“Operatori Turismo Sostenibile della Laguna di Venezia” (OTS) - Association of Sustainable Tourism Companies in the Venice Lagoon, Veneto Region, Italy, has won one of the ECTN Awards 'Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism 2019', the 3rd prize in the category Intangible Heritage Tourism.
The establishment of this Association is one of the actions in the Veneto Region action plan within the CHRISTA Interreg Europe project. The Awards Jury comprised representatives of ECTN, Europa Nostra, European Travel Commission, NECSTouR and European Commission DG Education and Culture.
Within the framework of the destination management discipline and in a continuum between different European projects attended, the Association of Sustainable Tourism Companies has been established in order to create a brand-new tourist destination, focused exclusively on the Lagoon of Venice, and following the three principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Starting from the local business activities of its fellow members, this Association gathers a network of various sustainable tourism companies that offer their tourist services, in constant dialogue with institutions and with a more responsible and contemporary tourist demand.
The project aims to structure the Venice Lagoon within the framework of a tourist destination by relying on the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic, starting from the local business activities present in the area. Our project features the usage of traditional, slow and sustainable means of transport, keeping local traditions alive, fostering the balance between tourist impact and residents at the same time involving the local communities to engage with tourism development, creating a durable economy with strong territorial links, in constant connection with a more responsible and contemporary tourist demand.
Our true mission then is to take an active part in the strategies regarding sustainable tourism which will take place in the Lagoon of Venice.
In order to “build” this new destination, OTS Association (Sustainable Tourism Companies) has been established, whose main purpose is to create, support and expand a network of sustainable tourism companies, in constant dialogue with regional institutions and the whole tourism sector, participated in conferences, workshops and teaching activities throughout Italy (Bologna, Venice, Perugia) regarding tourism at large, with a specific focus on sustainable tourism and the risks of over-tourism phenomenon. A letter of introduction and a request for involvement have been sent both to the Prefect and to the Mayor of Venice.
Moreover, a strategy of networking with the other regional DMOs (Destination Management Organization), one of which (OGD Chioggia) already declared us permanent stakeholder at their round table, paving the way for our Association to be credited to act like a full-fledged DMO.
With regard to the enhancement of the Lagoon’s visibility as a sustainable tourist destination, the 24th and the 25th of June 2018 the first Festival of the Sustainable Tourism Companies “Laguna In Rete” has taken place, a two-day happening addressing locals and travelers with a new, slow and soft way of discovering the Lagoon involving our fellow members’ local business activities.
Furthermore, together with the European Interreg project CHRISTA and the support of the Veneto Region, OTS cooperated in the realization of a map and a brochure of the Lagoon of Venice destination, with descriptions of major points of interest and local info-points, soon in print. In addition, a presentation video has been made, exploring its cultural, food and wine, naturalistic, and active holiday aspects.
On the subject of tourism strategies, OTS have attended the round table of the PST (Strategic Tourism Plan of the Veneto Region) and the G20 Italian Beaches, the summit of Italian seaside resorts, together with the collaboration to the draft of CHRISTA action plan.
Partners involved are the Tourism Board of Veneto Region, Veneto Region and Interreg Europe Program CHRISTA.
Originally, a Committee was created thanks to and accompanied by the March 2017 LIFE VIMINE project, a program attended before CHRISTA, aimed to define and implement a novel integrated approach to the protection of salt marshes from erosion and to landscape management in the Lagoon of Venice. Towards the end of this experience, it was decided to continue as an independent Committee, which soon after got involved in the CHRISTA project, from which the establishment of our OTS Association stemmed out.
Nadia Giaretta of Veneto Region Tourism Department receives the prize and certificate from Europa Nostra Vice-President Piet Jaspaert, at the ECTN Awards 2019 ceremony held in Granada, Spain, at the CHRISTA Interreg Europe project closing conference, on 24 October 2019.