At the end of 2019, I was one of 25 international tourism and conservation professionals selected to take part in the first edition of the Winter Academy for Tourism Management for UNESCO sites in Natural Areas (T.UN.NA), held in Trento and the Dolomites World Heritage Sites in northern Italy.
This week-long training, packed with several site visits around the Dolomites as well as practical sessions run by managers of Protected Areas from all over Europe, was designed to share expertise in tackling unbalanced tourism development and to discuss effective strategies to drive the change towards more sustainable future. Thanks to a unique mix of knowledgeable, passionate and inspiring people from various fields – nature conservation, forestry, sustainable tourism, destination management and marketing, heritage management, mountaineering – it was a huge success.
The Co-paradigm Manifesto
I wrote a longer article about T.UN.NA’s people, programme and achievements for the responsible tourism portal Travindy. Here, I’d like to share our “Co-” paradigm Manifesto, written at the end of the Academy, to summarize our work and describe the management model for designing more sustainable tourism in natural areas. It is based on the principles that conserving the diversity of life on Earth is critical to global human welfare, and that tourism has been developed on the wrong paradigm based on economy of scale that proved to be unsustainable. The “Co-” paradigm means the much-needed joint decision making and collaboration between the interested parties, co-generation of values and ideas, joint contribution, joint learning. It also means that all parties take ownership but also responsibility for this co-design, co-management, and sharing the benefits.
The Manifesto and the current coronavirus crisis
It is incredible how our Manifesto resonates with all the recent calls to rethink tourism in light of the coronavirus pandemic. To re-evaluate, redesign, reorganise, repurpose, as things can’t, and should not go back to ‘normal’. This is a fascinating topic for a whole seperate post – now I am just sharing the Manifesto to hopefully make the reader ponder on all the exciting changes and opportunities ahead.
T.UN.NA 2019 Manifesto
The ‘’Co-‘’ paradigm
The experience of T.UN.NA reaffirms the concept that Nature and Landscape protection and conservation is paramount to address current and future global challenges. This confirms the UNESCO commitment on the World Heritage Convention’s principles, stating that conserving the diversity of life on Earth is critical to global human welfare. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two. T.UN.NA experience has also confirmed that tourism has been developed on the wrong paradigm based on economy of scale that proved to be unsustainable. A shift from increasing tourist numbers into higher quality experiences is necessary.
Considering the above, at the end of the learning experience the participants to the T.UN.NA Academy 2019 agreed on these common principles to inspire and to provide guidance to natural sites managers in designing and implementing effective actions for a more balanced sustainable development and management of tourism in natural areas. Overall, these principles ground on the “Co-” paradigm: this is the key concept for both tourism development and wellbeing of residents, of local business and tourists, as well as protection and conservation of nature and landscape.
(The principles are not listed according to order of importance)
- [ Co-decision] The scarcity of resources and the needs of the local community shall guide the decision-making process on tourism development.
- [ Co-ownership] Policy-makers must engage local communities and other stakeholders to establish an enduring pact on which to build the tourism development strategy that is meaningful and relevant to them, reflecting and respecting the local identities and heritage.
- [ Co-responsibility] Responsibility and knowledge (both academic and common knowledge) need to be shared and widespread among communities and stakeholders to raise the awareness of shared benefits and build trust for sustainable tourism in natural sites.
- [ Co-contribution] A better understanding of shared and relevant benefits and, consequently, the co-contribution to sustainable development, enables the principle of a co-paradigm creating a sense of personal and collective responsibility.
- [ Co-learning] Tourism management in natural areas should aim at building a tourism offer not just centred on mere entertainment but on transformative learning experiences co-created with the local communities.
- [ Co-design and co-creation] It is paramount to match the needs of local communities and the expectations of visitors in a circular process of social investment based on mutual respect. Stewardship may be an effective tool for transforming the nature-based tourism towards a future-proof development.
- [ Co-management] Monitoring & Evaluation shall guide the action of destination managers and travel and tourism stakeholders by setting limits and adopting parameters – such as the ecological footprint – in order to make tourists and local communities aware of their impact on the territory.
- [ Co-operation] Tourism policy in natural areas – based on an effective multi-level governance that involves all stakeholders in planning and decision-making – has to be based on sharing benefits and to address present and future generations’ needs.
The full article on TUUNA on Travindy: