The countdown has begun for Expo 2015, an important test bench for Italy’s tourism industry and sustainable development. Responding to this need is a new second-level master’s course: Sustainable tourism and territorial brands. Innovation. Sustainability awareness and education with reference to Expo 2015.
The course has been developed jointly by the Environment School, the Media Communication & Entertainment School and the Food & Agriculture Economy School of the Sacro Cuore Catholic University in Milan. The Environment School rector Pierluigi Malavasi tells us about the course and the urgent need for professional figures with specific expertise to support the growth of sustainable tourism.
For whom is the master’s course intended?
The course is for graduates with a first-level master’s degree or pre-reform degree who are interested in a high-performance program that will provide them with innovative, competitive, green relational skills they can use in sustainable tourism, today an extraordinary driver for growth and creation of significant jobs with real prospects.
How is the course organised, and what are the characteristics of the professional figures it turns out?
The course, from January to December 2015, is a second-level, interdisciplinary, interfaculty master. It covers three complementary interconnected areas, with seven different interdisciplinary teaching modules. Although each module is specific, they are designed to develop a “unity of environmental knowledge” that nevertheless embraces the complexity of the subject. The course also includes an internship with leading companies in high-profile tourism in the student’s specific area of interest; and laboratory work and visits to players of excellence.
The course meets the need to create the vital cultural, professional and managerial skills for people interested or already active in tourism and in territorial organisation.
It will train tourism professionals with a strong interdisciplinary profile aligned with the complexity of the industry, who are capable of enhancing Italy’s environmental heritage in order to develop green marketing and territorial brands by working in tourism planning and the distribution of sustainable tourism products.
In the tourism industry, how important are professionals with a sustainability-based training and what added value can they contribute?
Tourism today can be an unprecedented challenge to examine the competences of the XXI century: training processes and educational dynamics, focus on education and comprehensive human development. Sustainability and the green economy, currently two sides of the same coin, are powerful catalysts at European level, regarded as contemporary drivers for a European recovery. The new focus, also supported by the European Union, is on the green economy, a tool indicated by the Rio+20 Conference as a means to achieve sustainable growth, with important opportunities to create jobs and innovative activities, some of which have already begun at European level. These opportunities extend from sectors traditionally associated with “environmental content” such as renewable energy, to emerging sectors in the green jobs area, such as sustainable mobility or sustainable tourism.
The Greenitaly data from Unioncamere and Fondazione Symbola in the 2014 GreenItaly Report Feeding the Future highlight the potential of investment in green activities. In turn, the Fourth observatory on the tourism employment market in Italy in 2014 provides a snapshot of one million people working in tourism, accounting for 5% of employment in Italy, in particular young people. Tourism also guarantees economic stability, since 67% have open-ended contracts.
The master’s course will train competent figures with the ability to identify, interpret and develop tourism projects envisaging both vectors of a feasible economic recovery. It has strategic importance, as highlighted in the 2013-2014 Report on the Labour Market drawn up by the National Economic and Employment Council.
This training, geared to a practical education in sustainability for tourism, impacts on the whole community in terms of the quality of the entire tourism cycle, and can sustain long-term planning: this is closely linked to the sustainable vocation of our course.
Sustainability and territorial branding: how can these two questions be effectively combined?
The master’s course is based on the belief that the environment and its role in tourism is a fundamental element in the value chain of a community, which needs tourism designed to serve current needs with a far-sighted approach; an approach open to the possible existential and professional opportunities for the future and for solidarity between the present generations and those of the future.
As a perspective geared to change, to interdependence, to building networks and partnerships, in terms of tourism sustainability makes it possible to interpret and safeguard communities, their culture and traditions, their heritage, their patris munus “gift of the father”, through a relationship-based economy.
In this context, brand becomes a set of perceptions and meanings attributed to a make or, in our case, to a territory or a culture whose unique, positive valued-based identity is spontaneously recognised.
Is attention to sustainability a discriminating factor in the choices of foreign tourists? And for Italian tourists?
Interest in sustainable tourism is increasing, due to a growing awareness of environmental issues. It reflects the search for a new concept of respect for the life of our planet and its infinite variety, whose physical beauty we can admire.
A few figures confirm this:
Almost 60% of Italians consider the environmental impact of tourism models before booking a holiday, more than double the European average (Zoover.it 2013).
Before choosing a tourist facility, 43% of people find out about the level of attention to the environment (Fondazione Univerde – IPR Marketing, Terzo rapporto sul turismo sostenibile. 2013).
For 83% of interviewees, a holiday location should be eco-sustainable. For almost half of these people, eco-sustainability is very important. An outright majority of Italians indicate an element of eco-sustainability as a factor in an ideal holiday, starting from ‘a non-polluted environment’ and a ‘clean sea’ through to ‘unspoiled nature’ and ‘clean beaches’ (Ispo Ricerche, Italiani e vacanze green, la nuova domanda turistica del Paese. 2011).
What are the main weaknesses in sustainable promotion of tourism today?
We have to remember that the ambivalence of tourism has a deep impact on political and institutional decisions and policies: on one hand, tourism is an economic growth driver for the localities concerned; it strengthens the market; it is an opportunity for people to enhance their cultural and social knowledge; it fosters international relations. At the same time, however, when it impoverishes the biosphere and the cultural-identifying structure of the host communities it causes environmental and social pollution.
Overcoming this ambiguity is the great challenge we have set ourselves with this master’s course…