Tourism plays an increasingly important role in sustainable development which has been confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly by approving the adoption of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
TopRail project is moving forward with sustainable tourism initiatives building on the UIC Reporting Guidelines, focusing on rail-based tourism and its supporting value chain. TopRail looks to issue a reporting handbook by March 2017 and a formal best practices publication by July 2017.
Supporting sustainable tourism using railways is not only a strategic framework for ensuring a positive image of railways, but also a way to create a competitive advantage and an important contribution to encourage territorial development policies.
During the workshop, Vanessa Pérez, from the UIC Passenger and High Speed Department, gave a short presentation about TopRail project scope, organisation and deliverables. One of the priorities of the group during the period 2016-2017 will be to work on how tourism by rail can contribute to a more sustainable tourism.
Glenn Frommer, moderator of the workshop, gave an overview on what sustainable tourism means and its place in the context of SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals). He also presented different examples of different sectors (transport, automobile and supply sector) working to probe how sustainable they are using different ways (indicators, charter, best practices, label).
Four examples of how railways can contribute to sustainable tourism
Four operators presented broad approaches to rail-based sustainable tourism initiatives.
Carles Casas gave a presentation about the work FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) conducts on sustainable tourism with the special example of a fragile environment such as Vall de Núria.
Nami Mizuguchi explained how JR-East (Japanese Railways) encourages sustainable tourism by developing trains based on new concepts and revitalising local industries.
John Fuller presented the contribution of Fedecrail (European Federation of Museum & Tourist Railways) operators regarding the heritage and the three axes of Sustainability (economic, social and environmental) with the case of study of Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
Dieter Dubkowitsch explained the engagement of RhB (Rhaetian Railways) with sustainable development in general and sustainable tourism in particular, as a mainly tourist-focused company.
The four approaches formed the basis of a facilitated group discussion chaired by Glenn Frommer with regard to moving the TopRail collaboration forward.
Further discussion will take place in the next months in order to achieve the objective of creating a reporting handbook and a formal best practices publication by 2017.