With just a few steps cultural tourism can become the key approach to develope and maintain the social sustainability of small towns as well as all sites outside the large tourist zones.
What must we do?
The situation is clear, on the one hand the small towns lose young people who go to seek fortune in other parts of the country and other countries while, on the other hand, there are people from all over the world who want to come and try the lifestyle of our small towns.
It seems an insoluble situation in which supply and demand do not meet and those who lose out are the small municipalities and their residents.
The ministry’s information is clear and the data on tourists to Italy shows a slight decrease in the number of visitors in the big cities and a small increase in stays in small towns, agriturismos and other non-traditional accommodation solutions. Also, because it is difficult to find hotels in small villages they are instead experimenting with proposals such as the ‘spread’ hotel that can be managed both by private individuals and by the community.
What are the steps to enhance this tourism?
The situation cannot be changed in a day but if we take the right steps we can reverse the process of ‘emigration’ and also start to get tourists to every corner of the Italian peninsula.
The first step is to enhance the awareness of the potential of a territory with a classification of both material and intangible heritage. The logic is quite similar to that followed by UNESCO with its two programmes ‘World Heritage’ for monuments and physical treasures and ‘Treasures of Humanity’ for people and intangibles. I am reminded that the pizza of the Neapolitan pizza makers is UNESCO heritage.
This classification must then be perceived as a ‘common good’ by younger residents who must imagine that they can build businesses around the exploitation of these assets. This may include the management of a palace, a park but also the creation of a musical festival, a theatre among the monuments, a walkway and finally the classic food and wine festivals where, importantly, the culture of wine and food must prevail.
To do this in a short time and to succeed in attracting several generations at the same time we have to enter at the level of elementary and middle schools (in this way we attract not only the young but also parents and grandparents) and encourage the creation and development of local associations to reach even that generation that has not yet started a family.
This second step ends with the organization of events and experiences. A sort of small tourist package of varying duration: from one hour to two or more days. The real secret of success is love by the promoter of the activity. The uniqueness of a tourist experience is given by the scope of the emotions it receives that have a strong human component.
I have personally seen cases of farms (agriturismos) that are always full and over-booked thanks to the level of kindness and attention by the managers that is transmitted directly, on the web and on social networks.
At this point the first three words are communication, communication, communication. One of the most common mistakes is that small businesses consider communication a cost and not an investment and this ‘clips their wings’.
It is clear that, with the decline of the reputation and role of the major newspapers, the web has been populated by many bloggers, influencers and associations and it is difficult to understand what choice to make that can lead to maximum return on investment.
It is also true that the web is always more expensive than imagined and if on the one hand technology has now very affordable prices (you can build a basic site with a few hundred euros), the quality of the contents has become more and more important. Edu-tainment writing for the web (at the same time information and entertainment) requires experience, information processing skills and above all the knowledge of at least two languages (normally English +) to attract international interest, and the ability to relate and communicate with other cultures.
In general it is advisable to follow a road with a two levels. On the one hand, become involved in portals where tourist experiences and offers are highlighted and sold with a percentage retained by the portal. On the other hand, prepare contents in at least two languages that can build the proponent’s reputation on your own site.
Let’s take a concrete example and let’s look from the side of the traveller who has many sites that offer him experiences, travel and more. How can you know whether the proposition satisfies his expectations? The traveller searches for the reputation of the proponent on the web: a description of the person, of the activity of the town and of what the area around offers.
Portals of this type are arising but they require long preparation time for contents, their loading according to SEO logic, and patience to become known. If you do not have your own website in English or if you want to reach a large audience, you should rely on portals that sell services but also on portals that have a good reputation such as discoverplaces.travel.