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Compagnia dei parchi, for sustainable tourism

In general, protected natural areas in Italy are areas that, while historically important, are also the least developed areas of the country. Since the 1950s, various development initiatives have been implemented in these areas. However, they have met with little success as they have all been top-down in approach and re-applications of a standard industrial model. Since 1999, Compagnia dei Parchi (CDP) has promoted the relaunching of these rural and protected areas by setting in train a virtuous circle linking the environment, the territory, the economy and tourism. CDP enables income generation in areas that have been neglected but that possess a wealth of particular assets, and allows the local populations to relaunch a tourism-based microeconomy with a small investment outlay.

CDP is an innovative, non-profit, limited liability consortium that generates income by using suitable existing properties as tourist accommodation. In this way, it promotes fresh economic development based on local resources. Through a bottom-up approach, CDP makes full use of the distinguishing qualities of the protected areas, not only their natural heritage, but also their history, culture, folklore and architecture. It achieves this through a process of sustainable development.

CDP operates through an agile organisational structure consisting of a head office, which is responsible for bookings and tourism marketing, and a network of affiliated accommodation structures.

Between 1999 and 2004, CDP extended its operations to 16 protected areas. Working with the various park authorities, it has created a network of more than 1,000 accommodation structures and promoted them through the Internet, trade fairs and tourism links. In terms of quality, CDP has fostered a culture of tourist hospitality in areas not traditionally associated with tourism and also promoted a feeling of pride in local identity. CDP works by generating income from existing properties (houses and other forms of accommodation) and from local produce and products (e.g. local specialities, handicrafts and small enterprises). It also fosters the development of new tourism-related services. This model enables local people and enterprises to achieve financial returns for a small outlay within even a short time.

CDP was created in 1999 by CARSA (an integrated communications agency specialising in tourism- and environment-related communication) in association with Legambiente, Cresme S.p.A. and with the National Parks of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga, the Majella, and Monti Sibillini. This initiative has since been extended throughout the whole of Italy and is now attracting the interest of various Mediterranean countries. Indeed, CDP’s project-based approach and the nature of its promoters have generated considerable broad-based support. This has enabled the activating of an innovative tourism product that fosters a form of economic development that works in synergy with the affirming of local identity and the strengthening of a feeling of pride in belonging to a territory.

CDP is the key reference point for the initiative called Appennino Parco D’Europa, a broad project to promote the Apennine region, which has the active backing of the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Legambiente and the Abruzzo Region.

The CDP model formed the basis for the motion Mediterranean Mountains, approved by the “World Conservation Congress” (IUCN) in Bangkok in November 2004.