Greening the Islands Foundation

Sustainable Tourism on EU Islands: Practical Proposals through a Productive Exchange between Institutions, Academia, and Industry Professionals.

On May 24th and 25th, the conference “Sustainable Tourism on the Islands of the European Union” took place in Lipari (Aeolian Islands, Italy). Organized by Federalberghi Isole Eolie in collaboration with the Observatory on Tourism for Islands Economy (OTIE), and sponsored by the Regional Department of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment, the Sicilian Regional Assembly, and URAS Federalberghi Sicilia, the conference featured two intensive days filled with insights, perspectives, reflections, and, most importantly, numerous practical proposals from the many speakers who participated in a productive exchange between institutions, academia, and industry professionals.

 

The President of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, Gaetano Galvagno, in his opening speech, emphasized that tourism is not an isolated sector but requires a cross-sectoral commitment involving various departments as well as the Sicilian parliament. He expressed keen interest in receiving the conference outcomes to translate them into concrete proposals for the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

 

The Deputy Mayor and Tourism Councillor of Lipari, Saverio Merlino, highlighted that the Aeolian archipelago has recently adopted a Strategic Plan for Sustainable Development. The Mayor of Malfa, Clara Rametta, referred to the ongoing process for establishing the Salina Marine Protected Area, while also pointing out the issue of maritime connections as a major disadvantage in the tourism development of the Aeolian Islands.

 

Giovanni Ruggeri from OTIE, presenting the report on sustainable tourism in European islands, noted that despite greater protections introduced with the amendment of Article 119 of the Constitution, Italian small islands still lag behind Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and French islands in terms of transportation, taxation, supplies, product tariffs, and supply costs. “If economic and tourism policies for Italian islands are not aligned with those of other states,” he concluded, “they risk becoming uncompetitive, creating territorial disparities between the islands of different countries.”

 

George Asonitis, representing the Network of Insular Chambers of Commerce of the EU (INSULEUR), discussed the current and future opportunities for tourism SMEs and their associations to participate in European funding projects, particularly for their digital transition, energy management, waste management, circular economy, etc. He also presented the best practices from the GReco-islands project recently launched by the Greek government, aimed at transforming all Greek islands into green islands through a holistic approach.

 

Marco Platania from the University of Catania emphasized that in the Aeolian system, tourism is a fundamental asset and that it is crucial to better organize this sector to ensure greater resilience of the territory. “Tourism governance, along with training, market knowledge, promotion, and the planning of infrastructure and services, strengthens the sustainability of the tourism industry, enabling it to face future challenges,” he said.

 

Julian Zarb from the University of Malta encouraged the initiation of what he describes as the three Rs of Recovery: Reflect, Renew, and Restore. “I invite the government, authorities, businesses, and the entire community to consider these phases as checklists and guidelines for developing long-term strategies and policies for tourism in a different post-COVID world. These strategies and policies should follow an integrated planning approach and require constant and ongoing consultation with all key stakeholders.”

 

Calderon Vazquez from the University of Malaga discussed the importance of sustainable tourism versus mass tourism, focusing on the Balearic Islands, emphasizing that this is essential to preserve environmental and cultural resources, ensuring positive experiences for local communities. Calderon highlighted the challenges and contradictions of tourism in the Balearic Islands, a clear example of how unregulated tourism can lead to landscape destruction and social and economic problems. He reiterated the need for integrated planning and growing awareness to avoid “tourismophobia”.

 

Raffaele Scuderi from the Kore University of Enna emphasized how the EU’s green shift also involves the tourism sector, with a growing demand for sustainability. “However, for islands,” he noted, “the transition to sustainable tourism must be gradual to avoid compromising local economies. A participatory involvement of all sector actors is essential to maintain the economic resilience of tourism.”

 

Christian Del Bono from Federalberghi and Islands of Sicily DMO highlighted how the next 3-5 years are crucial for businesses and tourist destinations both to achieve the sustainability goals set by the 2030 Agenda and to increase their value and competitiveness, stressing the need for a strategy that can coordinate and optimize outcomes. He emphasized the importance of the role of DMOs, calling for a revision of the tourism law in Sicily and the establishment of mechanisms to share commitments and strategies in territorial promotion policies.

 

 

The conclusions were entrusted to the Regional Councillor for Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment, Elvira Amata: “During the Conference for the European Year of Islands, I gathered significant contributions highlighting the importance of sustainable tourism for the islands. I am convinced of the need for specific actions and additional resources to promote genuine territorial sharing that reflects the common will of all tourism sector actors. I sensed a strong positive approach from representatives of other European islands, which I hope will lead to the launch of specific projects for island tourism.”

Aeolian Island Preservation Fund

Aeolian Island Preservation Fund

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