainline rail & local bus; Co-location of rail, bus, bike routes, information (maps, timetables) and Tourist Information Centre
Extract from Arrival and Mobility page of Seefeld.com
- being appropriately frequent, at appropriate times (e.g. late evening returns) and reliable – including real-time information via tech or phone. In the Stubai valley (Tyrol, Austria),
- having transparent, fair fares or free (like in many cities or via a guest card).
- having a quality of vehicle that makes people feel good about using it, with in-vehicle services that work for the needs of visitors. This includes facilities such as named next-stop announcements, WiFi and charge points and appropriate space for luggage. Evidence shows that interior design of buses can have a significant impact on levels of ridership.
Both Seefeld and Werfenweng demonstrate really good, comprehensive information about arrival and getting around without a car.
3b. Active travel routes & services – zero carbon local travel
Travel on foot, by bike, wheelchair or with pushchairs is ideal to make local journeys in-destination. Indeed, active travel is a key attraction for many visitors to rural destinations, and so there is an imperative to make it attractive and realistic for appropriate demands.
Solutions & examples
In-destination active travel requires:
- Routes & links –
- between popular origins & destinations (e.g. villages & local attractions such as heritage properties)
- local permeability – making sure that getting around villages, towns and local lane networks is safe, attractive and clear.
- Information & signing
- maps & mapping – physical maps, online & route finders
- signage and waymarkers – at junctions, including key destinations & approximate times; coloured, numbered or themed routes as appropriate
- well informed visitor-facing staff in TICs, visitor accommodation & attractions
- Services & support – Bike shops, servicing & repairs, rental
Seefeld has extensive, well marked active travel routes with an array of support services
Signage providing easy entry into the extensive cycle network from Seefeld rail station
Variety of support services & information for cycling around Seefeld (Austria)
3c. e(micro) mobility
e-micro mobility means e-bikes, e-scooters, e-trikes/quads etc. Most do not require a driving licence but riders need to be over 14 to use them away from private land.
Werfenweng’s “Fun mobility” fleet of a variety of e-micro mobility options. Images courtesy Werfenweng Tourismus https://www.werfenweng.eu/en/holiday/werfenweng-card/fun-mobility/
- assisted independent transport that enables visitors with a wide range of physical abilities (from e-mountain bikers to people of limited mobility) to get around and explore destinations
- something a bit different and “fun”. Whilst the assistance of most e-assisted (pedalled) options is limited to 15mph, there is still athrill of “cheating the hills”. This not only provides really great visitor experiences, but significant health and wellbeing benefits; they enable and encourage people to use active travel (albeit assisted) to undertake journeys that they would not normally consider.
- a useful complement to more standard transport options so that together they provide a compelling proposition
Solutions & examples
- Werfenweng has led the way in developing “fun mobility” options. The current fleet comprises 10 different options. They are available to guests via a value points system via the (paid) Werfenweng card
- In Cogne, one of the 18 Alpine Pearls, “there are over 200 e-bikes on the roads. Various rental stations, numerous charging stations, and e-bike sharing ensure you can stay mobile on two wheels”.
- In the Lake District (and Brecon Beacons / Bannau Brycheiniog) national parks, e-Twizys were available for rent. They were popular with couples or an adult + child to explore small lanes and backroads. The Lake District’s Twizy flock is introduced here.
- Trampers – ruggedised mobility scooters – are available for rental in dozens of locations across the UK via partnerships (including the National Trust and Forestry England) with Countryside Mobility, providing off-road mobility for people with limited personal mobility
ICE e-trikes (a & d; images from www.icetrikes.co); Red squirrel ebike rental from Newport TIC, Isle of Wight; c: Tramper hire at National Trust’s Cotehele estate, Cornwall
UK opportunities & needs
- A norm for rural destinations should comprise ebikes being widely available for rental from hire centres, via accommodation or via delivery to visitors.
- Further opportunities for other e-micro-mobility (trikes etc) need identifying and exploiting so that they provide opportunities for making journeys and exploring by a wide variety of types of people
- e-micromobility should be integrated into area-wide integrated transport systems to complement and extend the utility of public transport
- A variety of economic and operational models needs exploring and testing – such as point-to-point schemes in traffic-restricted areas – so that e-micromobility provides pragmatic transport solutions for local one-way journeys.
3d. Guest / travel card – Enabler
An norm in many destinations where sustainable visitor travel works well is some sort of travel card or guest card that includes travel. These roughly split as:
- Guest cards (including e.g. access to museums and discounts as well as travel) or travel cards
- Paid-for or “free”.
