Life

Copenhagen Offers Rewards to Summer Visitors Who Act Responsibly

A new fee for Venice day trippers. A looming ban on vacation rentals in Barcelona. Restrictions on the sale of alcohol in Majorca. At a time when overwhelmed European destinations are slapping tourists with restrictions and fees, Copenhagen is trying a different approach: rewarding visitors who act responsibly.

Beginning July 15, tourists who demonstrate climate-friendly travel behavior by participating in the city’s green initiatives — including cycling, train travel and clean-up efforts — will be granted access to museum tours, kayak rentals, free meals and more.

“We must turn tourism from being an environmental burden into a force for positive change,” said Mikkel Aarø-Hansen, the chief executive of Wonderful Copenhagen, the tourism organization for the Capital Region of Denmark. An important step in this transformation, he said, “is to change how we move around on the destination, what we consume, and how we interact with the locals.”

On average, 81 percent of consumers say they want to act more sustainably, but only 22 percent have changed their behavior, according to a 2023 sustainable report by Kanter, a London-based market research group. Copenhagen’s new initiative, CopenPay, aims to bridge the gap between the desire to act sustainably and actual behavior by making climate-friendly action a currency for cultural experiences.

For instance, those who arrive by bike or train at CopenHill, an artificial ski slope built on top of a new waste-management center, will be able to go down the rooftop hill for free. Other sites will allow visitors to volunteer in cleanup efforts. The National Gallery of Denmark will hold workshops to turn plastic waste into pieces of art, while the Copenhagen Surf School will offer a free lunch to surfers who take part in 30 minutes of beach cleaning after their surf course. More than 20 attractions will be participating in the pilot program over the summer.

“Our vision with CopenPay is to create a ripple effect,” Mr. Hansen said. “We hope that by showcasing the success of this and other initiatives, other cities around the globe will be inspired to find their way to incentivize more sustainable tourism behavior, ultimately leading to a more sustainable future for everyone.”


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