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From Venice to Paris: a glimpse into the future of sustainable tourism in Europe

Edited on

06 July 2022
Read time: 3 minutes

The approaches developed by Tourism-Friendly Cities showcased at the final conference of the network, held in Venice, and at the thematic workshop organized in the framework of the URBACT City Festival in Pantin-Grand Paris: a deep-dive analysis of the evolution of the debate on sustainable impact of tourism fostered by the partners of the network

Undoubtedly, Venice and Paris are among the cities in the world where the post-pandemic comeback of mass tourism is more visible: a relief for the local economy after two years of crisis, but also an alarm bell to avoid the return of factors that made tourism negatively impactful on cities.

It is almost a paradox that these two cities were the ones which hosted the presentations of the results of Tourism-Friendly Cities, respectively at the occasion of the final conference hosted by Venice as partner of the network and in the framework of the URBACT City Festival, the flagship event of the URBACT programme.

Sharing the lessons learned by the partners of Tourism-Friendly Cities

The practices implemented by the partners of the network as small-scale actions offered tangible example of how the use of the tools offered by the URBACT programme can also help in tackling new challenges emerged in recent times, such as the pandemic emergency that stopped tourism for months. These tools can also contribute to planning a quicker recovery of the sector with the active collaboration of groups of residents, local experts and stakeholders.

Actions such as the organization of an event for fostering the debate on accessible tourism, as happened in Druskininkai, or the creative reuse of public spaces for improving the use of bikes with temporary cycle lines and the refurbishment of an old market, as happened in Dun Laoghaire, showed how the committment towards a more sustainable tourism can be helpful for reviving community spirit. At the same time, it shows how an integrated strategy can be helpful for tackling multiple challenges related to a variety of elements, such as city attractiveness, active inclusion, mobility and urban regeneration.

For a network that shifted its focus from better managing tourist flows to reattracting tourists in a smart and sustainable way, the analysis of the results achieved by the partners is strictly connected to the impact that their work had on the national and European debate on the topic. The capacity of many partners of reinventing trendy concepts such as proximity tourism, as happened in Genoa and Braga with the creation of activities for a local public aimed at rediscovering hidden corners of the city, or reimagining how to deal with the private sector, as tested by Krakow and Rovaniemi, underlines a strong connection with similar experiences carried out in the rest of the world (such as in Singapore or in the Caribbeans).


The contribution of Tourism-Friendly Cities to the creation of new global and European policies on sustaianble tourism

The practices mentioned above are part of the European answer to the challenge of fostering a quick and sustainable recovery of tourism globally.

According to the analysis of UNWTO, Europe is the region of the world where tourism is recovering faster. However, the strong contribution in terms of ideas and vision given by urban networks such as Tourism-Friendly Cities, as well as by other URBACT networks such as KAIROS and Find your Greatness, can be crucial for developing new policies that may influence the future of the tourism sector not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world.

The final conference of Venice and the workshop of the URBACT Festival were also important opportunities for presenting the innovative approach developed by Tourism-Friendly Cities to representatives of cities, European organizations and institutions, such as UNWTO and European Commission, but also to reconnect the network’s outcomes to the evolution of the policy framework on the topics in Europe. The Partnership on Sustainable Tourism of the Urban Agenda for the EU is one of the new partnerships launched by the Ljubljana Agreement, which redesigns the role of the Urban Agenda for the EU as decisive element for implementing the principles of the new Leipzig Charter. The launch of the call for joining the Partnership, scheduled in the second half of 2022, is an opportunity for consolidating the committment of the partners of Tourism-Friendly Cities, continuing to dialogue with other European, national and local authorities in a structured framework. At the same time, the new Partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU offers an important opportunity for sharing the knowledge generated by Tourism Friendly Cities, and use it as basis for the creation of background documents, strategies and actions plans.

The active involvement of the partners of Tourism Friendly Cities in the pilot action of the Partnership for Culture of the Urban Agenda for the EU on better regulation of short-term holiday rentals, whose results were widely debated both in Venice as in Paris, shows how the combination between hands-on practice, integrated planning and creation of new policy frameworks can be fully aligned if the cities pursue the same objective, as happened in the case of the partners of Tourism- Friendly Cities: making tourism part of the solution, and not of the problem.

The solutions of Tourism Friendly Cities as tools for forecasting future scenarios

Another relevant contribution that the network can give to the elaboration of policies on sustainable tourism at different scales is given also by the analysis of the Integrated Action Plans produced by the partners of the network and the connection with the results of the Small Scale Actions, and more in general with the rapid evolution of the tourism sector.

Among the future trends emerging from the comparative analysis of the Integrated Action Plans, a stronger action of the public authorities in regulating sensitive aspects of the tourism sector (such as overcrowding in the old towns or the short-term rentals) and in mediating between private and collective interest, the consolidation of outdoor itineraries and paths for local and regional tourism, the introduction of new mobility systems and hubs for decongestioning city centres are among the elements that are most likely to be present in the next 15-20 years in tourism destinations of different size and relevance in Europe.


Inspiring other cities in Europe to planning new projects and initiatives tackling these challenges through the use of the resources of the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 or with the creation of public-private-community partnerships is a concrete way to support the economic and social recovery in Europe starting from practices and policies, such as the ones developed by Tourism Friendly Cities, which reimagine the future of tourism in Europe.




Simone d'Antonio - Ad hot Expert Tourism-Friendly Cities