- “Free” cards are for staying visitors who have paid some form of overnight visitor levy and receive a card as a result. These provide a basis set of benefits, often including free local transport, access to some attractions and local discounts
- Paid-for cards are either for stating visitors who choose the greater range of benefits, but mainly for day visitors. They usually offer a greater range of benefits, such as cable car access in alpine destinations.
The benefits of such cards are:
- card users using the local transport system more than they otherwise would do so by
- taking away the uncertainty that visitors otherwise feel about how to use the local transport system – by integration across operators and taking away per-journey cost-based decisions
- a feel-good sense for visitors – that they are part of a mutually beneficial social contract with the destination
- providing a marketable visitor product, and so engaging visitor businesses with the whole “getting around” aspect of their guests’ experiences
- constructively blurring the boundaries between in-destination travel and other aspects of visitor experience – such as a sense of exploration or – for cards with non-transport benefits – access to other attractions.
Solutions & examples
- The SaastalCard is a “free” digital guest card for all staying visitors in Saas Fee and its surrounding villages in the heart of the Swiss Alps. It is funded mainly from a €7/night visitor levy, providing free use of the valley’s extensive postbus services as well as – unusually – some use of the valley’s cable cars – used successfully in family-focussed poster campaigns in several Swiss cities.
For a personal experience of using the card, take a look at Saas Fee – could it be close to in-destination visitor travel perfection?.
Austria’s Tirol region offers over 30 guestcards, most for specific valleys (e.g. Stubai Card), or coherent visitor areas of linked settlements (e.g. Seefeld PlateauCard). Many areas offer free versions for staying guests and paid versions. Most are marketed as place-based (e.g.”Stubai card”) or as guest cards – notably not as travel cards but as part of a broader visitor experience.
The paid-for Werfenweng card provides access to its extensive “soft mobility” options, including the on-demand shuttles, their “fun e-mobility” options, public transport across the wider Salzburg region and to their fleet of EVs. Access is “charged” via a points system; this provides access to transport options of different per-mile costs – i.e. shuttle vs e-micromobilty vs EVs. It’s all part of Werfenweng’s “mobility guarantee” – i.e. an assurance to visitors that they will be able to get around easily using sustainable options.
UK opportunities & needs
- Guest cards for destinations as a norm. Taking best practice from overseas would mean that destinations – coherent areas such as National Landscapes or National Parks, or individual valleys – should offer free and paid-for versions of a guest card. These would provide basic and extra levels of travel around the destination.
- Local funding mechanisms. Free cards overseas are funded via combinations of overnight visitor levy, levy on visitor (or other) businesses or other funding sources. For UK destinations to provide guestcards – that are a norm in other countries – they are going to have to consider mechanisms for local revenue generation. The guest card model demonstrates well a product that adds to the visitor experience whilst also delivering on environmental benefits, so any levy has a clear outcome. This is explored further in the Low Carbon Destination priority actions Destination Visitor Access Management and Governance
- The Werfenweng card’s use of a points-based system. Given the UK’s largely deregulated transport sector, this would enable the integration of a variety of modes (bus, local ferries, bike rental, e-micromobility etc) and services from different operators into a easy-to-use card. This would provide a simple, attractive and transparent proposition to guests, clarity and fairness to operators, and an investable and marketable product for visitor businesses.
- Guest (travel) cards should include two guarantees: 1. support and real-time information service (probably in a variety of formats as appropriate) and 2. last trip guarantee – i.e. reassurance that the user won’t be stranded.
4. Traffic / parking restrictions – Enabler
Whilst providing extensive and appealing ways of getting to & around destinations works for some people (some of the time in some locations), the large majority continue to drive, driving being the main source of a destination’s emissions.
It should be noted that whilst there are many places that demonstrate great sustainable visitor travel activity, nowhere comes close to delivering on whole-journey decarbonised visitor travel. Furthermore, whilst “full-fat” UK visitor travel behaviour change programmes (such as the three DfT national park LSTF programmes) show significant potential for voluntary shift from car use (14% for the Lake District’s £4.7m investment over 3 years)
- this is nowhere near the scale required to deliver on the Paris carbon reduction goals. This means that voluntary behaviour change alone is not sufficient to lead to meaningful decarbonisation.
- the behaviour change impacts were lost after two years. This means that low-carbon travel needs locking-in by restricting high carbon travel behaviour.
