Healing Power of the Alps as a groundbreaking concept
250 guests, twelve speakers from five countries, a common vision: Bad Hofgastein was the venue for the fourth international symposium Healing Power of the Alps, this year for the first time spanning the Alps. The topic: How to use the healing power of the Alps to redefine sustainable tourism.
Representatives of international initiatives from across the Alpine region met in Bad Hofgastein to discuss this new approach to tourism. “The overall goal is to position the Alpine region as a globally attractive health destination with a vibrant regional economy, especially after the pandemic,” said Salzburg State Minister Daniela Gutschi at the opening of the symposium. She continued, “The wealth of the Alpine region lies in its healing power.”
Data for better tourism
Arnulf Hartl, head of the Institute for Ecomedicine at Paracelsus Medical Private University Salzburg (PMU) and lead partner at the EU-project HEALPS2, asked in his presentation how we can learn new things in the field of health tourism today. For him, the answer lies in collecting, processing and using data. In recent years, the possibilities have grown considerably. The health-promoting properties of the Alps are now no longer based on conjecture but have been proven by medical statistics. The Alpine arc is an “island” in the middle of the densely populated regions in the north (Ruhr area) and south (Milan), which are polluted by fine dust.
Where does that leave the locals in the tourist area?
In his presentation, Christian Baumgartner, vice-president of CIPRA International and professor at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons presented a study according to which more than half of the 20 strongest Austrian tourist communities are experiencing population declines. According to Baumgartner, the reasons for the population decline are the high cost of living in the region – young people simply can’t afford it anymore and the employees of tourism businesses live outside the communities. If something is to change, we have to fundamentally question strategies, Baumgartner believes.
Aims too high in terms of sustainability
Franz Fischler, long-time EU Commissioner for Agriculture and former President of the European Forum Alpbach, comments on the topic of sustainability: “Sustainability has degenerated into a buzzword, for everything and anything, often with a misapplication”. According to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, world hunger should be history by 2030. Fischler questions the meaning of these sustainability goals, calling them “Wishful thinking”. He notes that goals must be realistic to be accepted by society.
Healing Alps strategy group
Bernhard Lehofer is head of Health Care Management & Life Sciences, Innovation Qualification thematic areas at ITG – Innovation Service for Salzburg. He also heads the EUSALP Health Tourism Group. He sees his task in bringing together the different projects. To this end, a virtual space is being created for the Healing Alps Strategy Group, where health tourism projects will be presented.
The international symposium Healing Power of the Alps brought us two exciting days with many different opinions. But there was one thing that speakers and participants agreed on: if all Alpine countries pull together, we can shape the future of Alpine tourism sustainably and in harmony with nature.