“Sustainability” and Puglia’s tourism future

A very important blog has been posted by The Huffington Post that has significance for Puglia’s tourism future, especially considering that the region is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 28 Blue Flag certified beaches.

The blog is titled “Third Party Certification Needed for Sustainable Tourism” and is written by Dr. Dave Randle, president and CEO of the WHALE Center, and Dr. Reese Halter, who is a broadcaster, conservation biologist and educator.

The authors make the case that “There are many laws and principles governing the environment but collectively they do not provide any guarantee that a tourism business will be sustainable” and that “For certification to be meaningful it has to be verified by a third party.” They particularly single out the important work of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) in promoting sustainability initiatives in worldwide tourism. In fact, they describe the GSTC programs as “the gold standard for certification in the tourism industry.”

In their textbook Practicing Responsible Tourism, Lynn C. Harrison and Winston Husbands write, “The concept of sustainable tourism development has ostensibly caught the attention of both government and industry. Yet, what this means in practice is not always clear.”

What is “sustainable” tourism for Puglia?

I often use the term “sustainable” tourism in regard to efforts to protect Puglia’s precious and priceless antiquities (its castles, cathedrals and other physical landmarks) as well as programs that seek to educate visitors about the region’s cultural heritage, particularly its place in world history. Just search “Puglia history” and you’ll see what I mean.

If we want to preserve and protect these things, we have to get people interested in them. But to get them interested, they have to know about them. UNESCO does a wonderful job of helping to raise awareness of precious and even endangered places and cultures around the world through its World Heritage Sites program, including the three in Puglia (Castel del Monte in Andria, the trulli of Alberobello and Gargano’s Monte Sant’Angelo).

Here’s where there is an opportunity for Puglia, within the public as well as the private sectors, to encourage tourism development that aims to educate existing and would-be visitors about the region’s incredibly diverse cultural attractions. Develop awareness programs that let travelers with varied interests find out about Puglia. And they could even target overseas residents who are descended from Pugliese who left the region many years ago, usually for economic reasons. Many of them are curious about their roots, but need and want help learning and exploring. If we make it easier for them, they can help spread the word about Puglia’s heritage and help in preservation efforts.

Photo: The trulli of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
© Copyright Vito Arcomano/Fototeca ENIT

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