Copenhagen rewards environmentally friendly tourists with free coffee and museum tours

Copenhagen rewards environmentally friendly tourists with free coffee and museum tours

Wonderful Copenhagen, the Danish capital’s tourism office, is launching a pilot program that rewards visitors for being environmentally conscious. Starting July 15, participants who take part in a sustainable activity will receive a thank-you gift, such as free kayak rental or coffee and Danish pastries.

The new CopenPay initiative is simple: take part in a environmentally friendly venture and receive a discount from the two dozen companies and institutions participating in the program. It is open to visitors and locals.

For example, you can collect plastic waste and turn it into jellyfish art in a workshop at the Danish National Gallery. If you cycle or take public transport to Amager Resource Center, you can get 20 extra minutes of skiing time on CopenHill, an artificial slope on the roof of the power plant. (Non-skiers can take the lift up for free.) Volunteer at Oens Have, the largest urban garden in Northern Europe, or in the historic garden of the Karen Blixen Museum and enjoy a free vegetarian meal or free museum entry.

“We want to transform tourism into a positive force for change in sustainability,” says Rikke Holm Petersen, Communications Director at Wonderful Copenhagen, “but we also want tourists to have an unforgettable and enjoyable experience.”

Holm Petersen said the program is trust-based, although some venues may ask for proof, such as a photo of the bike or a public transport ticket. The program runs until August 11. Depending on its success, it could return next summer with more activities and for a longer period.

Destinations around the world are experimenting with creative ways to encourage environmental responsibility and engage visitors with their causes. The Mālama Hawaiʻi program allows travelers to earn a hotel discount or a free night by volunteering. Guests who donate time to the Pacific Whale Foundation, for example, receive a free fourth night and breakfast for two at the Hana-Maui resort. (In related news, the Hawaii Tourism Authority last month unveiled a certification system that verifies companies that commit to sustainable practices. Thirteen companies have received the designation, including major airlines, tour boat companies, restaurants and the Bishop Museum.)

In 2017, Palau introduced the Palau Pledge, which tourists must sign upon entering the country. The commitment to “preserve and protect” the islands is stamped in their passport.

Hotels also offer incentives to guests to reduce their consumption. Hotels participating in Yotel’s Purple Goes Green program offer guests a food and beverage credit for each day they skip room service. Best Western Hotels and Resorts offers a similar program where guests receive points or food vouchers.

Randy Durband, executive director of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, welcomes programs that reward good behavior rather than guilting people into behaving responsibly or blaming them for their failures.

Copenhagen deserves credit for not cracking down on bad behaviour but trying to make it entertaining and offer incentives and benefits,” said Durband.

Holm Petersen has higher expectations of CopenPay. She sees the company as an engine of change.

“We hope that visitors feel inspired to make more conscious choices about environmentally friendly measures when they return home,” she said, “and that other destinations do something similar.”