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The Apulia Development Authority’s Environmental Cultural System (ECS)
“We decided to tell our story through the scenery, through the sites and the people, and we generated local pride in our region’s special story.” Ms. LuisellaGuerrieri, manager of the regional ECS in Salento

An environmental cultural system or ECS (SAC in Italian) is a regional development system that connects a region’s developing services to its environmental resources and its historical and cultural assets, basing the development in an integrative management system that encompasses public, private and social institutions. This approach views tourism not as an end unto itself, but as a means of furthering the ultimate goal – the wellbeing of the local population. Thus, the allocation of resources to public spaces is done with the wellbeing of private individuals in mind.

ECS in the Apulia region was developed jointly by the Apulia Development Authority and the various other organizations that work in the area. Five years ago the authority sent out a call for proposals, asking for models of integrative regional management. Regional mayors joined with various organizations and societies, public parks etc., and submitted a variety of suggestions. Today the area boasts several different models of regional management, but all of them are designed to work for the benefit of the local community. Their development emphasizes rebuilding infrastructure, generating local pride, and fostering local businesses – particularly those associated with local tourism.

"Salento di mare di pietre" – ECS in Salento
ECS Salento is made up of 14 municipal authorities that had already been joined by various relations and interconnections even before coming together in the ECS. Following the call for proposals, they decided to work on a single model together. Ms. LuisellaGuerrieri, a native of this region and manager of ECS in Salento told us, “we decided to tell our story through the scenery, through the sites and the people, and we generated local pride in our region’s special story.”

Salento, which is located at the southern end of Apulia, was for many years perceived as a poverty-stricken area, and suffered from high levels of emigration. Most of Salento’s economy was based on agriculture (vineyards and olive trees) and on seasonal tourism (mostly in the summer months). In recent years the Apulia Development Authority’s support of creative industry has led Salento to start using its agriculture as a vehicle for tourism and cultural activity. Today, Salento is undergoing rapid development. Despite the economic crisis in so many European states, Salento’s economy is growing, providing new employment opportunities for its citizens and even expanding the base of businesses that enjoy the resources brought in by the tourists.

With the support of the Apulia Development Authority, several regional authorities banded together to set up an integrated management system that takes a broad view of all of the area’s available assets. It set out to generate a critical mass of regional activity including agriculture, tourism and culture, connected by ties of financial cooperation that strengthen the area as a whole. The central idea around which the model revolved was the story of “a place of sea and stones” – a name that reflects the natural scenery and the historical and cultural buildings that define this area. These features highlight the unique qualities of this particular area and are the basis of its approach to local development and conservation. None of these assets is an attraction in itself, but a single system that takes a holistic few of all the assets together is what opens up the possibility of change. “The castle is not important if the scenery around it looks neglected, and the seafront is worthless if we don’t invest in the structures across from it. It’s all connected,” says Guerrieri. “The investment in these assets is designed to create economic change and growth, based on the understanding that our existing assets can be a vehicle for local economic development.”

Local interested parties were invited to help put together a program for submission to the Apulia Development Authority. The proposal brought together social organizations, private companies, community leaders and local authorities, all of whom worked to build a model and tell their place’s story. Making the area come alive required everyone’s cooperation, with each element contributing their own assets to the mix. The local authorities, for example, saw to improving the upkeep and general accessibility of historic structures and sites. The social organizations brought their knowledge of the needs, wishes and abilities of the local community, while the local businesses provided attractive services for incoming tourists.

One example of cooperation is the integration of the local bicyclecompany, which had been founded in an effort to promote a sustainable lifestyle, choosing bicycles as a tool through which to educate for sustainability. This company joined the ECS and led a regional mapping initiative, in which young people rode throughout Salento, mapping the area and its resources. The mapping project introduced the young people to the beauty and the unique features of their home, strengthening their sense of local pride. The cyclers also created new biking trailsthat today allow the company to cater to tourists, and thus make more money and grow.

The authority sends tourists to the bicyclecompany as part of their cooperation in local development, and the ECS has helped renovate additional sites that have made the bicycle trails more attractive. “The Apulia Development Authority’s job is to make it possible for all this to happen. To make contact between different elements, people and businesses, and to see to the infrastructure,” says the manager of the cycling organization. The bicycle tours have extended the tourist season, which had hitherto been concentrated mainly in the summer months.

