The natural beauty of a location attracts visitors from near and far, and is an important resource for the tourist industry. While appreciating the industry's contribution to growth and employment, it often comes at a heavy cost to the environment.
With 2017 being the International Year of Sustainable Tourism our conference aimed to develop a Green approach to tourism policy: boosting Europe's standing as a leading destination while at the same time protecting the nature that attracted tourists in the first place.
We advocated for a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more ecological tourism sector, and the following questions were explored:
- How can we cope with the conflict between nature and tourism?
- Can sustainable tourism have a positive socio-economic effect on a region?
South Tyrol is an Alpine region in the north of Italy with dramatic tourist intensity, counting over 30 million overnight stays last year alone.
On the one hand the economy prospers, tourism creates 15% of added value, but on the other the territory faces various problems, such as traffic overload on the main roads and on the mountain, passes in the Dolomites and pollution overstress for nature and the entire environment. The delicate balance between the protection of nature and economic benefit is being tilted towards the latter: ski resorts are being extended, newer and bigger hotels are replacing small family-run businesses, and investors are attracted by low interests and high returns.
These problems are of course not Tyrol-specific. They are shared by other Italian and European regions where tourism represents both an opportunity and a challenge. With regard to the balance between nature and its economic use we have been pushing the envelope: it is high time to face the question if we have reached the limits of growth in tourism. There are, on the other hand quite a number of positive experiences demonstrating that a sustainable tourism is possible. A trade-off between nature and economic development is not an unavoidable choice.
South Tyrolean tourism started in the town of Merano, and this is where our conference will took place, making it an ideal backdrop to discuss the issues at hand. We discussed the issue with other regions who face similar challenges, especially from the Alpine and Mediterranean areas, and together built common and Green solutions.
The event was co-hosted by the European Green Party and the Green party of South Tyrol, Verdi–Grüne–Vërc.
Please contact Anna Yeliseyeva on email@example.com for any questions about this event.