Sustainable tourism gains ground in Italy

The travel and tourism industry in Italy is slowly incorporating “green” practices. Most notably, hotels are attempting to reduce carbon emissions by exploring alternative sources of energy and by empowering guests to conserve energy, recycle and cut down on litter.

The Italian government and industry players are increasingly aware that sustainable tourism will become the only possible tourism model in medium-to-long term. Consumers are also becoming more aware of sustainable tourism issues and practices and they are increasingly demanding eco-friendly products.

Eco-tourism gains ground

Sustainable tourism in Italy mainly means eco-tourism, a trend that benefited in 2009 from the growing concerns about preserving the environment and supporting sustainable development. Eco-tourism in Italy focuses mainly on local rural cultures which are uniformly present over the whole national territory, and on the preservation of fauna and flora.

From 2009, an entirely eco-friendly holiday proposal is offered by the Alto Adige province. The Siusi Alps began an integrated environmental programme to preserve the Sciliar plateau. Traffic is limited between 9.00 and 17.00 when the Siusi Alps can only be reached by cable or bus while almost all public transport vehicles are run on methane throughout the region. Hotels are eco-sustainable and the wine and food offered to guests is, as much as possible, “zero kilometres” (local).

Preservation of local cultures and traditions

The preservation of local cultural factors and the revival of traditions were other emerging tourism industry trends in the last decade in Italy, often promoted by the government. This trend is linked to the protection of geographic denominations of food types such as cheese, wine and ham.

Sustainable tourism initiatives in Italy focus primarily on the promotion of lesser-known areas around the country, away from the most popular regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Tuscany, Campania and Emilia Romagna.

In 2009, Sicily headed the inter-regional “green” tourism project that sees, for example, a heritage train service in the natural reserves of the region. According to the Regional Tourism Councillor, Nino Strano, “Green tourism will become an important economic resource for Sicily”.

This project, created to develop the territory and its traditions through the rediscovery of the unique features of the natural areas of the regions involved, provides for joint inter-regional activities and specific local activities, with a whole series of events that seek to promote the parks and reserves in the regions.

Substantial national and European investments

The key challenge for the Italian government in the medium-to-long term is to increase the number of eco-tourists while investing in “green” spaces in towns, restoring historic buildings and creating the infrastructure in rural areas which are being promoted. The benefits of such activity, however, will only be seen in the medium term.

Sustainable tourism will occupy a growing role in Italy in the forecast period. For example, in 2009 Apulia invested EUR50 million in tourism, to renovate the accommodation infrastructure in the region and improve its tourism offer, thereby making it more competitive in international markets: a key requirement for the financing of tourist projects was their sustainability.

Tuscany is also going to play an important role in this tourism segment following the approval of the “Sustainable and Competitive Tuscany Tourism” project. The project is the first attempt to implement in Italy the European Agenda for Sustainable and Competitive Tourism of 2007.

The objective of this European programme is to preserve the environmental and historic balance that constitutes the added value of the European tourism offer, based on sustainability and competitiveness models that are shared at European level.

Tuscany can play an important role in the creation of a new, sustainable and competitive tourism offer through its numerous tourism destinations. These include destinations that are widely popular and which, as a result, are particularly exposed to environmental risks.