Working for a responsible communication code

For at least a decade, social networks have completely revolutionised communication activity for tourist destinations, and in an area as fragile as the Dolomites it is more important than ever to carefully assess their impact on the integrity of the Property and the authenticity of visitors’ experiences. For this reason, the Promotion of Sustainable Tourism Network, coordinated by the Province of Belluno, has launched a working group that will define a “Dolomites World Heritage Site Responsible-Communication Code”. This tool will be of use, first and foremost, to the provincial and regional authorities and tourist agencies across the area, but hopefully it will also be adopted by anybody issuing information about the Dolomites.

Il Pelmo da Col Puina. Ph. Elia Lazzari

Mount Pelmo from Col Puina. Ph. Elia Lazzari

Common problems, shared solutions

Coordinated by Prof. Umberto Martini, lecturer in Economics and Management at the University of Trento, the working group meets periodically to explore various issues and draft the Code, which should be ready next autumn.

The process began with a shared awareness: the Dolomites World Heritage Site is, as we know, extremely rich and diverse, but it is particularly attractive from the perspective of communication based primarily on images. This confirms its status as a location desirable for a particular type of communication based on social-network channels and proposing models for usage of the area that often contradict the values that led to inclusion of the Dolomites in the World Heritage List. It is therefore extremely important that institutions, tourist agencies and, where possible, content creators themselves, communicate coherent messages, promoting ways of experiencing the Property that also respect it.

Action taken

How much does viral circulation of certain images actually affect visitor numbers to extremely fragile sites? How is it possible to communicate the authenticity of a place and not solely the aesthetic quality of its landscapes? How is it possible to promote respectful visits aligned with the values of UNESCO status? How is it possible to constantly raise the awareness of visitors and residents of their impact on the Property, and increase levels of prudence and preparation? How is it possible to transmit the importance of adapting to the transformations imposed by the climate crisis, changing our behaviour in the mountains?

These are important issues which, in recent years, have generated broad public debate.

For the time being, dialogue is aimed at coordinating the intentions of those, at the institutional level, with initiative and responsibility in the communication and promotion sector and who therefore touch the values of the World Heritage Site and the sense of limits (integrity and authenticity), management of visitor flows and overtourism, the climate crisis and its impact on land use, and the prudence and awareness of visitors. Identifying common principles for communication regarding the Dolomites that takes into account these aspects represents an excellent starting point to share the Code with a wider audience.