A reflection on how Covid 19 has upset tourism around the world and how it will forever change the way we travel: more authentic, more intimate, more useful. A trend that Ecoluxury insighted 10 years ago, a great renewed opportunity to review our business model and create new value chains, co-sharing resources and objectives.
BEFORE AND AFTER COVID 19
After 15 years, since I started the Ecoluxury project the world of eco-sustainable tourism has deeply changed. I have always been convinced that tourism is an extraordinary driver of global economic growth that can offer great opportunities to many people around the world. But Tourism is also perceived as a strongly impacting phenomenon on the most beautiful places of the world, linked linked to a crowding rate that is irreconcilable with the pleasure of traveling; a concentration of obsolete economic models that are struggling to evolve. Until February 2020 Overtourism was the problem and to fix a “closed number of tourists” the solution for art cities like Rome and Venice. Today they seem ideas and projects light years away!
Creating over the years a world collection of eco-sustainable accommodations and "laboratories", networking their environmental and cultural conservation projects, spreading the innovative visions of their owners and managers, let me understand the potential and benefits of new Value Proposition and Business Models for tour operators and destinations. Thanks the Ecoluxury website and our travel agencies’ network we offers them visibility and a good number of bookings, having more and more customers asking for Ecoluxury proposals. It seems they don’t care to pay something extra, being aware about the quality and the authenticity of the products we suggest. Customers are happy to help the local community and to contribute to the uniqueness protection of the destination visited: from the sale to the project.
Behind every structure of the Ecoluxury collection there are visionary owners, their teams, their history and the history of the territory in which they live. People who experiment, educate, train new generations, investing time and resources to correct mistakes and improve their performance. That's why we call them laboratories, expression of that Sustainability, so trendy now, fundamental to control the environmental and socio-economic impact on the territory. They are "Eco" for their conservation projects, and "luxury" because they are niche: exclusive and small accommodation facilities, with little impact in terms of tourist flows and more agile to correct and evolve management processes. But above all luxury, to guarantee a sufficient incomes to be reinvested in the projects themselves or to stabilize them financially over time. A trend that started about twenty years ago and is increasingly growing where the model is based on the fact that if I protect the territory in which I have invested, where I built the hotel, the protection action becomes a multiplier of the value invested.
In 2018 and 2019 we organized Ecoluxury Fair, a meeting between Ecoluxury hoteliers and travel agencies. An opportunity to take stock of the new challenges of the tourism industry, how the niches of excellence can help to spread the new models of development, Italy as an ideal laboratory both as customers and as operators.
This is true for the niche, but what has really changed in the world in broader terms? We continue to prefer drilling rather than protecting the environment, carbon dioxide continues to increase steadily, the disparity between rich and poor countries has increased, the struggle for water, land, seas followed by destruction, wars, social and environmental disasters, food emergencies and waste are on the rise. All this because it is simply more profitable. But Covid-19 is the consequence of all this.
With the advent of Covid-19 the reduction of carbon emissions has been evident and this instead of boosting the Green Economy has produced even more skepticism. The intrinsic message is very frightening: "Is it not that to see clean the water of Venice, the Gulf of Naples, the Po, the Rhone, etc.. everything has to stop? To see the clean skies from the satellite, from home, from the plane do we have to give up to all the positive conquests achieved so far?
Common sense and moderation. The great news is that the European Community has decided to put the environment and the reduction of polluting emissions at the center of the policies of the next decades, changing the production models. The President Ursula Von der Leyen, on climate change issues, told the Commission that she wants to increase the objective of reducing CO2 emissions in Europe for 2030 from 40% to at least 55%. It means that the funding given to the Member States in support of the pandemic must all be aimed at achieving these objectives. Companies are called upon to support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.
We are now in the crucial moment: it is time to find valid alternatives to the old production paradigms. We need to face the future challenges and only companies following this doctrine will be able to get more help and financial contributions. Those companies who will not follow it, they will be left behind and increasingly excluded. Covid-19 pushed in this direction and paradigms are being reversed: entrepreneurial development with new alliances and dialogue between production and distribution, new value propositions.