In these contexts, this section looks at the ways that car use can be restricted in ways that lead to better places, experiences and economies – and ultimately lower emissions.
“Traffic restrictions” here generally relates to the restriction of free access by visitor’s cars, but generally allowing other essential traffic (residents, businesses, public transport, active travel, emergency services, servicing).
Many popular mountain villages in Switzerland restrict car access. This mainly involves visitor traffic, but also resident and business traffic apart from for essential or occasional access. In most, in-destination access is provided by (often electric) shuttle buses, taxis or accommodation concierge services, although most people walk or cycle. This leads to a real sense of calm, as described in relation to Ghent in this blog and in the mainstream press here.
Many Swiss villages have never allowed unrestricted car access. Places such as Wengen and Murren have never been functionally connected to the road network. The visitor experiences in these villages contrast with the sense of overtourism in Lauterbrunnen – accessible by road and where the parking garage for Wengen and Murren is located. When Saas Fee was connected to the road network in the 1950s, its progressive residents decided that the village should remain car-free, both for their quality of life but also acknowledging its charm for visitors. Read a blog here of the experience as a visitor. Zermatt also chose to remain car-free.
Traffic access restrictions: approach road to Zermatt; entry to Murren; Lauterbrunnen valley “backroad”
Most of the Swiss traffic-free examples are at village scale rather than over a wider area.
Yosemite national park restricts car access at different times of the year. Visitors can pre-book access and extensive frequent shuttle buses from entry points are laid on to provide access.
Yosemite national park: seasonal approach to traffic management; peak-season shuttle
The two Greek islands of Hydra (Ydra) (c. 20 x 3km) and Spetses (c. 7 x 3.5km) restrict visitor cars completely as well as most resident car use. This is mainly due to the absence of roads stemming from a deliberate decision over many years to carefully manage development to preserve the unique sense of place. This has led to a unique and calm charm. The majority of travel in Hydra is in the central port areas where most people make journeys on foot; goods are moved via handcart, donkey or (rarely) by van. Travel further afield is by sea taxi. In Spetses, most residents (and many visitors) travel by moped, or by buses that ply the island’s ring road several times per day.
The visitor experiences of Hydra and Spetses are very different, at least partly due to the differences in options for getting around. These are described in a tale of two car free islands with an addendum here.
The main benefits of traffic restrictions with regard to decarbonisation are:
- the near-absence of emissions from visitor and resident travel in-destination
- the decoupling of the need to travel around by car as a reason to travel to a destination by car.
The lively hubbub of Zermatt’s traffic-free main street
Further benefits include
- a culture, acceptance and attraction of travelling around without a car
- the existence of alternative types of transport services – such as electric buses & taxis
- development of destinations in the absence of cars – no large car parks, more gardens
- a sense of calm and safety
Unfortunately, apart from observations, there is no robust evidence from any of the Swiss or Greek destinations to further understand the carbon impacts of destinations being traffic-free. This would require as a minimum data on modal choice for visitors travelling to the destinations.
An inconvenient truth of most traffic-free destinations is their dependency on large gateway car parks.
Swiss gateway car parks a. Saas Fee b. Lauterbrunnen (for Murren & Wengen) and c. Tasch (for Zermatt)
Whilst this enables the in-destination benefits of being traffic-free to be realised:
- they facilitate and legitimise travel to the destination by car. This neuters the potential carbon benefits of in-destination traffic restrictions on the journey to the destination
- they are often a significant revenue source for the destinations. Gateway car parks are often owned and/or managed by the local community, businesses or tourism partnerships. This means that the financial dependency on car parking reduces any imperative to change visitor approach travel away from the car.
In the absence of data on how visitors travel to these destinations, surveys were carried out of car nationalities and regions (from number plates) in the main car parks of various Swiss traffic-free destinations. Data analysis and interpretation relative to evidenced visitor origin data is ongoing.
The other main way to manage visitor car access – especially in places where car access is allowed or needed by some in the less popular visitor seasons – is via restrictions in car parking in destination. Indeed, media reports of excess and poor parking in many destinations at peak season are fairly common, with issues including bus services needing to be suspended and emergency services not being able to gain rapid access, as well as the inconvenience for residents and unpleasant visitor experiences.
