To win the challenge of tourism in the era of the pandemic, it is not necessary to deny it but to design our safe coexistence with it. Focusing on sustainability

*Barbara Marcotulli, service designer

It happened in Barcelona but also in Germany and the Netherlands (where they called them Back to Live festivals): experiments to understand the real risks of transmission of Covid-19 in gatherings. The sine qua non for a restart process worthy of the name.

In both cases, groups of people gather in a concert, all with negative tests, and then the infected are counted. The results? Excellent, given that only a handful of people turned out to be positive, a percentage lower than that of other decidedly more frequent and less forbidden situations.

What do these tests have in common? A vision that comes to terms with the reality to plan how” to start again and stop asking the question whether it is appropriate to do so. Guiding these experiments is a user-centered, participatory, iterative, holistic approach that creates, prototypes and tests, and starts all over again whenever necessary. A design process.

That's what we all should follow. In fact, if we exclude the possibility of closing forever, a choice of this type is certainly a winning one: it will not always necessarily lead to positive results, but it certainly moves the gaze forward and sets the collective mood towards the idea of ​​restart.

Strong planning of this type is also necessary to talk about “sustainable re-design”.

The sustainability we need, in fact, feeds on hybridization. The innovation experiences that work are united by the ability to tackle complex problems by observing them from other points of view, activating collaborative networks, giving way to creativity that emphasizes the ability to interconnect: how it happened in the experiments we were talking about at the beginning.

In fact, sustainable innovation does not only concern companies and their relationship with the market, but is the result of a change in the way of “planning” development, in which the political actor, the “regulator”, has a strategic role (Dutch, Spanish, German experiments were supported by local governments).

This desire for hybridization is the key ingredient to restart tourism, to achieve goals that do not simply aim at a “spatial” reorganization of flows. The aim must be the construction of quality urban spaces, that is, focused on inclusion, the sense of belonging, the downsizing of marginality. In short, on true sustainability.

The speed of adaptation, the preparation and implementation of strategies that consider the new reality pragmatically will determine the competitiveness of the destinations and their ability to survive and redefine themselves.

We believed that the solution could come from charismatic leaders and political measures. But we predicted the future by looking in the mirror. More than a year after the start of the pandemic, however, it is clear the need for a leadership that knows how to identify the necessary change, is able to create a vision to guide it and bring it to the ground together with all the interested parties (and to do it really: glazing certain processes by defining them as 'participated' without knowing their full meaning is a trick that no longer works).

It's time to rekindle, refocus, redesign and re-engineer our tourism industry.

We need a blueprint, and understand what this word really means.



In the photos, The CityRadio, a project with a vintage design but with a technological soul conceived by the Pizzolorusso studio for Palomar, which allows you to listen to live music and radio broadcasts from stations in 18 cities around the world. The portable device, equipped with a dedicated app, offers a sound 'journey' around the world through the international frequencies selected using the magnetic keys bearing the names of international locations.