Sustainable Tourism CS: Saas-Fee. A model in the Swiss Alps
Sustainability. A model in the Swiss Alps
Saas-Fee is the main village in the Saastal or the Saas Valley, in the heart of the German-speaking part of the Valais canton, in Switzerland.The car-free glacier village lies on a high plateau 1800 metres above sea level, at the foot of thirteen 4000m peaks, the Mischabel chain, giving the destination its distinctive name “Pearl of the Alps”.
Tourism is the main economical activity in Saas-Fee, and the town has established itself as a major getaway destination for domestic and international tourists.Source: Saas-Fee Tourismus
Amongst its peculiarities, Saas-Fee heavily markets its rural aspect such as a “no car” destination, intact picturesque image, transportation efficiency and snow guaranteed from November to April. The foundation for creating a destination conscious of the environment and of quality was laid in 1951, when the community made the decision to keep the village car-free.The absence of cars in Saas-Fee contributes considerably to the relaxed holiday atmosphere and romantic character of the village where there is no stress from traffic.
The Association of Swiss car-free tourist resorts (GaST) stands for the development and promotion of the common interests of Swiss car-free tourist resorts. A pioneer in low-impact tourism since 1988, the Association has represented the idea of traffic-free resorts as a holistic holiday philosophy. The aim is to offer the guest a high level of relaxation as well as raising all the relevant target groups’ awareness of the importance of conserving the natural environment and resources in a sustainable manner. GAST is a network of several car-free Swiss touristy communities (Bettmeralp, Braunwald, Riederalp, Rigi, Saas-Fee, Stoos, Wengen, Mürren and Zermatt) that promotes car-free recreation and holiday experiences in alpine resorts. The resorts commit themselves to nine decided quality criteria, which are checked regularly.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
1 We advise guests to travel by public transport All the car-free tourist resorts in Switzerland are easily accessible by public transport and guests are therefore recommended to travel by rail, bus or boat. As a guest you can therefore make your own personal contribution to environmentally friendly tourism.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
2 We strive to achieve high-quality parking with little space hunting Despite excellent public transport services, a number of guests still prefer to travel by car. It is of great importance to the car-free resorts to provide high-quality, payable parking in order to prevent unnecessary searching or illegal parking.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
3 We guarantee simple and easy luggage transfer On arrival in the car-free village the luggage is transferred (from railway station, post bus terminal or car park) to hotels or apartments by environmentally friendly electric vehicles. Choosing to spend you holidays in a pedestrian village does not mean anyone has to carry heavy luggage.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
4 We are committed to keeping the villages largely free of traffic. On all tarmac and cobbled roads within the built-up areas there is a general ban on all motorised vehicles. The guest therefore profits from a high quality of air, coupled with the freedom to move around safely on the roads. The underlying principle of pedestrian zones is also a fundamental aim to create a relaxed holiday atmosphere and maintain a romantic village character without the stress of traffic.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
5 We are in favour of limited mobility in the village The number of exceptional permits for combustion engines is reduced to an absolute minimum, and is only permitted for limited journeys and within certain times. Even environmentally-friendly vehicles used for commercial use are limited and require a proof of necessity.Guests in car-free villages therefore profit enormously from the possibility of moving freely in a natural environment.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
6 We promote the freedom to move in a natural environment in car-free resorts Every two years the degree of freedom to move is measured during rush hours. Suitable measures are taken in our aim to achieve a high level of freedom to move on the roads. The pedestrian resort therefore becomes itself a leisure area for the guest who can fully dedicate himself to taking in all the new impressions in a relaxed environment.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
7 We promote the use of public transport locally With the use of scheduled buses, ski buses and environmentally-friendly electric taxis a network of public transport is guaranteed over greater distances. It is therefore easier to dispense with the car.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
8 We are committed to giving a good level of information about public transport By means of prospectuses and other media the car-free tourist resorts give detailed information on the various ways of travelling in order to facilitate the guest’s arrival. The advantages and uniqueness of being free from traffic are described in a comprehensible way.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
9The pedestrian resorts have a high percentage of satisfied regular guests. The high degree of satisfaction compared with other holiday destinations encourages us to continue with our efforts to promote environmentally-friendly and natural tourism.Source: GAST Quality Criteria, http://www.auto-frei.ch/cms/front_content.php?idcat=1&lang=2
International tourists normally use air transportation to arrive in Switzerland and then they will take the train to reach the alpine resort Saas-Fee. Regular train connections serve all departs to Visp or Brig.From there, the Bus, operated by the Swiss post , is the only way to reach the town of Saas-Fee.
Saas Fee visitors using the car need to leave it at the 2800 spot parking at the entrance of the Alpine resort.In Saas-Fee you could use one of the 300 electrically-powered taxis or 3 buses to travel around the town.
Saas-Fee has some of the most restrictive building and zoning regulations in Switzerland. All buildings (Max. 12m high) must have a gabled roof and at least one third of the facade of the building must be built of wood. The typical Valais style of Chalet and “a traditional Village character” can be maintained with these measures.
