CROSSDEV actions in the Mediterranean: local communities and respect for all kinds of heritage
CROSSDEV aim is to promote a sustainable tourism in the Mediterranean, increasing attractiveness of less known destinations, contributing to the economic and social development of these specific areas, as advocated by the ENI CBC MED Programme.
CoopCulture, one of CROSSDEV partner, is part of AITR, an Italian Association dedicated to widespread responsible and sustainable tourism, an inspiration for the purposes of the CROSSDEV project.
We did a short interview with Maurizio Davolio, president of the Association.
Mr. Davolio, tell us a bit about AITR.
“Our association was born in 1998, after three years of reflections on tourism, its problems, its "pathologies"; our idea was to propose a form of tourism that could respect the natural environment, the cultural heritage, the territories that are visited, the populations that live there.
We shared a basic idea, that the local community is sovereign in the choices that affect its social and economic life and that this sovereignty must also be recognised with regards to the development of tourism.
Tourists must take note of locals' choices and adapt to them. When you go to someone else's home, you must respect customs and traditions, beliefs, lifestyles. It is not the local community that has to adapt to tourists, but the other way round. Tourists pay to receive quality services, but do not become owners of a territory.”
Why did you chose the adjective "responsible" for you association?
“When AITR was born there were uncertainties about the denomination. Many other words were on the plate: ethical, solidarity, aware tourism... When we opted for the term "responsible" is was not used by anyone.
Today, the term "responsible tourism" is found in many documents of the World Tourism Organisation, the European Union and its member states, in the Masterplans of many countries around the world; differences in meaning are perceived, but in substance there is agreement on the fundamental features of the concept of responsible tourism.
Today, it is very frequent that the tourism development policies of States, Regions and Cities are inspired at least formally by the principles of sustainable and responsible tourism; tourism companies, hotel chains, cruise lines, tour operators and airlines also often use this terminology to define their products and services, however attention must be paid to the correspondence between what is written and declared and what is actually practiced. It may happen that these are choices dictated purely by considerations of convenience, by commercial opportunism and image, the so-called "green washing".
For this reason, AITR no longer limits itself to spreading the principles of responsible tourism but also takes care of their defence against improper and opportunistic uses.”
Are there other organisations dedicated to spreading the ideas and principles of responsible tourism?
"Yes, being such an important issue, there are similar organisations in other countries, but AITR differs in three aspects: for the variety of its members (travel organisers, non-governmental organisations, cooperatives that manage accommodation or tourist services, publishers, cultural and environmental associations, an association of Municipalities etc.); secondly, AITR considers the principles of responsible tourism as universal and not limited to the South of the World; thirdly, AITR is in touch with the conventional tourism industry and advocates to encourage approaches to the principles and rules of responsible tourism.
In other countries, organisations that deal with responsible tourism are mostly made up of travel organisers only, they deal only with travel in the southern hemisphere, they have no relationship with the rest of the tourism industry, which they often consider hopeless.”
Thank you Maurizio for you time and commitment in all these years!
“My pleasure. Congratulations for your cross-border project in the spirit of responsible tourism.”
Want to know more about this topic? Read this: Tourism must be a tool, not a goal