There is a pressure in many areas for more car parking, as lack of supply is seen as a cause of the problems. Whilst data are scarce, it is generally acknowledged among transport practitioners that increasing parking supply exacerbates congestion problems; indeed in many rural destinations, traffic already outstrips (narrow) road capacity at busy times, so whilst extra parking might tackle an immediate local issue, it makes the larger problems – local traffic congestion and legitimising excessive car-based tourism – worse.
Pen y Pass in Yr Wyddfa / Snowdonia indicates how excessive car parking can be managed well. Like many places in the immediate relaxing of travel restrictions post-covid, Yr Wydffa saw huge numbers of car-based visitors. About 130,000 people start their walk up Snowdon from Pen y Pass. Whilst the Snowdonia National Park’s car park at Pen y Pass has capacity for 74 cars, some days in summer 2020 saw over 500 cars parked on the verges of the narrow road leading to the pass. In summer 2020, the Snowdonia National Park Authority with Gwynedd Council:
- made the Pen y Pass car park available for pre-booking only
- increased charges to £18
- implemented a park & ride site at the foot of the pass near Llanberis village, with whole-day parking charged at £5
- enhanced the shuttle service via the P&R site to a 15-minute frequency with a £3 return fare.
The number of illegally parked cars towed reduced to zero in three years. Perhaps more significantly:
- there were negligible complaints; most visitors seemed to accept that it was a fair solution to a problem, and that the whole experience was better that starting & finishing a day’s walk with a long in-road walk to a verge-parked car
- the shuttle bus no longer requires ongoing subsidy.
Road user charging & demand pricing
Road user charging in increasing used for specific outcomes in urban areas. By charging for access across or within a cordon, RUC provides a mechanism to influence car access to an area. London’s original congestion charge was designed to dissuade car access for the purposes of congestion as part of a package of measures to promote non-car travel; various urban low & ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) charge by vehicle tailpipe emission – as a way of improving air quality.
The idea of per-mile RUC is being considered as part of a reform of vehicle taxation in the UK replacement for existing Vehicle Excise Duty in the UK. This has been explored for its environmental benefits and more explicitly how it can work as part of integrated package of interventions to contribute to carbon reduction: “a pay-per-mile Eco Levy on driving plus free local buses and Swiss-style public
transport frequencies would meet our obligation to tackle the climate impacts of cars”.
It is notable that there are no rural visitor destinations where RUC is used as a demand management tool – apart from the standard use of car park charging. There is a risk that implementing RUC in visitor areas where the revenue funds sustainable transport leads to a financial dependency of car use – in a similar way that many Swiss car-free destinations are dependent on gateway car parking revenue. This need not be the case with careful and strategic economic planning, but the longer term implications do need considering from the outset.
Information & marketing
How travel and approach information is presented to visitors can have an impact on influencing travel choices. Destinations that highlight postcodes for satnavs bake-in car-based access IMAGE. Places like Seefeld and Werfenweng demonstrate how to
- prioritise information about how to travel so that more sustainable solutions look like the obvious or default options
- market positively sustainable access as part of high quality visitor experiences, and confidently associate the destination’s brand with pragmatic yet progressive sustainability.
More details on the role of information for transport decarbonisation are set out here.
Observations relating to the UK
Unlike the car-free Swiss villages, most rural visitor destinations in the UK have road and lane networks that already accommodate cars, and for the majority of the year, traffic levels are generally low and do not cause problems.
“Carrots” alone will not deliver the scale a rate of decarbonisation required. The above shows that the “sticks” – especially when part of an integrated package of access and transport options – leads to better quality places and higher quality visitor experiences. All traffic-free visitor destinations have reputations for their success and prosperity.
The Lake District’s 4-year GoLakes Travel programme involved £5.7m investment and intensive coordinated delivery of interventions to change visitor travel behaviour – but without any traffic or parking restrictions. Whilst this led to an impressive 14% voluntary shift from in-destination car use by visitors
- This is small compared to the scales of change required for effective decarbonisation
- The effects were lost within two years of the funding ending
- Overall traffic increased
- There was negligible impact in how visitors travelled to the Lake District – although thsi was not a main focus of the programme nor was it explicitly monitored.
This means that car use needs to be restricted as part of the delivery of the right scale of sustainable travel options that provide attractive alternatives to private car use.
Furthermore, the grant dependency or marginal viability of sustaianble transport services can be shifted to stable viability if free car access is restricted. This transforms the economic model of providing visitor transport, with implications for changed roles and responsibilities of the public sector and transport operators. This is covered more in the Low Carbon Destination priority action on governance.