Saas-Fee committed itself to the Alliance in the Alps project as a pilot community in 1996. The Alliance in the Alps community network initiated in collaboration with CIPRA (Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Alpes)is an association comprising over 250 communities located throughout the Alpine region, from France to Slovenia. The member communities have come together in support of the goals of the Alpine Convention for sustainable development in the Alps. To this end they work in close contact with the resident populations to improve the ecological, social and economic situation in their communities.
Saas-Fee was awarded (was the first touristic destination who has got this label) the status of Energy Town in June 2002.The label represents the introduction of actual quality control concerning communal energy policiesand is awarded to towns and communities which -in proportion to the possibilities at their disposal- go to exceptional lengths to implement energy and traffic policies in their community.
Saas-Fee was the first resort in Switzerland to introduce a tax on garbage bags.Such tax is applied to locals as well as tourists in order to minimize production of waste and encourage recycling. Household refuse may only be disposed of in the official bags which carry a fee.
Saas-Fee provides two temporary waste collection centers on the outskirts of the city, one for recyclable and a second for non-recyclable products. The local population is called to participate for three days a year to a general waste collection across the ski resorts in Saas-Fee
In August 2005 Saas-Fee Tourismus was awarded with the level III of the Quality Label for Swiss Tourism.The Level III award is given to those companies and providers who have compiled and successfully implemented a comprehensive and internationally recognised Quality Management System (QMS).
On completion of a multistage auditing process carried out over a period of around one and a half years, the staff of Saas Fee Tourismus have been granted in 2005, January 26th ISO-9001 Quality management certification and ISO-14001 Environment management certification for all enterprise areas of activity.
Saas-Fee Tourismus was awarded the new Valais Excellence label in December 2004.The award was created to promote the creation of Integrated Management Systems (environment, quality, safety, finances and human resources).
The Saas Valley holiday region has thus been awarded the "Families Welcome" seal of approval by the Swiss Tourism Federation. The family-friendly towns of the Saas region offer attractive holiday packages for families. To obtain the “Families Welcome” Quality Label, a Swiss resort must meet some basic requirements.
With the exception of one Best Western’s (Best Western metropol is still a family owned hotel but it uses the brandmarketing of bestwestern) there are no chain hotels in Saas-Fee. This encourages the community to work with the family owned hospitality establishments to be sustainable.
The seasonality of business demand has an impact on the unemployment rate,which however is quite modest (1.5% of total working population during low season). To avoid seasonal migration or higher unemployment, local hotels usually plan trainings for their employees during low demand periods (especially in May). Many hotels now adopt a system of hiring permanent employees, making them work 6 days a week, then giving them a 10 week holiday.
The most sustainable 5 Hotel in Europe"At the moment ‘eco‘ is still nice to have –soon it will be a must. The certification has completelyinfected us with the eco-virus and has motivated usto carry out further measures – and we enjoy it“Beat Anthamatten, Hotel FerienArt Walliserhof*****(Saas Fee)
In 2000 Ferienart Resort & Spa was the first Minergie-Hotel in Switzerland
In 2009 Ferienart Resort & Spa was awarded with the 5 Steinbock Label
The Steinbock certification is based on:• Environment (e.g. energy, water, waste, food, technology, plant care)• Social (e.g. industrial safety, training places, further training, integration of obstructions, social commitment)• Regional integration (e.g. origin of the food, journey of the guests)•Management (e.g. management systems, communication, purchase criteria)• Economy (e.g. self financing, finance-controlling)
In 2006 Ferienart Resort & Spa was the first 5 star Hotel awarded with the European Eco-labelEuropean Eco-label on tourist accommodation service means:• Limits energy consumption• Limits water consumption• Reduces waste production• Favours the use of renewable resources and of substances which are less hazardous to the environment• Promotes environmental education and communication
Climate Friendly Holidays Ferienart Resort & Spa need electricity and heat to – and about 800 tons of CO2 get in the atmosphere.Together with the Non-Profit-Organisation “my climate” the Hotel save this 800 tons of CO2. The Ferienart Resort & Spa is funding the use of solar cookers in Madagaskar to compensate their CO2 emissions.
On the African island of Madagascar, wood is used for cooking, which has led to progressive deforestation on the island, and also endangers the health of women and children.
In Madagascar, myclimate supports the manufacture, distribution and use of climate-friendly solar cookers.Madagascan women prepare their food with the solar cookers using the energy of the sun.The climate-friendly cooker produces no harmful smoke, which is beneficial to the health of women and children. Efficient cookers in south-west Madagascar Video: 1 2
On the 10th of November 2008 the FerienartResort & Spa was awarded with the Milestone2008. The exceptional price in sustainibility,who was given for the first time was for theproject “Wallo’s sustainability virus”.
On the 30th of November 2009 in Zurichthe Ferienart Resort & Spa was awarded withthe GreenSwitzerland-Award 2009