From our correspondent Fabrizio Lodi
NICOTERA (VV) - Tourist? No. Traveller? Better. Guest? Yes. This is the right word to describe the concept of hospitality according to the organizers of the fourth edition of the Festival of Hospitality, which took place where the Mediterranean Diet was born, Nicotera (in the province of Vibo Valentia), from 28 to 30 September.
Location of the event is the elegant cloister of Nicotera’s Town Hall, which included the participation of those working in the tourist sector, both alternative and classic, those that are simply curious on the topic, and students.
As written by the organizers themselves, “the Festival wants to create a chance of meeting in which to discuss and reflect on the profound changes of two concepts that are today changing quickly: territory and hospitality”.
We started from the situation in Calabria to then talk about the modern developments in the tourism sector in the world.
First of all, the meeting reiterated a concept that often we at Vacanzattiva have emphasized: having a beautiful sea and beach is not enough. Indeed someone even suggested, during the debate, that seaside tourism in Calabria is in decline. Crystal clear waters are not enough: the region needs the ability to intercept new trends, to be flexible and reactive, to adapt, and at the same time to change without distorting itself.
If this were not true, if the beauty of the sea was the only thing that made a difference, the beaches of Rimini and the entire coast of Romagna would be deserted...
However, Calabria finds in its biodiversity both an asset and a liability. Mountains, valleys, streams, natural parks, ancient villages, culture, food and wine... These are all elements inherent in the DNA of this region, and characteristics that until now have been almost forgotten and that instead will have to become the protagonists of a new tourism sector if the region wants to put an end to the exodus of young people and tourists that are fleeing the area.
In this regard, significantly chilling is the fact that, when one of the speakers asked the students of a hospitality-oriented school attending the conference how many of them saw their future in their homeland, nobody – not one – raised their hand. Everyone thinks of a future elsewhere.
As mentioned above, this great wealth and land diversity also represents a problem linked to the routes of communication, and to travel itself. From this point of view, indeed, Calabria is a difficult region – an example is the train that took me from Rome to Lamezia Terme in over five hours. To get to Milan, instead, it takes less than half the time... And even the internal mountain roads are not often easy to ‘digest’.
To solve such problems, it is ideas and entrepreneurial skills that are needed.
The hope for this land comes from young people like Angelo Carchidi (urban and cultural designer), Roberta Caruso (founder of Home 4 Creativity), Francesco Biacca (founder of Evermind) who with courage, desire to create, and ideas are trying to change things.
It takes courage to organize a festival in a town that has been put under external administration for many years due to infiltrations by the Mafia. It takes willpower and tenacity to convince operators, specialists, and authorities to get there. It takes an attentive eye on the world of tourism to intercept new trends and apply them to the area.
The most heartfelt applause of our Network goes to them. We hope that the local administrations will be good enough, keeping pace with them and see the world with their eyes or we will witness for the umpteenth time the painful waste of Italian talent.
Prologue to the Festival was Tour Calabria Ispirata, which brought journalists and professionals in contact with cultural, entrepreneurial, food and wine, and accommodation experiences that represent some of the strong points of the area.
One of our Destination Managers, Giancarlo Dell'Orco, was with them and this link leads to the article telling his experience.
Here then is a summary of some of the themes touched during the three days of the Festival, the programme of which was full (perhaps too much so) of speeches, ideas, sharing.
Roberta Caruso (founder of Home 4 Creativity) and Alberto Mattei (Online Publisher and Freelance Consultant for Online Communication) talked about Cohousing, a new trend linked more to the traveller than to the classic tourist. It is aimed at people who want to immerse themselves in a given reality, in a territory, for a time that can sometimes exceed 12 months. It is about sharing with others, strangers, a space in which to live, eat, work...
The main audience is usually that of the “digital nomads”, i.e. those who can do their work from remote, using a computer and a fast Internet connection.
These are people that, as evidenced by the association’s experience, may be interested in experiencing for a while the peaceful life of villages full of history and traditions, living and enjoying a real ‘melting pot’ experience. Without a doubt, this is an interesting sector destined to grow since “Workations” in 2035 will concern one billion people.
We also talked about courage in dealing with the cancer of the Ndrangheta: A good example was the redevelopment of a building taken from the crime gang after a number of legal battles which now houses a hostel called “Locride”, fully functional and currently expanding. A story with a happy ending, therefore, told by Valeria Bellantoni (responsible for the GOEL communication office - Cooperative Group).
Moreover, many speakers, such as Fabio Badolato (Director of GT Revenue), Cristina Giudice (hotel manager) and Paolo Baraldi (from our Vacanzattiva network), while discussing different themes (ranging from traditional accommodation facilities to the best use of the web and social media to widen tourist flows), underlined how important it is to network, creating interconnected systems that allow a rapid exchange of information and an equal opportunity for growth for all those involved, giving them the possibility to be stronger in the face of the giants of the tourism sector.
Experiential tourism is absolutely one of the ways to go not least because it is a sector that allows, among other things, to de-seasonalize the tourist influx in Calabria, which otherwise lasts a maximum of one and a half months.
In this regard, speakers gave the example of the Hiking Trail “San Francesco di Paola” (speakers were Vincenzo Astorino, architect and chairman of the Appennino Paolano hikers and Alessandro Mantuano, engineer and environmental guide for AIGAE hiking), of the experiment by the Gargano Tour association in Puglia (speakers were the photographer Giuseppe Bruno and Domenico Sergio Antonacci, working in the cultural heritage and tourism sector), of the renovation of the ‘jazzi’ and other abandoned places (speaker was Liviano Mariella, independent researcher), of the Tuscan food and wine experience by tour operator De Gustibus, presented by Tommaso Ciabini, which is now also evolving in sidecar outings.
Another three-day leitmotiv, instead, concerned the best possible use of social media and SEO optimization to create flows of interest towards a specific destination or a certain activity. For example, Portugal’s strategy was highlighted, which has managed to climb to top positions and gain visibility through an accurate Internet communication strategy. Giovanni Cerminara, an expert in the sector, focused on the best techniques to use in Web Marketing, aimed at accommodation facilities.
Social media were frequently mentioned, and in particular Ken Curatola and Mariarita Sciarrone, both regional managers for IGERS Calabria, drew guidelines on the best use of Instagram (for example, did you know that an influencer can improve the success of a tourist destination up to 33%?).
Other very important topics were those related to the marketing of an area, of which the journalists Debora Calomino and Claudio Pizzigallo spoke about, and of destination reputation, discussed by Raffaele Rio, president of the Demoskopika institute.
And we're leaving out a lot more...
In short, the topics covered were endless. Perhaps, as I mentioned above, too many too. The Festival of Hospitality is a true cauldron of ideas, a still-naive feel that must be refined but it is certainly a space open to those who have ears to listen and an open mind to understand and move forward, escaping the stereotypes of a type of tourism that is slowly dying.