UK opportunities & needs
Culturally, we are not attuned to restricting traffic in the UK away from the centres of towns and cities. People generally accept the attraction and benefits of traffic-free urban areas, so the challenge is translate this to rural visitor destinations. Some reflections on how things might feel in a UK national park are set out in this blog.
- Most UK rural destinations are highly seasonal. This suggests that any use of visitor car restrictions is best considered from a seasonal perspective, perhaps informed by the Yosemite model. Indeed, recent public engagement in the Lake District reveals a clear preference for seasonal visitor access management.
Five “busyness” day types defined from high resolution visitor data for a large visitor attraction in the Lake District
The graphic shows five “busyness” categories based on data from a large visitor attraction in the Lake District. It indicates that there are fairly clear different types of busyness that may lend themselves to more than a binary high/low season split in transport services. This informs the economics and efficiencies of alternative transport services as well as clarity in public communications, information & marketing. The core message of “not everyone, everywhere all of the time” is useful in building trust with visitors.
- Looking overseas suggests that any visitor car restrictions are probably best applied at a locale-scale. This might usefully be related to a typical day out, which might translate to one or more linked valleys in more mountainous areas, a stretch of coastline, a coherent area of villages & lanes or perhaps a dead-end road to a beachhead.
- The total volume of car parking should be considered with relation to
- the carrying capacity of parking that fits in the locale. This might be seen as subjective, but the Pen y Pass developments have shown that a brad consensus probably exists regarding appropriate parking volumes that are sensitive to location.
- the levels of traffic generated for the volumes of car parking. A key character of many rural destinations is its narrow roads, and parking congestion is closely linked to traffic congestion. This issue also informs the location of any car parking
- All car parking should be charged for. From a decarbonisation perspective, there is no case for free parking; free parking is an indirect subsidy from the landowner for car access.
- Traffic and parking restrictions need to be conceived and implemented as part of an integrated package of visitor access options and interventions – not in isolation.
- There will be some locations that could – and should – be permanently free from visitor traffic. These should be marketed appropriately so that visitors and others can experience and recognise the benefits of decarbonised destinations.
- Restrictions in visitor car access should be linked to approach travel services and marketing as well as in-destination transport options. Large gateway car parks need to be avoided as a long-term strategy in order to deliver decarbonisation; if they are to be considered in the short term, they should be seen as temporary. Like a coffer dam, any new car park should be a temporary, the function being to allow the complementary package of alternative access options to become established at which point it is removed. This idea is explained further in the StReS C blog.
- The outcomes of traffic and parking restrictions need to be presented as a positive component of a locale’s destination marketing.
- Sustainable transport options should always prioritised in information and destination marketing over car based options.
- The use of pricing as a demand management tool (road user charging, car park charging) needs to be considered with caution. Whilst immediately attractive as a way of raising revenues from higher carbon transport to fund lower carbon solutions, it risks developing a financial dependency on car use. Better appraoches are to consider economic models that involve revenues sources and spend that are insulated for car-use dependency.
5. Baggage transfer – Enabler
5a. Baggage transfer – to destination – Enabler
The luggage that visitors want or need with them is often a reason for choosing to travel to a destination by car.
Whilst this includes suitcases or rucksacks, to rural destinations it often also includes larger items such as camping gear and “toys” – mountain bikes, paddle boards etc.
There are an increasing number of services offering visitor luggage to be picked up from the person’s house and delivering it to their destination, leaving them open to a far wider range of travel choices.
- Door-to-door luggage services are offered by the national rail operators in Austria (OBB) and Switzerland (SBB), both targeting the tourism market.
- Services do exist in the UK such as the Luggage Delivery Company and Hawk though awareness of them is generally fairly low. Note that many luggage companies target people travelling by plane, selling the reduced hassle of flying without luggage; it would be refreshing to see some of this marketing energy redirected into services for home-to-destination travel for other modes.
5b. Baggage transfer – in destination – Enabler
There are several well-established in-destination luggage services, though most target specific routes such as recognised walking, cycling or running routes (such as the Coast to Coast Packhorse “Creating hassle free holidays” and Sherpavan “Sherpa Van transfers your luggage whilst you walk the UK’s long distance footpaths” or Luggage Transfers). There are other companies that offer multi-day point-to-point tours with dedicated baggage services such as Cycling for Softies.
