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Copenhagen introduces CopenPay, rewarding visitors for going green

Copenhagen's tourism board is launching a new initiative called CopenPay, which will see local attractions offering rewards for green behavior. For instance, visitors arriving at the National Gallery of Denmark with plastic waste are invited to a workshop to turn it into a piece of art, while taking public transport or a bike to Copenhagen's iconic CopenHill grants a unique experience of skiing down the slope on the building's roof. 

The program is open to residents, too, who might opt for a free kayak rental in return for fishing litter out of the water, or a complimentary vegetarian lunch after volunteering on an urban farm. By incentivizing eco-friendly choices, CopenPay aims to bridge the gap between people's desire to act sustainably and their actual behavior. First running as a pilot, from 15 July – 11 August 2024, CopenPay currently lists 24 participating attractions. Depending on how the initiative is received, Visit Copenhagen plans to roll it out as a year-round program.

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The travel and tourism industry accounted for 9% of global GDP at USD 9.9 trillion in 2023, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The sector isn't just returning to pre-pandemic levels but is projected to break records in 2024, with global economic contribution set to reach an all-time high of USD 11.1 trillion. Managing that growth requires finding a balance between economic benefits, environmental sustainability and the needs of local residents.

By rewarding eco-conscious actions with unique experiences, Copenhagen demonstrates that responsible tourism doesn't have to come at the expense of enjoyment or cultural immersion — it can enhance both. CopenPay and related concepts have the potential to reshape the way people think about travel, transforming it from an environmental and social burden into a force for positive change.