RegenerAction 2022: Tourism as a springboard for Italy’s beauty and care

The challenge: to return to accessible, sustainable and regenerative tourism

World leader for more sites included in the World Heritage ListFor Italy and its cultural, historical, landscape and natural wealth, tourism is an undisputed pivot on which the country system is based. A value that contributes for almost 7%to national GDP and that with the flows of customers pairs to approximately 437 million presences generates almost 14% of the total added value and the occupation if the direct and indirect effects of the tourist field are considered. At least that was the situation until 2019.  The forced closures and restrictions introduced by the pandemic have been a serious blow to a sector based on mobility and cultural exchange. The Istat data stimano un calo dei turisti presenti nelle strutture ricettive del territorio pari al 38,4% rispetto ai livelli del 2019. E’ tempo di rendere nuovamente accessibile il turismo. In tal senso, sicurezza ambientale, politica, sociale ed economica sono elementi fondamentali sia per i turisti che per le comunità locali. A questi si aggiungono la sicurezza alimentare e quella relativa agli alloggi sul territorio e la protezione del patrimonio socio-culturale dalle minacce ambientali e dal turismo eccessivo e di massa. Anche la tecnologia rappresenta una sfida attuale e reale: rendendo il turismo protagonista nella transizione digitale, è possibile scalare nuove opportunità di divulgazione e disseminazione delle iniziative e del patrimonio culturale, naturale e artistico del territorio.

Among the current challenges of tourism, it also includes making it a tool for sustainability. Sustainable does not mean inaccessible and low quality. Revalorizing a slow and local tourism, discovering the traditions, flavors and beauty of the area means recognizing that quantity and speed are not synonymous with quality. This requires an enhancement of national economic competitiveness. Finally, today tourism urgently regeneration. The development of the territory, the regeneration of villages and the encouragement of slow forms of tourism can and must become the cornerstones of new national policies. These are the current challenges that tourism, in order to return accessible, sustainable and regenerative, will have to face.

Quality, innovation, regeneration: the potential of slow tourism

As it states, the General Secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, "Tourism can be a platform to overcome the pandemic. By uniting people, tourism can promote peace, solidarity and trust ".

The period of forced cessation of the tourism sector triggered by the pandemic has highlighted the need to change our approach to this sector, adopting more sustainable forms of tourism and respecting the huge natural heritage, cultural and artistic that we have. While the pandemic has led to a decline in tourist visits - worldwide and especially for countries, like ours, which supported themselves on this sector - on the other hand it has caused millions of people to get closer to forms of slow tourism and proximity. We are talking about a tourism capable of bringing back human and universal values: care, listening, attention, respect, reciprocity. A tourism that respects, does not upset, the territory and those who inhabit it, a tourism that brings us closer to the Earth, in all its aspects. A tourism of the roots, of the territories, that valorizes and assures a territorial economic development, transforming itself in an instrument of knowledge and direct experience of local realities, traditions, enogastronomic orgogli, but that at the same time "makes accessible artistic and craft heritage, allowing you to rediscover knowledge" as pointed out Stefano Pisani, mayor of Pollica and coordinator of the Italian network of cities of good living, Slow City.

Tourism, with its dynamism and mobility, can be a leading sector for innovation, for social policies, and social regeneration if an attentive approach to the person, relationships and community prevails. Fostering social justice through the reception of migrants and fostering real integration within local communities - especially the most marginal, forgotten or isolated ones such as those of small villages- tourism plays a strategic role in the political choices of Italy, the Mediterranean and Europe.

The European strategy for smart, sustainable and responsible tourism

Shortly before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the European Commission had published a  European industrial strategy, a handbook on the strategies to be adopted for the transition to a sustainable society, in line with the ideas of the Green Deal. The aim was to facilitate Europe’s green and digital transition and make it more competitive and autonomous in 14 areas, including tourism.

, a handbook on the strategies to be adopted for the transition to a sustainable society, in line with the ideas of the Green Deal. The aim was to facilitate Europe’s green and digital transition and make it more competitive and autonomous in 14 areas, including tourism. updated strategy the priority area to be reformed. Ecological acceleration, digitalization and stakeholder involvement in the initiatives of the European Commission are the pillars on which the EU has chosen to base theEuropean Tourism Agenda 2030/50prepared jointly by the Commission of the Member States.  The approach advocated by the Commission places at the heart of the digital and ecological transition of tourism cooperation between industry, public authorities, social actors and all other indirect actors in the sector to listen to needs, needs and demands, in order to propose and implement policies that meet the needs of the workers and communities involved. The sharing of ideas and values, a key point of the European strategy, will also be facilitated by the creation of a online platform which the Commission expects to launch by the end of 2022 and which is capable of bringing together the various players in the tourism sector. In addition, to create a sustainable and resilient Europe, the EU has chosen to award annually cities that are characterized by smart tourism through the European Capital of Smart Tourism, now in its third edition. It is an initiative that aims to reward those cities that represent a model for tourism in the fields of digitalization, sustainability, accessibility, creativity and respect for cultural heritage. An economic incentive for the recovery of the sector, but also a necessary enhancement of the experiences capable of combining quality, strengthening the territory and communities, heritage preservation and slow-tourism. Like theEuropean Capital of Smart Tourismthe policy of the NextGenerationEU, provides an economic contribution to the achievement of 11 macro-objectives in the field of tourism, such as the development of green communities and the enhancement of agriculture and the rural landscape.