An increasing number of in-destination luggage services are emerging, such as Lake District Baggage Transfer as well as some more pioneering taxi companies such as for the Cairngorms and NE Scotland
5c. Equipment rental – Enabler
Whilst many people want to use their own equipment – and indeed plan trips specifically to do so – the alternative to luggage transfer is in-destination rental. This is well established for equipment such as bikes, canoes, kayaks and skis, and is implicit in the growth of pre-pitched tents or glamping (replacing the need to bring camping gear). Most alpine villages provide rental services for a much wider variety of gear, from crampons to rucksacks.
There is a growth in camping gear rental, often as part of a wider range of rental services, by operators such as Outdoorhire, IBEX camping (offering tents sent to any UK address and with pitching service) and Campingpackhire (complete camping equipment package).
On-site equipment rental: a. mountaineering equipment in Zermatt, b. stand-up paddle boards in Dorset (from www.baypaddleboards.co.uk), c. Carvelo e-cargo bike in Saas Fee, d. ebike rental on the Monsal trail
UK opportunities & needs
- Door-to-destination luggage transfer services – with indications of price and “how it works” – should be embedded into
- National & regional transport operators ticketing, information and marketing
- Accommodation booking sites: both that of specific accommodation and via booking platforms
- Destination marketing organisation sites and materials
- Equipment rental services (local, route-based and national) should be embedded into teh information and marketing by accommodation and attraction providers, and destination marketing.
6. Destination marketing & governance – Enablers
6a. Whole journey information, marketing, ticketing & propositions
This is a large and varied area covering a variety of sectors. Here, a summary of ideas and examples is presented.
Information tells people about the services. Marketing explains and interprets the benefits of using them, often developing experience-led visitor propositions. Ticketing – in its broadest sense – relates to how visitors pay for and access the services.
Information, marketing and ticketing are – for many – the gateway into using sustainable transport. whist their impact can only be as good as the transport services to which they refer, really good services without good information, marketing and ticketing simply do not effectively “exist” to many users.
Information & marketing
Really good destinations provide information about all ways of travelling around plus advice and indications of ways to travel to a destination. Seefeld is probably the best example of this. For effective decarbonisation, this needs to become the norm.
Marketing low carbon travel – i.e. the services on offer locally and how to use them – is done by many destinations, but it is fairly common that visitors need to look for this – or be pointed to it by other sites – rather than it being presented as the norm. Low carbon travel needs to be marketed as the obvious & clear default option.
The graphic shows an auto-generated response from an accommodation booking for Saas Fee that explains the Saastal Card. As a visitor, this provides not only a great welcome, but a sense of a different type of social contract between the destination and visitor – that made me want to use the non-car options and build them in to my planning. This is described more fully in this blog.
In the UK, Good Journey has a comprehensive reach over many destinations and operators in terms of developing visitor marketing of low-carbon access. Whilst having a main focus on access and in-destination transport, their propositions also include: (a) comprehensive offers and discounted access to attractions, (b) suggestions for car-free adventures and (c) ideas for activities and excursions that are only possible without a car.
Visitors want clarity and a sense of fairness regarding ticketing and fares when travelling to and around destinations. whilst guest/travel cards are a norm for travel within many European destinations, there is an increasing use of rail passes being used by visitors to destinations.
- 53% of Switzerland’s population have some form of season ticket. For people from outside Switzerland, the Swiss travel pass is excellent in terms of service quality, but are seen as expensive and are limited to being used over consecutive days – rather than, for instance, for say, 4 days in any 10, which might be how visitors might want to travel within their stay.
- Austria KlimaTicket Ö is reported to be a “game-changer” in terms of changing how Austrian residents travel as visitors. Costing about €1,000 per year, “KlimaTicket Ö allows you to use all scheduled services (public and private rail, city and public transport) in a specific area for a year: regional, cross-regional and nationwide”. Its aims are explicit in its marketing “It is also the ticket with which we aim to reach the Paris climate goals together. Public transport is the climate-friendly alternative to motorized individual transport”.
- The UK offers a variety of railcards and coachcards most of which offer about 1/3 off typical fares.
In the UK, many people have car-based lifestyles and day-to-day routines, so annual or multi-month railcards or travel passes are not seen as relevant by many. There are a wide variety of rail Ranger (one day) and Rover (multi-day) tickets that offer integrated rail and bus access to localities. For instance, the Lake Day Ranger adult ticket costs £28.50 (£14.25 child, £56 family) and provides access to rail and bus services into the Lake District from nearby settlements, as well as access to Windermere Lake Cruises.
