Public transport ticket included: HSLU study examines the effects of free outward and return journeys in tourism

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Public transport ticket included: HSLU study examines the effects of free outward and return journeys in tourism

Anyone who books three or more overnight stays in Appenzell Innerrhoden receives a free public transport ticket for the outward and return journey. This encourages travelers to leave their car at home and switch to public transport, as a HSLU study shows - and thus contributes to reducing the ecological footprint of travel.

Environmentally friendly arrival and departure is an important part of the effort to make tourism in Switzerland more sustainable. There are various approaches to encourage travelers to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport instead. In a study, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) investigated how a free return journey for multiple overnight stays affects travelers’ mobility behavior. The study was conducted together with Appenzellerland Tourismus AI and supported by the SBB Research Fund. Since 2020, anyone who books three or more overnight stays in Appenzell Innerrhoden can travel there and back by public transport free of charge.

Significant shift to public transport

The study shows that the free return journey by public transport can be an effective incentive. Around a third of people who took advantage of the offer would otherwise have traveled by car. In other words, the proportion of holidaymakers who traveled by public transport increased by 10 to 15 percentage points. Guests who traveled to Appenzell Innerrhoden explicitly because of the offer were not taken into account in order to calculate the effective shift from motorized private transport to public transport. And this shift is significant, says co-author of the study Kevin Blättler: ’We explain the clear effect by the fact that leisure travelers are likely to react more flexibly to such an offer than to their everyday mobility’

This shift is also significant in terms of the ecological footprint. The HSLU researchers estimate that every person who uses public transport instead of a car to travel to and from work reduces their annual domestic greenhouse gas emissions caused by mobility by an average of 3.6 percent. ’This is important because transport is responsible for a considerable proportion of CO2 emissions,’ says Kevin Blättler. ’Public transport therefore offers great potential to reduce the ecological footprint.’ According to the Federal Statistical Office, transport in Switzerland caused a total of 41 percent of all domestic CO2x#emissions in 2022 - and that’s without taking international aviation into account. Almost three quarters of these 13.6 million tons of CO2 were attributable to passenger cars. Buses and trains produced around 3.2 percent of these greenhouse gases. ’Measures that encourage a shift from cars to public transport can therefore make sense, as the outward and return journey contributes significantly to the CO2 emissions of a vacation guest,’ says the HSLU mobility expert.

Case is not a universal blueprint

The possibility of free return travel for overnight guests is unique in Switzerland on this scale. According to Blättler, the extent to which the findings from the study can be applied to other destinations in Switzerland depends on local conditions: ’The case fits well with Appenzell Innerrhoden. Not only are most hotels well connected to the public transport network, but guests also travel relatively light and tend to go on hiking or wellness vacations instead of skiing vacations. This makes it easier to switch to public transport.

Another key issue is the financing of such an offer. After initial support from the New Regional Policy (NRP), Appenzellerland Tourismus AI now finances it from its own resources. ’The free return journey is a central component of our marketing strategy,’ says Guido Buob, Managing Director of Appenzellerland Tourismus AI. ’The study results are confirmation for us that with this offer we can make an active contribution to the personal CO2 reduction of our guests and thus promote sustainable tourism without burdening the hotel industry with additional costs’.