“Only if the place is attractive to the local population will we be able to draw in tourists from outside the region too,” adds Guerrieri. “If the city is empty, tourists will not want to be here either. So we thought of a model that would, first and foremost, strengthen the local community. The purpose of a municipal authority is to provide services and culture for everyone, and above all to its own residents.” The tool that emerged to provide service both to residents and tourists was the founding of public libraries. The model proposed that an open public library be founded in every cultural tourism site, making it a focal point of interest for both the local community and the tourists. The integrative structure would allow the libraries to grow even without a large budget, because they would be part of an entire system of revenue-producing sources: a museum, a theater, restaurants etc.

The words of the local guide, who shows people around the renovated sites, reflect the feelings of local pride that have arisen from this unique development approach: “my name is Antonio Constantino, I am not a our guide, just a resident of this place. I love this city and these buildings and I would be happy to tell you about them.”

La Via Traiana – The “Train Trail” regional ECS
Another regional system is the “Train Trail,” an ECS composed of six cities and two large parks that have banded together around the shared regional characteristic of the “Train Trail,” previously a Roman road that connected Rome to the Mediterranean. One of the most significant assets of the Train Trail ECS is the Dune Costiere regional park. The development of this park is based on the harnessing of other local assets, and on the cooperation of three sectors: the public, the private and the social. This approach has made it possible for the park’s founders – with no extraordinary investment of resources - to create a national park that includes tourist attractions like bicycle trails, archeological sites, scenic views, restaurants and more.

The park’s founders recognized that the agricultural land on which it was eventually developed had great potential, since it was rich in resources such as archeological sites, farms, ancient olive groves and private businesses, but that this potential was not being realized. They began by approaching elements in the private sector, like the bicycle company or restaurants, as well as the owners of the farms and orchards, and helped everyone see where their common interests lay. Together, the parties began to build a joint marketing scheme, including attractive and varied tourism packages. Tourists arriving at the park and interested in a tour are sent to the bicycle company, which shows them around, taking them through the local restaurants and farms. The tourists pay the company directly (not the park), so there is no mediating body that “takes a cut” of the profits. The regional and municipal authorities have gained, because only a minimal allocation of resources was required from them to produce both social and economic growth.The area has become more attractive, demand for services has grown, and with it the sources of income and professional development for local workers. Thus, for instance, the bicycle company, which is popular with visitors, is provided by the ECS with training for improving service and for turning its bike riders into qualified tour guides.

The municipal authorities joined the park initiative, and the Apulia Development Authority recognized it as an official national park. Joining the ECS allowed the park to receive funds for renovating infrastructure, roads and buildings, and the local authorities provide cleaning services. All interested parties contribute their own parts and thus increase their revenue whilst helping to maintain the local environment, culture and community. One example of this is a restaurant located in the park, which offers organic food based entirely on the produce of local farms. The menus in this restaurant detail where every ingredient comes from and the distance of its origin from the park, to encourage patrons to buy local produce.

The owner of the bicycle company told us that the number of his clientele has increased since the park was founded, “I further the interests of the park and the park furthers mine and everyone benefits. And since it joined the ECS the park has improved –there is more cooperation and everyone’s profits go up.”

The park founders understood that the local community must take part in the process of the park’s creation, because if the park it was to be kept as a nature reserve the local community would have to take care of it. They therefore organized meetings with the locals, encouraging their cooperation in protecting local natural resources. For example, they helped increase awareness of sustainable fishing practices, encouraged the use and improvement of eco-friendly transport (like bicycles), and the integration of local businesses into the preservation of the coastline and the hiking trails.

The integrative management approach used in Apulia could contribute greatly to economic development in the Negev, encouraging economic relationships and cooperation between tourism businesses, local cultural institutions, agriculturalists, local businesses and authorities etc. Such cooperation would generate a critical mass of activity for the residents of this region and for incoming tourists, and lead to development in the local spirit, using local resources and increasing local pride.

written by: Adar stern

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