- The environment remains the starting point. The thing that touches more our sector is the false narration of the identity of the tourist destination, the "typical" product, the authenticity of the territory, the local food , etc.. because at the basis of this identity of food, tomato sauce there are not the same rules for Italian citizens. There is also the desperation of seasonal immigration due to climate, wars, dictatorships. During the Covid-19 we have seen how in Italy, without the foreign, clandestine labor, the farms of the "made in Italy" block.
- The increase in temperatures, desertification forces local populations on the margins of the richest areas to migrate. A very strong phenomenon at a global level and particularly in Europe where the migratory push is due to wars (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya) and environmental disasters (North Africa, Saleh, Bangladesh, etc.). After an atrocious journey, those who survive and arrive clandestinely in Europe are recruited, in part, for processing in the camps. Undeclared work, non-existent rights in the hands of “local bosses” and political campaigns against immigration. But this year immigrants can't come because of Covid-19 and there are no arms for our crops, because in Italy there aren't those who do these jobs anymore!
- Competitiveness it is no longer enough: we need cooperation and solidarity for the following years otherwise we risk to lose social and economic fabric indispensable for the model transition. The tourism chain (from production, distribution, transport, hotels and catering) must ally itself, be more supportive. This time is invaluable to develop new paradigms, new systems that can reward change, act to compact the entire supply chain: from tour operators to customers, from travel agencies to destinations, passing through all means of transport.
- Strengthen the specific UN agencies, promote the UN Agenda 2030 and the 17 Objectives of Sustainable Development (Sdgs), refine the European legislation and that of the most polluting countries on the environmental responsibility of companies, create an environmental tribunal as a condition to stay in the United Nations. But it is not enough: yes, the environment is at the center of everything, degradation and viruses, but the scenario has totally changed. We are in an epochal crisis: financial collapse, fear and social inequality and we need to protect common goods (health, environmentally sustainable economy and education first of all). Topics to bring to the center of politics.
- People, entrepreneurs, operators are indispensable. Tell your stories, your experience, our roots, be an inspiration to the new generations and to your counterparts. Let's not waste time, resources, energy. Now is the time to get busy, because (hopefully) we would never have all this time anymore. The owners of Ecoluxury hotels have the prestige and the possibility not to waste it. Because people listen and understand the quality narrated and explained by the excellence. The quality, the added value, fascinates and attracts.
- Themes and suggestions will become usable if there will be a favorable political and economic context to make them possible: greater attention to production processes, reduction of waste and rediscovery of dimensions that are now abandoned, but have lived for millennia. A greater attention also towards the local economy because after more than a century of industrial production and financed economy, we must return to production on a local scale in order to monitor the effects on the territory.
Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, has clear ideas: “we must work on a concept of contraction and convergence”. Contraction understood as the reduction of unnecessary (bogus) costs: administration, bureaucracy, excess distribution, junk food/junk tourism, concentration of income on a few people (Amazon) at the expense of small producers. Huge profitability of distribution in the hands of very few people. But the contraction kills above all the small producers, the garrison on the territory. Therefore convergence, which means that prices cannot be decided only by distribution (for example Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Expedia, etc. but not only). In the local economy it is necessary to strengthen the network relationships of producers, in the territories at local level. It takes education that must start from the bottom.
It is not a battle that will be won tomorrow, when Covid 19 will have disappeared: education to travel, to tastes, to fantastic and unique experiences, are taught, learned on the territory, living them and with prepared, careful and responsible advice. A supply chain made by selected suppliers that respect, with certification, the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the 17 Objectives of Sustainable Development (Sdgs).
Our travel sales will be directed to a virtuous, sustainable and more profitable and financially supported path. Customers will buy these experiences and they will share them once back home on social network in a virtuous circle. Let’s pay little more to help all these businesses, these supply chains, these magnificent territories more authentic and free from unsustainable business models.
Rome, Summer 2020