Land of sea, boundless hills and plains, Puglia attracts visitors for its splendid coasts (more than 800 kilometers between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas), but also for its cities of art and its picturesque historic villages, where they still live intact ancient religious traditions, its country farms surrounded by olive groves, and its products of the earth with an ancient and incomparable flavor. Puglia is always worth the trip, for many reasons. (source: Italia.it)
Below, the interview with Massimo Bray, Councilor for Culture, Protection and Development of Cultural Enterprises, Tourism, Development and Tourism Business of the Puglia Region, carried out on the occasion of the award ceremony of Laterza as the Best Italian Emerging Creative Destination. Best Italian Creative Destination Awards is an initiative created by the international organization Creative Tourism Network® with the aim of enhancing and promoting Italian tourist destinations that focus on culture, creativity and intangible heritage to reinvent their tourism model.
Congratulations again for the awarding of Laterza. What do you think of Laterza recent award as the Best Italian Emerging Creative Destination?
I am proud to see Laterza included in a prestigious international circuit capable of enhancing virtuous tourism. A staple of this city is its immense historical heritage, naturalistic, but also artisanal, whose added value is in the ideas put in place to promote it. Regarding the strategies proposed by the Administration, I believe that the most valuable aspects to highlight are the creativity and originality through which the territorial identity is expressed. The recognition attributed to Laterza as the Best Italian Emerging Creative Destination will not fail to have positive repercussions both in socio-cultural and economic terms. Finally, an aspect not to be overlooked is how this virtuous experience has the potential to be an example and a driving force for other similar realities (very numerous in the South and in Apulia), in line with the European guidelines that put the hinterland and the identity traits of the cities at the center of the 2021-2027 programming.
Do you think that Creative Tourism could help to deseasonalize Apulian tourism and attract national and international tourists interested in Apulian culture and traditions?
Apulia has been working for more than a decade on the challenge of seasonal adjustment, a commitment that is concretely bearing its fruits. It is undeniable that the conformation of our territory is strongly suited to capturing flows of visitors in the summer for the bathing season. However, I am convinced that the very concept of “Creative Tourism” is able to break these binding patterns, opening up new perspectives. Culture and, in general, intangible assets, represent attractors that, if proposed in an engaging way and through the use of new languages and forms of expression, can also attract attention to places and periods not conventionally linked to the use of our beautiful sea. It is precisely through Culture and Creativity that in recent years we have managed to bring the internationalization rate of Apulian tourism from 20% in 2015 to over 28% in 2019, before the pandemic. From here it is necessary to start again to relaunch an experiential tourism which, in the diversification of the product and, therefore, of the tourist offer, finds the key to intercepting an international demand that is more oriented – than the national one – towards periods of the year different from the traditional summer season. On the other hand, product diversification is also the tool to enhance the best energies and talents of our Territory, thus contributing to creating new job opportunities to contain the phenomenon – still very strong in the South – of the migration of young generations and depopulation especially of inland areas. And, perhaps, reverse the trend and bring back to Apulia, also through the phenomenon that has taken the name of “southworking”, who has gone to study or work outside the country.
Which Apulian intangible cultural resources could be converted into creative experiences for tourists?
We must be able to re-propose every inherited resource in an organic system with a new look, but always respecting its origins. In this historical period, boasting a cultural asset without knowing how to communicate its values in a creative and persuasive way is vain. Apulia is a mine of intangible assets ready to be valued. It is our intention not only to structure a tourist proposal focused on sharing techniques, knowledge and tools of the past, but also to make our guests participate in the meanings, values and stories that are inherent in them. The craftsmanship of excellence, the design, the bands tour as a unique and original musical genre, the typical food and wine excellent production and, the peasant architecture with the extraordinary case of dry stone walls, industrial archeology are just some of the possible examples. The cultural baggage that we would like to offer creatively is inextricably linked to the feelings that move the gestures, shapes and colors of our territory.
I would like to underline the important work that the Puglia Region has been carrying out for a long time on oral traditions. Another huge intangible asset that we are providing to digitize and disseminate in a completely innovative way. Spearhead of this operation is the project on folk tales, thanks to which you can strengthen the relationship between the identity of the communities and the landscapes that host them..
What do you think are the challenges to overcome?
To achieve an authentic leap in quality, in the field of tourism and culture and, therefore, of cultural tourism or – if we want – of a new culture of tourism, today we are faced mainly with two major challenges. First of all, a profound reappropriation by citizens – above all in terms of knowledge – of the extraordinary cultural heritage of which they are custodians is necessary, at the same time as a solid and updated training for the operators of each sector involved. Among the benefits offered to the City of Laterza, as the Best Emerging Creative Destination, I like to point out that a high-level training session is planned for all collaborators by the Creative Tourism Network®. Another goal to be achieved will be to consolidate and innovate – in the perspective of the ecological and digital transition – tangible and intangible infrastructures aimed primarily at connections. A very fundamental aspect to improve the use of the goods and the territory itself in the first place for its citizens and, therefore, for guests from other regions of Italy and from all over the world to make them real “temporary citizens”.
(Interview conducted by Ilaria Coribello)