Art&Tourism: relaunching culture in Italy and throughout the world

We need a real Copernican revolution in the relationship between development and culture.

Art&Tourism: relaunching culture in Italy and throughout the world

We need a real Copernican revolution in the relationship between development and culture. Cultural assets and the whole world of knowledge must cease to be considered burdensome unproductive goods like “leftovers from a glorious past,” which have to be maintained and must once again become crucial for the consolidation of a public democratic concerns, for real growth, and for the creation of jobs” – this point of view was expressed in the now famous Manifesto per la cultura published by “Sole 24 Ore,” and it is in this context that Art&Tourism takes its place.

This will be the first event in the world entirely dedicated to cultural tourism. This is a viewpoint that wants art and culture to be repositioned in the place they rightly deserve, or better, at the center, not only of debate, but also of the economy and people’s daily lives, not merely for intellectual reasons for the adoption of a certain position, but because the cultural, artistic, and archaeological heritage of Italy (and the same argument could be made for other countries) is an economic resource of primary importance. “Culture and research trigger innovation and, therefore, create employment, bring about progress and development,” continues the Sole 24 Ore, starting off from the argument of article 9 of the Italian constitution that “promotes cultural development and scientific and technical research” and “safeguards the natural beauty and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation.”

But then numbers do not lie, above all in the tourist sector. According to a recent study by the “Osservatorio Nationale del Turismo” (November 2011), “the trend is for shorter but more frequent trips throughout the year, a greater tendency to take ‘active’ holidays, the popularity of integrated themed itineraries (culture, eno-gastromony, events), and alternative ways of organizing a holiday linked to new technologies (mobile telephone applications, integrated cards, 2.0 web) mean that cultural tourism is one of the products which have escaped the crises of recent years.” Data concerning the growth of this type of tourism in Italy is highly significant. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) adds that Italy’s ranking as the most sought-after destination in absolute values is confirmed thanks to its immense historical-artistic heritage, for its high levels of awareness at an international level, and the attractions connected to the values of Italian style. Culture is certainly one of the main reasons travelers from all over the world are motivated to visit Italy. According to the World Tourism Organization, Italy is the fifth destination in terms of arrivals from international tourism. The data from the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Activities indicate an increase in the first half of 2011 of 9.6 percent in visitors to state-owned cultural sites, reaching more than 20 million entrances compared with 2010.”

Yet despite all of this, institutions still seem to pay insufficient attention to art and cultural tourism: “Culture – again according to Il Sole 24 Ore – must return to be the main focus of action of the government, of the whole of the government and not just one minister who is usually a Cinderella.” And in this respect, too, Art&Tourism shows a clear change in direction with respect to the past, since it is not only the first fair which is entirely dedicated to cultural tourism but also an appointment which can boast the support from many quarters, including important official institutions: the Present of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry for Regional Affairs, Tourism and Sport and the Ministry for Cultural and the Environment, the Committee of the Regions and the Region of Tuscany, and the Province and Local government of Florence.

The Medici city itself, world capital of cultural tourism, has not been chosen by chance as the host of Art&Tourism, and this is one of the strengths of the event, which is also part of a wider discussion linked to the trends of this type of toursim. “The flows of tourists to our art cities,” emphasizes the WTO research study, “play a fundament role in the economy of those cities. Metropolitan areas, as well as small- and medium-sized cities focus on a renewal of their tourist and cultural offer when drawing up development models with the objective of attracting visitors and tourists. Findings from the Osservatorio Nazionale del Turismo, show that in first half of 2011 of the 15.6 million Italians on the move, 38.6 percent chose a destination of historical-artistic interest, either Italian or foreign, which makes it the top tourist product with an increase of almost one percentage point with respect to the same period in 2010.”

These numbers can only serve to confirm what the columnist of “Corriere della Sera” Sergio Rizzo said last year in a book he co-authored with Gian Antonio Stella on the waste in the cultural and tourist sector in Italy: the cultural heritage of our county “should be our petrol, should be our gas, our diamonds, our raw materials are these wonders that we have inherited.”

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