Whilst many visitor attractions in rural areas of the UK offer discounts for visitors who arrive without a car, national operators still incentivise car parking. For instance, the National Trust – whilst being at the forefront at marketing access to properties locally – still provide “free” annual car parking passes to all of its standard members and still mainly only provides Satnav instructions to its sites in its member’s handbook (see graphic). Marketing for Forestry England’s £94/year national membership prominently promotes the perk of free parking at all of its sites.
In a decarbonising visitor travel world, such organisations should include discounted or free transport to their sites by local public transport and ensure that any car parking on site is charged to all at at least its real cost.
UK opportunities & needs
Information & marketing
- For any destination or network of attractions, all mobility & transport information – for both approach/arrival and getting around – should be in one place.
- Information and marketing about sustainable transport needs to take priority over car-based access and be obvious rather than requiring effort to find
- Destination marketing should
- Focus primarily on markets that are accessible by low-carbon modes as Ghent has decided to do “The City will target regions with regular train and coach connections“
- Shift emphasis of marketing to fewer, longer stays; demarket short breaks that are implicitly car depenedent
- Low-carbon access & transport should be marketed as a positive part of the visitor experience and as a positive association with the destination’s branding
- Accommodation & transport booking engines should include first mile, last mile & in-destination travel add-on options and information. Decisions relating to accommodation and transport are often done together.
- Real-time information needs to be widely available (at bus stops and/or attractions or other visitor hubs and/or online/mobile web) for in-destination transport services
- destination-based “guest cards” that include transport options across operators should become a norm so that visitors can expect it and plan around it
- attraction operators should develop low-carbon travel equivalents to their “free” car parking perks for members. A member should not only be encouraged, but realise the benefits of arriving and getting around without a car. This needs to become a norm. Doing so will help to enhance and expand relevant transport services.
- railcards and coachcards should include options for first and last mile add-ons, plus better integration with in-destination travel
- whole-journey leisure tickets need to be developed – from door-to-destination.
- disruption guarantee needs to become a norm for leisure ticketing.
- Prices for lower carbon travel need to become more comparable to car travel, especially for groups and families. The main ways to help this happen are:
- to raise awareness of the full cost of travel by car and so provide fair comparisons to inform journey-by-journey & whole-trip decision making, and (leisure) travel behaviour more generally
- to increase volumes using lower carbon travel options.
6b. Appropriate governance (in-destination) – Enabler
Two significant differences between many of the overseas destinations included here and those in the UK are:
- how transport is governed. The UK’s transport markets are generally much less regulated than in continental Europe, where area-wide transport service levels and integration are determined locally by non-commercial bodies.
- how public transport is funded; in visitor areas, services are generally supported by combinations of visitor and business levies as well as fares and (sometimes) other core funding.
These together explain the impressive quality of visitor transport services in many overseas destinations.
In the UK, transport governance has been identified as a key barrier to transformation in visitor areas. For instance, proposal 19 of Julian Glover’s 2019 review of protected landscapes for DEFRA (pp 112-115) sets out clearly the inappropriateness of existing transport governance in national parks. How this translates to different models of governance has been considered in more detail separately.
Appropriate governance means the differrence between visitor transport that works well or doesn’t. Developing services or strategy without considering appropriate governance risks their viability and longevity.
This section attempts to interpret governance in places overseas that have great visitor transport with respect to UK contexts.
Solutions & examples
A general model of governance in Austrian and Swiss alpine destinations with impressive visitor transport is characterised by
- local-scale decision making. This is often at valley scale – as a natural “mobility catchment” for visitors, and is an integral part of destination marketing.
- local-scale governance nested into sub-regional or regional scale structures. This often involves nesting into sub-regional or regional marketing. Examples include Switzerland’s Murren, Lauterbrunnen, Wengen and Grindelwald being netsed into Jungfrau sub-regional destination marketing, and Austria’s Tirol region including dozens of valleys and unique destinations such as the Stubai valley or Seefeld plateau
- Formal governance of transport typically involves:
- at regional scale, planning of public transport (mainly bus) services down to local scale. This is done through public sector verkhersverbund which coordinates “… fares and services for all routes, all types of public transport, and all parts of the region, Verkehrsverbund systems in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have greatly improved the quality of the public transport alternative to the automobile”. This leads to franchising of services on agreements of up to 10 years, providing stability and certainty for operators. The Tirol region – and its numerous visitor destination governance units – is covered by the Verkhersverbund Tirol – VTT.
