Improving tourism resilience through Cultural Routes. An exploratory analysis of the Italian case “Via Francigena”
Cultural routes have been recognized as effective social innovation projects to promote tourism development in marginal areas. However, the resilience of these routes, particularly in the face of external shocks and disruptions, remains a critical area of investigation. This study examines the role of cultural routes (as social innovation projects) in improving the resilience of these marginal areas after pandemic crisis. The research draws upon a combination of secondary data provided by ISTAT for assessing the marginality of the study areas and primary data on the impact of the "Via Francigena" project obtained through 32 interviews with managers of accommodation facilities (B&Bs, hostels, farm stays, hotels) located along the route itself. The findings of this study reveal that cultural routes offer significant opportunities for tourism development in marginal areas. Firstly, they serve as unique selling points, showcasing the cultural heritage and authenticity of these regions. Cultural routes provide a compelling narrative that attracts tourists seeking immersive experiences, promoting sustainable tourism practices and economic growth in these areas. Secondly, cultural routes act as catalysts for local community engagement and empowerment. By involving residents in tourism-related activities and initiatives, cultural routes foster a sense of pride, ownership, and entrepreneurship among the local population. The socio-economic benefits of the project determine a diversification of income sources and increase the resilience of communities located in the most marginal areas of the Apennines. However, a successful implementation of cultural routes to develop tourism and community resilience in marginal areas requires overcoming various challenges. These include limited resources, the need for a cultural change and the need for collaborative efforts among multiple stakeholders, including government bodies, local communities, tourism operators, and cultural organizations. This research contributes to the understanding of cultural routes as a powerful tool for tourism development in marginalized areas. The findings provide valuable insights for policymakers, tourism planners, and destination managers in leveraging the potential of cultural routes as social innovation projects. By capitalizing on the cultural heritage of these areas, cultural routes can drive economic growth, improve community well-being, preserve environmental heritage and thereby increase the economic resilience of communities. In conclusion, this research enhances our understanding of tourism resilience through the case of Via Francigena, demonstrating its relevance as a model for other cultural routes. By identifying key strategies and factors that contribute to resilience, this study informs effective planning and management approaches for the long-term sustainability of cultural tourism destinations and the preservation of cultural heritage. Future research should focus on evaluating the long-term impacts of cultural routes on tourism development, assessing visitor satisfaction, and investigating the potential replication of these projects in different marginal areas.
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