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An exclusive ItaliAbsolutely interview with Univerde Foundation President Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio

Friday, 08 July 2022 12:08

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio President of Univerde Foundation, former Italian Minister of Agriculture, and of the Environment, weighs up the drive towards sustainability and how digital technology is impacting tourism in Italy.  


Mass tourism drives big numbers, but how can it be steered towards sustainability? 

First and foremost through education, there is no such thing as sustainable tourism without a responsible tourist.  

Secondly we have to incentivize, and thirdly we need to seriously punish offenders when things go wrong, like the tourist who pockets a piece of Pompeii, or scribbles on the Coliseum.

The EU has invested heavily in eco-digital transition. How is this working in Italy?

Resources have been allocated intelligently, but there is still much to be done. Eco-digital technologies must be better used to encourage sustainable tourism.  For example, giving alerts when a destination is overcrowded - don't go to Positano today because there are a thousand boats docked. The mass tourist does not like being a mass tourist, he finds himself as one. So if we can help him understand that an area is off-limits at certain times, then we can reduce the annoyance for him, and the impact on local communities.  

You spoke of the need for certifying green offers. Do tourism players see this as a threat or a salvation?  

Those who do things seriously will see it as a positive thing, those who on the contrary have other objectives, who prefer to remain in a grey area, have no interest in certification.  We have to involve the big players. If the big companies choose to work only with certified setups, then there will be a chain reaction and everyone will seek certification. There are many successful examples, take Jesolo  (a popular seaside resort town on the Romagna Riviera. Ed) where many beach establishments are already safety and sustainably certified. The problem is to progressively make it a national standard.   

The planned reform of beach concessions could jeopardise years of investments by small businesses. What is happening?  

This proposal has been very badly handled. Italy has not been able to make regulations that distinguish between those who speculate - at the cost of the community - and family businesses that for years have also been maintaining the coastline.  Now we must ensure that these family-run concerns are protected, and I hope that in the new calls for tenders there will be greater attention to social and environmental issues.  Italy has a great tradition of hospitality, we are a quality tourist destination, but we do need to further improve the level of services. For example to achieve higher levels of sustainability beach establishments should all be running on solar energy. I made the solar law 15 years ago in 2007 when this idea was first launched.  

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