- effective engagement takes place between the verhersverbund and local scale partnerships in visitor destinations. This means the local partnerships who understand the needs and opportunities of visitors to and within the destination can inform the strategic development and delivery of transport services.
Local scale partnerships – as well as informing transport services – have a key role in managing locally generated revenues. These areas all have revenue streams from compulsory overnight visitor levies coupled with local business levies, all of which are ring-fenced for investment in visitor-related infrastructure and services, including transport. The following graphic summarises the sorts of origins of revenues and areas of spend (see also Zermatt’s summary of spend from the visitor levy)
Summary of typical destination-scale sources of revenues and areas of spend
There is a blog here that explores the ideas of “Subsidies? Investment? Visitor levies? But for what?”.
UK opportunities & needs
The idea that Swiss and Austrian destinations sit within regional franchising and local partners often have control of €100,000s or €m of recurrent annual funding are often interpreted as these governance examples being irrelevant to the UK. This is not necessarily the case as there are structures and opportunities in the UK that are not alien to these types of opportunities, but they need recognising and acting upon.
- Tourism Business Improvement Districts are recognised BID structures that bring local businesses together to determine formally priorities for investment, and the ability to raise business levies to deliver these. This provides the opportunities for local governance structures that are not dissimilar to those that are the norms overseas. How this might work are covered in documents such as this and this. Whilst not a TBID, Ullswater’s SITU partnership brings together the valley’s local visitor businesses and resident communities to plan and deliver visitor transport. TBIDs provides a (partial) governance structure that enables
- appropriate partners to come together to take decisions at a local scale on investment,
- the TBID partners to set and manage levies on local visitor businesses for those purposes.
Having the Transport authority as a partner opens opportunities to have meaningful and mutually beneficial influence on local transport powers and abilities (e.g. making the case for – and accessing – transport funding)
- Visitor levies are now being implemented in Manchester and being explored for Edinburgh and Scotland more generally. Whilst the argument against visitor levies in the UK is its relatively high VAT rate or 20% compared to about 8% in Switzerland or 10% in Austria, public opinion in the UK is generally supportive of the idea (85% people in Edinburgh, 90% in the Lake District) providing funds are ringfenced for local improvements.
- Various pieces of transport legislation provide powers and abilities to transport authorities to have more control over local transport services. Whilst not to the degree of verkherverbunds, the Bus Services Act 2017 provides Transport Authorities in England similar types of powers to define bus service levels – though not other modes such as rail. These have been realised in some areas via Bus Service Improvement Plans, though how this process evolves is currently unknown.
- Cornwall has taken a highly progressive approach for a large rural authority through the development of Transport for Cornwall. Its ambition and purposes are very similar to teh verkhersverbund model, indicating the opportunities that exist in existing UK legislation.
Summary Purpose, ambition and history of Transport for Cornwall (from https://www.transportforcornwall.co.uk/)
- Following Glover’s highlight of the inadequacies of transport governance in England’s national parks, separate work supported by the Foundation for Integrated Transport looked in more detail at what better governance might look like. In summary, this suggested that for national parks:
- governance might be best delivered through a formally constituted (rather than voluntary) partnership.
- staff would be embedded within and shared with the national park authority and transport authority
- decisions and accountability would be made via member group comprising members from both the NPA and TA; a wider contact group of relevant partners would help inform the Transport partnership
- The Transport Partnership would be recognised by the DfT as a discrete body
- Relevant powers would include
- Control or influence of bus services (network coverage, service levels, fares)
- Highways: access management, speed limits, highways design, abilities to create Traffic Regulation Orders and manage violations through enforcement
- Ability to integrate car parking charging via area-wide strategies across landowners and operators.
- Ability to create its own Local Transport Plan (with associated funding), Bus Service Improvement Plan and access to other DfT funding streams.
The skill would be to establish such partnerships so that teh constituent Authorities (and DfT) recognise the mutual benefits of doing so.
Though the DEFRA review related only to England, the ideas within it and the subsequent work on governance could be applied to the specific legislative contexts on the UKs other nations.
Perhaps a key blocker to transformation of visitor transport at destination level in the UK is a chicken-and-egg problem: The effort to develop attractive and costed visions for transport for a visitor destination is not done due to the lack of clear pathway to its delivery, and pathways to transformative delivery are not developed because of a lack of ambitious (and costed) visions. This exploration here of the opportunities for more progressive governance coupled with the recent innovations – such as the development of TfC, visitor levies etc – suggest that there are ways for transforming visitor travel at destination scale.