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Being a responsible traveler just got even better. Starting July 15, 2024, Copenhagen will reward you for being a “good” guest (tourist) with a fantastic regenerative approach. Are you curious how you can get freebies and more for being a sustainable traveler in Denmark’s capital? Let’s dive into everything you need to know about CopenPay, the new reward system for climate-friendly actions.

CopenPay builds on the city’s reputation as a top-ranked green destination. The new scheme incentivizes eco-friendly behaviors like biking or picking up trash in exchange for cultural experiences, freebies, tour activities, and incentives to visit local businesses. 

cyclists and kayakers in Copenhagen

Daniel Rasmussen for Visit Copenhagen

We must turn tourism from being an environmental burden into a force for positive change, and one important step in this transformation is to change how we move around the destination, what we consume, and how we interact with locals,” Mikkel Aarø-Hansen, CEO of Wonderful Copenhagen, said in a statement. 

This approach, leveraging positive psychology tactics, starkly contrasts with crackdowns on tourism across other European cities. Whether it’s Venice’s new tourist access fee, Barcelona’s looming ban on transient vacation rentals, or alcohol restrictions in the Balearic Islands, Copenhagen is paving the way in a welcoming and regenerative direction.

Copenhage rewards sustainable travel and eco behaviors with CopenPay

CopenPay, Copenhagen’s New Incentive for Eco-Travel Behaviors

CopenPay is an initiative that starts on July 15 and runs until August 11, 2024. Twenty-four businesses, attractions, museums, volunteer programs, activities, and more have voluntarily signed up for the pilot program. Each participating entity has a different set of criteria you must meet that will reward you with unique perks that help you explore the city responsibly.

Each activity will get you around Copenhagen sustainably, showcasing the city’s highlights and uncovering hidden gems! 

Kayakers in Copenhagen picking up trash

Green Kayak for Visit Copenhagen

Just a few of the perks you can expect to see from CopenPay include: 

  • A free kayak rental with Green Kayaks if you agree to pick up trash and share it on social media while kayaking. 
  • Ride your bike to Level Six rooftop bar and get a free drink.
  • Volunteer at Urban Garden Øens in exchange for a free vegetarian lunch.
  • Join a Plogging group and get a free coffee and pastry
  • Bring your plastic waste to the National Gallery of Denmark and get invited to a workshop to turn waste into art!

Some attractions have limited availability, only welcome visitors on certain days of the week, or have other limitations. So, it is vital to read the details to ensure you make the most of your experience.

The program aims not to increase tourism but to incentivize positive behaviors around the city, creating a green currency.

Visit Copenhagen

Travelers can expect more enriching and immersive experiences around the city, connecting them to Copenhagen. At the same time, residents will reap the benefits of cleaner waterways, less emissions, and a boost for local businesses. 

Through CopenPay, we aim to incentivize tourists’ sustainable behavior while enriching their cultural experience of our destination. It is an experimental and a small step towards creating a new mindset amongst travelers…” Aarø-Hansen added in their statement. 

How Can Travelers Participate in CopenPay?

Participating is easy as long as travelers read the fine print for each attraction to ensure they engage in an appropriate action. From there, all one needs to do is show proof of their green actions. So, hang onto those train tickets, snap pictures while biking, and share a trash haul on social media. Bring this proof to the participating business and exchange it for ice cream, more time skiing on a waste-treatment plant, free kayak rentals, or a workshop! 

Ganesh and I loved biking in Copenhagen, which has four times more bikes than cars! It is a safe city for cyclists with a fantastic urban bike network. I highly recommend skipping the car or taxi and biking around this beautiful city.

However, CopenPay is designed to be simple, building on the honor and trust system that, according to Visit Copenhagen, is engrained in Danish culture. In a pinch, the honor system and good faith will get you through if you accidentally tossed that train ticket in the recycling bin.

Will This Regenerative Approach Work?

2024 is set to become a record-breaking year for travel and tourism. Cities already dealing with unsustainable levels of mass tourism can expect to feel more tension and pressure this summer. Copenhagen welcomed 12 million international overnight stays in 2023, but rather than adopting more restrictions and fees, they are utilizing an approach rooted in positive psychology. Positive psychology rewards desired behaviors, enforcing the type of traveler Copenhagen wants to welcome as a guest. 

Copenhagen at sunset

Photo: Susanna Shankar Curiosity Saves Travel

By doing this, Copenhagen hopes to highlight how travelers can contribute to thriving destinations in exchange for receiving more enriching cultural experiences. This summer’s pilot program aims to test its success and feasibility, but the city hopes to adopt it full-time. 

I am thrilled to see an initiative like CopenPay that combines our rich cultural life with a strong commitment to sustainability. By converting green actions into currency for cultural experiences, tourists are given a unique opportunity to explore Copenhagen in a way that benefits both the environment and the local community. This aligns perfectly with our values and ambitions to promote sustainable solutions in Copenhagen,” says Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Sophie Hæstorp Andersen.

Regenerative tourism practices are emerging globally, from Kakadu National Park in Australia to Haida Gwaii in Canada. One thing they share in common is creating clear guidelines for how travelers should behave in ways that align with a destination’s unique set of values. This clear messaging can help destinations revitalize their culture, improve the environment, and offer more enriching experiences for travelers. 

For more information and the complete list of participating programs and details, visit the CopenPay section on Visit Coipenhagen’s website.

Discuss and Share

Copenhagen expects only a small percentage of travelers to engage in this new scheme this year. But I don’t know; it sounds pretty enticing! I’ve been to Copenhagen twice and would return in a heartbeat to support this new system. 

  • What do you think of this new program?
  • Would this incentivize you to engage in more eco-friendly behaviors? Or is this too much effort for a free coffee and pasty?
  • What do you think of this approach compared to Venice’s Tourist Access Fee? Would you rather pay a fee to support sustainable tourism development or pick up trash?

Share your thoughts in the comment section. If you head to Copenhagen this summer, make sure you let me know how it goes if you give this a try!

Copenhage rewards sustainable travel and eco behaviors with CopenPay
Copenhagen rewards sustainable travelers with new reward system CopenPay