The second training of ECHO-Tourism project took place from the 7th to the 9th of April, last week. This training followed a first one that happened in September 2020 and that was about testing and improving the tools, and before a third and last one that will happen in March 2022 in Italy, and will be focusing on how to disseminate ECHO-Tourism on other territories.

It has been a success in terms of participation, as almost 50 people (including the members of the consortium) took part at the whole training, or just to some sessions of it. These participants were tourism professionals (hotel or restaurant manager, tourism office employee, tourism student, travel agency manager, holiday center animator or manager, etc.), coming from the four territories involved in ECHO: Italy (Sicily), Greece, Croatia (Brac Island), and France (Normandy).

The objectives of the training were:

  1. Teach participants how to use the ECHO tools and prepare the experimentation phase on their territory.
  2. Present all the required skills to deploy the device in the territories.
  3. Develop axis of reflexion on the means and tools available to facilitate the implementation of partnerships at the national, territorial, and/or local level.
  4. Develop axis of reflexion on the means and tools available to promote responsible tourism actions.

The main challenge of this training was to ensure a dynamic and enlightening event during three days, in a pandemic context (so fully virtual), only using Visio-conferences ways or tools to interact.
The consortium has tried to do so, by concentrating the most “theorical’ presentations during morning sessions, and by organizing exercises or workshops during afternoon sessions. During these practical sessions, participants were working and sharing their ideas by ‘geographical’ groups, which allowed more participation, in everyone’s own language. By working concretely ‘on their case’, it was easier as well for the participants to project themselves in the experimentation phase.
The language barrier constituted indeed a second challenge: it was assumed that most participants would be able to speak English, so most of the presentations were in English (oral explanation and power point), but translations (mainly in French) were needed and arranged most of the time.

The training unfolded smoothly with an active participation of the trainers and the trainees, and some very interesting suggestions and food for thoughts to be kept.

Several evaluations of the training and the trainers took place beforehand and afterwards. As a fresh feedback that was collected straight after the three days, an average of 75% of the participants were satisfied by the event.

How did Covid-19 impact tourism activities? Has the tourism sector proved resilient enough to respond to the new challenges? Did the tourists struggle to adapt to the new situation and rules?

The recent Covid-19 health crisis has caused major difficulties in the tourism sector, where the decline in performance and numbers have been accompanied by a strong need to reshape and redesign the offer of tourism services by the professionals. Interested by the impacts of the pandemic, in particular on the 2020 summer season, the partners of ECHO-Tourism conducted in June a survey for tourism professionals and tourists in France, Italy, Greece and Croatia, aimed at identifying if both professionals and tourists responded with resilience, innovation or on the contrary, with resignation, or discouragement to the challenges of this period.

We started with the assumption that sustainable tourism could represent a new opportunity for tourist services, and maybe the most appropriate response to the needs of an offer of services in line with the new rules (social distancing, outdoor activities etc.), by respecting people but above all…places! More and more, especially in this historical time, tourists show a sensitivity to environmental issues and a certain “return to nature” which is manifested in their consumption choices, in their orientation towards visiting nature reserves, parks or small rural villages, preferably in the neighbouring areas, in order to limit long journeys and the use of collective transports: planes, buses, etc. From a pre-COVID research conducted by ECHO-Tourism’s consortium, about half of the interviewed tourists rarely seemed interested in eco-sustainable good practices, stays and/or services. There is a new awareness now.

This year, tourists have shown a greater attention to the quality of the places, their appearance, and their hygiene above all. This required an immediate reaction and capacity by the tourism professionals in ensuring the remodelling of the services, in compliance with the anti-covid restrictions and the hygienic-sanitary rules. Globally, the adaptation to the anti-covid norms, has, on one hand, favoured the resurgence of sustainable tourism, it has, on the other hand represented a heavy economic weight for tourism professionals. The latter renounced to international tourists, and tried to meet the choices and consumption models of mainly local tourists, as well as incur unexpected and urgent costs, which resulted in the closure of many of the tourist activities.

To conclude, the recent pandemic has opened up new scenarios for sustainable tourism, revitalizing local economies and small tourist service providers. At the same time, it has shown how the tourism sector needs to be ever-changing and remodelling, in order to be resilient and innovative enough to respond not only to new market conditions, including competitiveness, but also to overcome unexpected events.

Sustainable tourism has once again proved to be the appropriate answer for an inclusive social-economic wellbeing for every stakeholder!

If you are interested to know more about sustainable tourism, we invite you to follow our Echo-Tourism project and discover soon playful and interesting tools aiming to help operators and tourists to adopt new consumption choices that respect the environment, the local territories and their actors.

Representatives of the 6 partner organizations of the ECHO-Tourism project met for the first time in Sicily on January 30 and 31, 2020 for the official launch of the project. The Erasmus + program provided the partnership with funding to develop a training offer, aiming to engage tourists and tourism professionals towards sobriety in order to limit their ecological footprint.

Alain Tambour, independent evaluator of the project, testifies: “This first meeting was organized with professionalism by the Sicilian partner CESIE. The team laid the first stones of a cooperation which will last 3 years.”

The participants in this first meeting scanned the work to be done to obtain a guide of eco-gestures, a MOOC (online course open to all), face-to-face training and a methodological framework that will allow the reproduction of this practice by other structures and individuals.

The echo phenomenon is at the heart of the system, because it is a matter of ensuring that each one appropriates and reverberates what he has put into practice.