Published on : Friday, June 30, 2017
With 2017 being officially declared as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UNWTO, the International Union of Railways (UIC) launched TopRail in 2016 to actively promote sustainable railway tourism. Its aim is maintaining close collaboration between stakeholders and their customers for increasing railway tourism opportunities.
Vanessa Pérez, TopRail project manager said, “Tourism and transport are intrinsically linked, and tourism represents 10% of global GDP and one of every 11 jobs. Travel and tourism experience a continued expansion and have become one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world.”
The UNWTO measures the sustainability of tourism by its impact on the environment and society, as well as economics. Then there are environmental impacts of tourism, such as energy use and disruption of ecosystems; dependency of tourism on the environment e.g. energy requirements and quality ecosystems; the social impacts of tourism activities; and the dependency on social infrastructure, such as local workforce and transport infrastructure.
With just 2% of international tourism using rail networks, there is significant growth potential for railways, especially as the UNWTO forecasts an increase of 3.3% of international tourist arrivals year-on-year. Tourist railways are attractive products that have much to contribute to sustainable development, decentralisation, diversification and management of tourist flows, explains Pérez, adding that it appeals to all types of customers, from the young to retirees and families, as well as rail enthusiasts.
All operators and networks with tourism potential are in the focus of TopRail’s mission: cruise trains, such as the Orient Express; trains providing mobility at a tourist destination connected to a mainline, from cultural hotspots to wine and gastronomic venues; trains running in scenic areas, for instance the Tibet train and the Train des Hirondelles; and heritage railways, including steam trains.
In terms of deliverables in 2017, TopRail aims to issue a reporting handbook, which is currently under review, and a formal best practices publication.