Redazione Open Innovation
Italy is a major worldwide tourist destination. It is, in fact, a sector that plays a distinctive role, both as an expression of the country's image and in terms of the weight it has on the national economy (tourism alone accounts for around 12% of GDP).
In 2020, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector suffered a severe blow due to a reduction in arrivals in our country by more than 50% compared to the previous year.
The revitalisation of this sector is therefore strategic for the national economy.
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (henceforth NRRP), under Mission 1 Component 3 “Tourism and Culture 4.0”, deals with this issue with a series of specific measures to revive the economic sectors of culture and tourism included. Specifically, EUR 6.68 billion was allocated to this component (EUR 2.4 billion of the NRRP resources were entrusted to the management of the Ministry of Tourism for Investment 4: “Tourism 4.0”).
The planned investments are aimed at improving tourist accommodation and service facilities, upgrading and improving the standards of supply. The aim is to promote a tourism offer based on environmental sustainability, innovation and digitisation of services, while attempting to reduce the effects of “overtourism” by creating alternative and integrated routes to all the country's regions.
Sustainable tourism in Lombardy
The Lombardy Region plays a fundamental role in promoting tourism at a local level, enhancing knowledge of territorial excellence, beauty, specialities and traditions. In particular, the Region supports the relaunch of the accommodation offer in Lombardy with its regional calls and contributions, and proposes an innovative approach to attractiveness by identifying territorial marketing as an element of development and, through sustainability, as a springboard capable of enhancing the beauty of the landscape, culture and food and wine of the territory.
For example, the “Ognigiorno inLombardia” (Everyday in Lombardy) measure, intended for public or private entities in non-entrepreneurial form and entities in entrepreneurial form, allocates EUR 4 million for the two-year period 2022-23 to support events and initiatives to promote tourism in the territories and to enhance the typical artistic, historical, scenic and food and wine treasures. This is done by encouraging projects that propose events and initiatives that are attractive to tourists for the promotion of Lombardy's destinations.
With a view to promoting more sustainable and responsible tourism, a trend that is becoming increasingly popular in Lombardy is “slow tourism”.
It is a new approach that focuses on details and takes the tourist on a journey of discovery of hidden places, different cultures and local products. Travelling 'slow' allows you to experience your adventure in a more sustainable way, in stark contrast to the hectic pace of everyday life and with full respect for the surrounding environment.
Lombardy has much to offer when it comes to this type of tourism. One thinks of short supply chain products, the so-called “Km0 products”, which are becoming increasingly popular also thanks to the numerous markets scattered throughout the territory, such as Coldiretti's Campagna Amica markets. This approach also includes the use of public or zero-impact means of transport, such as bike sharing, which is widespread in the city of Milan. These means of transport facilitate the so-called “slow journey”, which allows one to enjoy the landscape even while travelling. Finally, throughout Lombardy, certified low environmental impact, “sustainable accommodation” facilities are widespread, such as the Valtidone Verde Farmhouse (Valtidoneverde.it), where particular attention is paid to energy saving and the use of renewable energy, through the installation of photovoltaic and thermo-solar panels, water saving and the production of typical local products such as jams produced at the hotel's organic farm.
Other forms of sustainable tourism
The current trend towards proximity and sustainable tourism, in the wake of the pandemic and the travel ban imposed by the repeated lockdowns, has prompted tour operators to expand the traditional offer by leveraging digital technologies to extend the tourist experience before and after the trip. This trend is known as “neverending tourism”, detected and analysed for the first time in 2021 by the Digital Innovation in Tourism Observatory at the Polytechnic University of Milan.
The first start-up in Italy to implement this new philosophy is Vivila (Viviladmc.com), which enables the matching of demand and supply of virtual experiences and typical products of neverending tourism, which is more engaging and sustainable.
Offering products and services that invite people to explore new places can be a source of inspiration for the consumer and represents an interesting opportunity for the renaissance of Italian territories outside the major tourist hubs. The intrigued customer may decide to buy a workshop or a course and may later choose to book a trip that takes them physically to the place that the digital experience has introduced them to.
The role of data
This is the context for PolisEye, an industrial research project financed by the POR-FESR Emilia-Romagna 2014-2020 funds and by the Fund for Development and Cohesion within the Intelligent Specialisation Strategy (S3).
It is the first web platform to optimise tourist flows in Emilia-Romagna to support decision-making in the field of tourism, offering local administrators and operators a tool to guarantee the quality and sustainability of activities related to the wine and food, excursion and tourism/cultural sectors in the region.
The example of the village of Dozza is emblematic. This medieval historical centre in the province of Bologna, one of the one hundred “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, attracts many tourists every year to participate in typical local events, such as the wine festival, the permanent exhibition and the new biennial painted wall festival.
Dozza, like many Italian municipalities, does not have adequate tools to monitor and manage a fast-growing cultural tourism such as village tourism. Now, thanks to the Polis-Eye project, a network of sensors has been installed to collect data that can support local administrators in better managing the organisation of events and have more precise data on the flow of tourists, while at the same time helping to increase visitor loyalty and rationalise the management of resources employed.
In addition, sustainable tourism is part of the broader concept of Tourism 4.0, which in turn encompasses the concept of digital tourism, also promoted by the NRRP.
In fact, if on the one hand users are looking for tourist proposals that have a low environmental impact, both in the choice of destination and in the method of travel, on the other hand tour operators are adopting new technologies that increase the energy efficiency of facilities and use green management practices.
Environmental sustainability is becoming a relevant criterion that increasingly conditions the choices of tourists and operators alike. Added to this is the high degree of technological innovation of the tourism proposals: read more about this “Tourism 4.0: digital development accelerated by the NRRP”, in the Open Lombardia Next Generation section of this platform.
Opportunities in the sector for start-ups
Important opportunities for start-ups in the tourism sector are arriving from the Ministry of Tourism.
For example, the Ministry recently launched the Innovation Network, a network of collaborations with operators in the innovation ecosystem, with the aim of co-designing and developing Acceleration Programmes aimed at innovative start-ups in the tourism sector.
Start-ups, through these Programmes proposed by individual Operators with the participation of the Ministry, will be able to apply for access to a system of high value-added services, funding and opportunities. These can be useful for the validation and growth of their business project.
Within the framework of these Acceleration Programmes, the Ministry of Tourism can provide non-repayable grants - amounting to EUR 25,000 - to start-ups wishing to engage in projects to develop emerging technologies, new business models, and innovative solutions.
The first national call for the identification of high-impact start-ups in the tourism sector was also launched. The Ministry's requirements for the disbursement of the non-repayable grant are indicated via this link.
You can apply for the call using the following link.