Italy launches EU-backed project to promote eco-friendly tourism

Italy officially launched a project backed by the European Union (EU) to help its tourism businesses become more eco-friendly and make better use of the post-pandemic opportunities, the country’s National Tourism Agency (ENIT) said.

The “EU Eco-Tandem Program” also aims to promote sustainable tourism by helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become more innovative.

“Traditional tourism SMEs are encouraged to come into contact with startups and innovators in the sector, and also with pioneers from other economic sectors,” the ENIT said on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

The participants in the project would learn how to kick off the ecological transition of their businesses, or to strengthen their know-how and their sustainable tourism management skills.

They would receive help in accessing EU funding for eco-innovative pilot projects, becoming part of a European network of SMEs and organisations operating in the sustainable tourism sector, and gaining visibility through the project’s dissemination channels, the ENIT explained.

This would make Italy’s SMEs more competitive and would also make them more appealing to the largest groups of foreign tourists, including from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, according to the agency.

The tourism industry accounted for more than five percent of Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP) and six per cent of national employment in 2019, according to Central Bank of Italy figures. The bank said 96.2 million foreigners visited Italy in 2019, spending 44.3 billion euros (US $52.5 billion).

Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ENIT said that “the circumstances call for a re-styling of the tourist offer.”

“The World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) latest data show a 70 per cent drop in international arrivals at the global level as of August … In this scenario, Europe stands out with a 69 per cent decrease,” it said.

The EU Eco-Tandem project is co-financed by the European Union through its program for SMEs (COSME). It brings together researchers and experts in the field of innovation and sustainable development from Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Greece.