Over-tourism and how companies are helping preserve Rome.

Bella Roma! or maybe not.

Rome is just beautiful, it’s no wonder that it receives around 10 million tourists every year. It has an immense array of archaeological monuments and art treasures, along with charming villas, parks and panoramic views. But this huge number of tourists in a relatively small city centre, where residents already live and work, is causing a deterioration of the environment and, some would say, a negative experience for the visitor. At peak times, tourists can be crammed together in front of statues, buildings or paintings, making it impossible for them to enjoy the moment. At the same time, it is a problem for the authorities to look after and manage the artworks, buildings and monuments in a sustainable manner. It’s a problem of over-tourism.

What Rome’s doing about it

Over-tourism is not a new phenomenon, but it is becoming better understood, and many cities have started making moves to more effectively manage their visitors and preserve their monuments. Policies range from increasing prices and reducing permits, to better marketing and education. Italy is certainly not a poor country, but its artistic and archaeological heritage is so great that there is never enough money to cover its maintenance. One of Rome city council’s recent policies in combatting this problem was to ban tourist buses from the city centre, as of January 2019, to combat air and noise pollution, as well as congestion. Another solution was to facilitate private company funding of the restoration of historical sites, in exchange for having their brand linked to the work.

Largo Torre Argentina

One of the latest sponsorships that Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi announced last month, was the restoration project of Largo Torre Argentina, best known as the site of Caesar’s assassination, which will be undertaken by the fashion house Bulgari. They have pledged €985,000 to restore the area. The site sits about 7mts below the street level though it’s probably better known to Romans due to its large cat sanctuary. It’s pretty much abandoned and sadly, this area has become a symbolic testimony to the general decay of Rome. However, on a positive note, the new project forecasts walkways and lighting systems to be installed to allow visitors to wander amongst the ruins day and night, and a storeroom to be turned into a museum to display the archaeological finds.

Why do companies sponsor?

The Italian government mostly pays to maintain their cultural heritage, but as the state continues to struggle financially, officials are turning more and more to private funding. The mammoth restoration of the Colosseum was undertaken by Tods, and the Trevi Fountain returned to its former glory thanks to Fendi. Initially Romans feared that luxury goods company Tod, when it agreed to finance the restoration of the Colosseum, would use the historic structure for an advertising campaign, it didn’t. Neither did Fendi once it restored the Trevi Fountain. So why would they do it you may ask? They certainly got a lot of news coverage, and surely the tax deduction was worthwhile. Could we postulate that a part of their decision was due to fact that they may actually care about their Italian Capital? Altruism is perhaps not a characteristic that tends to be easily associated with big international brands, but maybe this trend is changing.

The increase of sustainable business practices

There are in fact many commercial activities today that are embracing sustainable practices. The tourist industry knows that they are often indirectly responsible for over-tourism, and many companies are contributing towards its solution. Sustainability means not only that businesses look after our environment, but that they embrace best practices for managing resources and development. When a company chooses to restore a heritage site, or manages to improve tourist flows through simple guided sightseeing tours, they are looking after our environment, and making a tremendous contribution in sustainability. Often the best motivator in a commercial contest is economical and sustainable best practices which are cost effective and allow companies to be profitable are indeed win-win solutions. Unfortunately, there are not too many of these around.

POPGuide is a sustainable solution

In 2018, Vox came up with an ingenious cost-effective tool which helps tourist management companies deal with tourist flows in a sustainable manner, it’s called POPGuide. POPGuide is an interactive destination, mapping and audio app that allows businesses to communicate with their clients in multiple languages, on their smartphones, under their own brand. Local, state, and national tourism boards are often tasked with promoting tourism and business travel rather than the planning and managing it. But DMCs are showing a lot of interest in POPGuide as it allows promotion, and its rich trend data enables the modification and management of tourist flows. This information shows how re-routing is achievable and proves that better management of overcrowding is attainable. St. Peter’s Basilica successfully uses POPGuide today as its official app, allowing visitors to fully explore the Basilica, and the city of Rome, at their own pace and in their own time, following itineraries that ensure they don’t get caught up in bottlenecks!

If you are interested in learning more about how POPGuide can help your business grow, contact us here