The Union’s approach is therefore directed towards not only sustainable and digital tourism, but also responsible tourism, capable of understanding the needs of the territory and citizens and responding to them adequately. This goal, for the European Commission, can only be achieved through an efficient use of local resources, including local farms and producers, but also stakeholders, young people and local and regional communities and policy makers.

Tourism not only to visit but to regenerate the environment, community and economy

For development to be truly sustainable and achieve forms of collective prosperity, it is necessary to remember that there is no economic improvement in a degraded environment; there is no effective tourist strategy in places where the inhabitants are not happy and there is nothing authentic to tell; there is no investment capable of functioning alone, without someone on the territory willing, capable and competent to make it yield significantly and felt; there is no demographic growth in a place where there are no services or cultural stimuli. Starting from the Mediterranean Diet, an undisputed example of a real and integral balance of different complexities, Future Food started from there, from Pollica, cultural and natural jewel in the heart of the Mediterranean but also victim of progressive forms of depopulation and unregulated tourism, to prototype and co-create the first model of integral and integrated development.

Since 1961, the Cilento has lost about 57,000 inhabitants. Demographic decline triggers the dangerous circular pattern of marginality, which in turn weakens the population structure, the potential for consumption and income production, the local services system, agricultural and productive practices due to labour shortages, the cultural, environmental and social elements underlying the Mediterranean lifestyle. Restoring a "residual" phenomenon is certainly one of the key objectives of the Paideia Campus, together with the need to promote a new model of tourism: conscious, attentive, slow, responsible and sustainable. In fact, the summer invasion by Italian and foreign tourists completely upsets the rhythms of the village and the nature of the territory, while winter is characterized by prolonged months of almost total abandonment. It is enough to think that in Campania the gross use of beds was 0.9% in April 2020 up to a maximum of 43.9% in August 2020 and even 71.2% in August 2019.

Taking into account these premises and to promote a widespread regeneration of the territory by putting its communities at the center, Pollica 2050 is the project through which, together with the local community, the Future Food Institute acts to restore a model of responsible development and encouraging the virtuous encounter between territory and people, care and beauty. How?

  • Promoting new forms of tourism focused on biophilia, well-being and longevity.
  • Directly involving and stimulating the local community to take care of its beauties and common goods, telling themselves in person, making themselves an educating community.
  • Promoting training programs for the local population, to hone skills, managerial skills and strengthen the hospitality sector, but also to feed a healthy "wealth pride", fly to communicate and make the most of their homeland. This was in fact the basis of the project "Trame Mediterranee", which starts from schools with innovative internship programs to train young explorers, storytellers and ambassadors of Mediterranean identity. These objectives have also been reflected in the Youth Welfare programme, a training programme designed for young people in Pollica, to develop business ideas and to develop a sense of agency also meeting directly with the guardians of environmental, food and cultural biodiversity of the territory. These are all crucial aspects to protect and at the same time make available the Italian heritage, archaeological sites, historic buildings, but above all to create awareness.
  • Spreading tourist information, e-commerce and interactive technology to explore the territory and literally immerse yourself in an experience that smells of history, art, culture, science and taste.
  • Facilitating forms of food and wine tourism and experiential, based on moments of convivium and focusing on the supply chains and the stories of producers

This is the type of tourism that can become for these communities a valuable lever able to combine regeneration of the social fabric, support to the local economy, and better conservation of natural heritage, especially as places of privileged access to the wild and cultural nature.

Tourism has its roots in culture. This complementarity is part of Future Food’s vision for the regeneration of land and land, which can only be achieved through a combination of social, political and institutional tools that connect different points. The collaboration of Future Food with The Fork Organization to rethink the Museum of the Mediterranean Diet of Poplars is an example of this intersectionality. Through a Boot Camp aimed at enhancing the role of the Museum, repository of stories and memories of the territory related to the values and concept of the Mediterranean Diet, culture and tourism enter into dialogue for a regenerative action.

At the same time, it is crucial to ensure dialogue and coordination between local and national strategies. For this reason, the commitment of the Future Food Institute has also spread within the meetings of the G20 and of General state of tourismfacilitating debates and dialogues on new strategies and on the sustainability of the Italian tourist offer, facilitating collaboration on several levels of institutional and local actors.

The cities, villages and the natural and cultural riches they contain should no longer be conceived as limited places of tourist reception, "containers" of seasonal events and passing, but as places where you can hear stories directly, taste food and traditions, learn knowledge and crafts, living - as well as visiting - what these places have to offer, culturally, naturally, humanly. To embrace integral ecology, it is necessary to restore beauty and collective well-being. This inevitably involves responsible tourism.

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