In 2011 the regeneration of physical places, in 2010 the aquatic destinations, the protected areas preceded it and before that the local intangible heritage or the emerging rural destinations: just rely on EDEN to know where to go on vacation!
Its task is to select European destinations of excellence, every year it does so by taking inspiration from a different theme and it is a project that promotes sustainable development models in the tourism sector by ensuring that the "usual goals" are left a little in peace, and those neglected, instead, find the joy of being visited by bunches of gourmet tourists, in every sense. To explain how it works and how it feels to be on the side of those who select is Antonio Pezzano which, on behalf of the European Commission, is responsible for managing the Network of destinations, which in addition to the award, also win the opportunity to meet to discuss and develop common projects.
1) What is the Eden project? What are the main objectives?
The acronym already explains it, EDEN is the acronym for European destinations of excellence, a project that promotes sustainable development models in the tourism sector throughout the European Union. It involves selecting a "tourist destination of excellence" for each participating country through annual national competitions with the aim of drawing attention to the values of diversity and the common characteristics of European tourist destinations. Each year the choice is combined with a theme that acts as a common thread: until now, the main topics of EDEN were centered on rural tourism, intangible heritage and protected areas.
The destinations selected in 27 European countries are distinguished mainly by their commitment to social, cultural and environmental sustainability also with the aim of spreading good practices of "tourist" sustainability, also decongesting certain overly exploited destinations.
2) How did you develop and who supports EDEN?
The development of this project is supported by the European Commission which launched the project in 2006 and still plays a crucial coordinating role. Its tasks are to stimulate dialogue between stakeholders, co-finance the selection procedures, organize the award ceremony (in the first two years, on the occasion of the European Tourism Forum) and coordinate a global communication campaign.
3) When did you come to EDEN and in what role? How has the project transformed and where is it going?
I joined the EDEN project in June 2010 with the task of helping EDEN award winning destinations to network. From that moment to now, I don't know if we can speak of “project transformation”, but we can certainly say that networking is starting to work. An Association has recently been established that brings together the award-winning destinations and we are evaluating the opening of the Association to destinations classified from second to fifth place. We have started cooperation relationships with some international organizations such as Friends of Nature. We are in dialogue with tour operators specialized in responsible tourism in order to promote destinations. For the future ... since my mandate expires in June 2012, certainly by that date I must enable the Association to consolidate the work started.
4) The history of a destination that particularly struck you?
I didn't have the opportunity to visit all the award-winning destinations, as many as 98, but in general I was very impressed by the creativity and competence of the young professionals who are committed to promoting destinations in Northern Europe. Local tourism promotion bodies in those countries are not bureaucratic structures, but small private tour operators or public-private partnerships. This context brings out professional figures capable of carrying out their work effectively - they can demonstrate this with numbers in hand to “bring visitors” - keeping up with the times. This means using social networks intelligently in promotion: they don't promote packages, but experiences, they don't talk about how beautiful their destination is, but they tell stories about their destination.
5) Over the years, have you noticed a change in places or trends in tourism?
If it refers to EDEN, time is too short to grasp the variations, but my experience as a professional and tourist leads me to observe that there is a cognitive dissonance in the tourist. On the one hand, research on holiday intentions tells us about an increasingly "green" tourist. In reality, the choices are always based on the same criteria, briefly price and quality, and the “green sticker”, when considered, is one more factor. Generalizing, there are also structural changes taking place, such as the shortening of holidays, however some fashion themes emerge such as authenticity, eating local food and attention to the environment. Nothing new, but social mobility, the result of a different availability of income and a different degree of cultures, means that they are at the center of the decision-making choices of a greater number of people.
6) What do you like most about what you do?
What I like is the opportunity to participate in the solution of some problems by looking at them from different perspectives. It is a very interesting way to learn. If I had to say what I do, using the metaphor, I would say the "bridgeman": quoting Treccani, I am like a "soldier in charge of building passages on waterways in the area of strategic and tactical operations". Leaving the metaphor, my job is to make public and private dialogue and work together. In tourism this is essential.
7) How could young people be involved in the project?
The project is aimed at tourist destinations that show they have done something important. The next prize will be awarded in 2013 and will concern "accessible" tourist destinations, that is, destinations that have been able to prepare an offer accessible to "the disabled". The Italian Ministry of Tourism is expected to launch the information campaign and the competition in 2012. Young people who work in small Italian tourist destinations who think they have done something important on the issue can "raise" their antennas and suggest this opportunity to the competent bodies.
LOOK PHOTOS OF THE NEW LOCATIONS CANDIDATES FOR THE EDEN PROJECT