ITALY (eTN) – The European Commission in 2006 launched the pilot project EDEN (European Destination of ExcelleNce) to start promoting smaller cities, far from mass tourism, where the objectives of economic growth are in harmony with social sustainability, as well as cultural and environmental tourism. Every year a destination of the member state is selected as an example of good practice in support of sustainable tourism.
With this initiative, the commission intends to: increase the visibility of European tourist destinations, raise awareness of the diversity and quality of European tourism, promote all European regions, facilitate the decongestion of tourists and seasonal adjustment, create a platform for exchange of best practices, promote networking among the chosen destination, and encourage other destinations to improve models for sustainable development.
For the first edition, the theme “Emerging Rural Destinations” was chosen, and Italy was selected for the Municipality of Specchia (Lecce). The second edition was devoted to the theme “Tourism and local intangible heritage,” and Italy was selected for the City of Corinaldo (Ancona). The third edition (2009) was devoted to the theme “Tourism and Protected Areas,” for which the marine-protected area “Peninsula of Sinis – Isola di Mal di Ventre, (Island of Tummy Ache) in Sardinia (Italy) was selected. For the fourth edition (2010), the theme “Tourism Water” has been chosen.
The National Evaluation Committee has selected the City of Monte Isola, Lake Iseo, for this fourth edition, which will receive the official recognition by the European Commission at the European Day of Tourism, to be held in Brussels in late September 2010.
The selection of the Italian minor cities is made in Italy by a National Evaluation Committee, chaired by the Department for Development and Competitiveness of the Tourism Council Presidency and composed by the administrations and bodies concerned.
On the occasion of the EDEN Project Award Ceremony held at Villa Madama, Rome, July 2010, the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Michela Vittoria Brambilla, said:
“The last quarter of 2009 has reversed the negative trend in the world that characterized the development of the tourism industry due to the global crisis. The first four months of 2010 confirmed the positive [trend] (7 percent on average in more arrivals according to UNWTO barometer), albeit with different growth rates, the highest in the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific, [and] more limited in Europe.”
Ms. Brambilla stressed that Europe must remain the “tourism superpower” that it is, with 370 million international arrivals and a world market share of just above 40 percent, which positions itself as the first destination in the world. UNWTO forecasts for 2020 confirm this leadership and even suggest an increase in market share to 45 percent.
“Following the guidelines issued in the European Tourism Conference in Madrid, we praise the committee proposals of 21 measures, grouped in four main areas: competitiveness, development of sustainable tourism, strengthening the image of Europe as a destinations of high quality, [and] the inclusion of tourism policies within the financial instruments of the European Union,” said Ms. Brambilla, and specified that the Italian government is committed to building an effective link at the European level to promote the competitiveness of its territories and keep the growing competition at bay.
“The ‘European label,’ a common brand proposed by the commission, should be a trademark of quality that distinguishes the best destinations in Europe and integrates the promotional effort of the ‘System Italy,’ of which we Italians have much to say,” stated Ms. Brambilla.
“Italy should commit to promot[ing] effective synergies of the destinations not only on the major third markets but also within our continent. We would have the opportunity to study and develop community programs for various tourism typologies to facilitate the stay of tourists in the European Union according to a seasonal adjustment and decongestion of the hotel system [and] boost along with the marketing of new inter-European products of transnational routes,” Ms. Brambilla continued.
An essential move should include attracting tourists from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) found among millions of new middle-class travelers, who – given the distances involved – are more likely inclined to plan a “trip to Europe rather then to Italy or to France or Spain.” With this in mind, last year the “European passion to travel” was created as the draft joint promotion of the three major European destinations (Italy, France, and Spain), which alone represents 170 million international arrivals.
“We may also expand the existing type of tourism, highlighting the diversity of each region, and, even more, alternative[s] to the known destinations. The pilot project EDEN will be of invaluable help,” said Brambilla.
Another major line of action is dictated by demographic trends observed in Europe and ensuing tourist behavior. In 2020, 20 percent of the European population will be over sixty-five years of age. This represents a potential of visitors who have a strong purchasing power and ample leisure time – a great opportunity for the European market, provided that the offer can adapt to specific needs of the demand. Examples of these specific needs would include the requirements dictated by reduced mobility and the mechanisms between states that allow certain groups (elderly, as well as young people) to travel at reasonable prices, particularly during low season.
“Equally important, with regard to trade, will be the promotion of contacts between European operators and general learning experiences for employees and employers in the sector. All of this, of course, requires not only goodwill but also adequate funding. In addition to ensuring the use of current programs until 2013, it is hoped that the European Union (EU) can do more in the subsequent years and provide specific tools to support the tourism industry,” concluded Ms. Brambilla.