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Co-working in small tourist areas. Sustainable options for young entrepreneurs of Rural Tourism

Concetta D’Emma, (39 years old, born and living in Italy) is Founder of the Unconventional Hospitality project, and works also as an International Speaker, Author, Challenger & Business Coach, Food & Green Marketing Strategy Expert, and Press & Public Relationships for GWTO (Global Wine Tourism Organization).

After graduating in tourism sciences and -completing a Masters degree in tourism management, she realized that she needed to work – at a deeper level with people, not just to give them “technical” skills. This is the way she has found to improve the hospitality industry and this is why over the years she has also become a Mental Coach.

 

What have been the highlights of your career?

At the age of 24 and for 7 years (2006 to 2013), I was working on creating and developing the 1st of Eco-Friendly Hotels Group in Italy (I affiliated more than 160 accommodation facilities), contributing to the drafting of the certification in – levels from 1 to 5 and also creating the 1st Eco-friendly Purchasing Group for hotels (selecting more than 150 companies in Green Economy sector).

Since 2006 I’ve become an expert in: Responsible Tourism and Green Hospitality, Sport Tourism, Pet-Friendly Tourism and LGBTQ+ Tourism, because I am part of and represent each of these -interest groups..

My mission is to help professionals in tourism and hospitality to become – Ambassadors of their Territory, through the creation of unique and unforgettable experiences for all Unconventional Travellers, – not forgetting to involve local businesses, to respect the environment and to bring ethics and passion to the world of hospitality.

From 2015 I created the Unconventional Hospitality concept, dedicated to welcoming guests with special needs, the Unconventional Travellers, as well as the Unconventional Breakfast format – – –  breakfasts using local produce for Travellers with Different Dietary & Food Lifestyles (e.g. vegetarians, vegans, coeliac, those who are gluten sensitive or lactose-intolerant, sports participants, Muslims, Jewish people, etc.)

My Vision is to give all Unconventional Travellers the same opportunities and the same rights to -enjoy unique and unforgettable experiences on a par with ‘normal’ people, without making them feel a burden, a problem, or ‘different’.

I’ve been creating a new culture in Italy on “unconventional issues”, both writing in several magazines in the tourism field and through my podcast Unconventional Hospitality on YouTube.

In 2015 I – became the – first lecturer in Italy to introduce and teach all subjects related to Unconventional Hospitality, – within both some tourism academies and tourism institutes and on various -Masters degree programmes in Food & Beverage Management and Tourism & Hospitality Management.

Since 2016 I have been launching new professional -occupations in the tourism industry such as: Unconventional Breakfast Manager, Unconventional Food & Beverage Manager, Green Ambassador, Glocal Creator, etc.

In 2018 I created the training-experiential methodology and format called Food Factor Challenge, the first training programme in the hospitality industry with a challenge that involves all departments of a company – to create amazing and unique gastronomic experiences for all guests with different dietary & food lifestyles.

From November 2020-I became the Press & PR Delegate for Italy for the Global Wine Tourism Organization (GWTO) and the Corporate Glocal Storyteller Expert.

I also collaborate with the Banco Alimentare Foundation to raise awareness and – provide concrete and practical strategies to operators in the tourism sector, regarding the fight against food waste.

 

BOOKS and EBOOKS BY THE AUTHOR

  1. “Breakfast Experience against Covid-19: a successful and safe breakfast without forgetting the wow effect”, with a preface by Banco Alimentare on Amazon: https://www.amazon.it/Breakfast-Experience-Against-Covid-19-Dimenticarsi/dp/B08L3XCBMD
  2. Green Hospitality: how to do Business while enhancing the Environment, People and Territory.
  3. Breakfast Costs Vs Breakfast Marketing: Everything They Never Told You About Winning Guests with Different Food Styles.

 

Where – do you see yourself in 5 years time?

In 5 years’ time, I see myself traveling all over the world, training in – academic and university contexts that welcome innovation and challenges -, acting as a trainer- and -consultant in -hotels that want to include and develop the new professional – occupations that I have created, helping local producers to better value their local products and uniqueness, helping destinations to create real partnerships between the different stakeholders in the area, so that they do not see themselves as competitors but as allies.

I see my online Unconventional Hospitality Academy having been launched and it’s full of professionals that want to make the difference.

 

Professional growth is closely linked to personal growth

Do you encounter similar difficulties now  to those you did at the start of your career?

There are similar difficulties now, but the more experience you have, the more results you -achieve, the more confident you become and the faster you can overcome obstacles.

 

How do you ensure you continue to be successful?

I’ll never stop to invest in my personal growth, I’ll keep studying – I’ll be always in a student -mode, I’ll be always curious, looking for inspiration– from different fields, looking for new allies, new partnerships, working with more and more students in order to get more testimonials so they can be an inspiration to others. I’ll remain humble and I’ll build and nurture the Unconventional Hospitality Challengers Movement.

Hybrid solutions (online and offline) to re-skill tourist sector

 

Do you have any tips for people trying to start out in the industry?

My advice is to travel as much as you can and work in different departments: the more experience you get, the more clarity you will – – get about what you would or would not like to do -. Don’t be afraid to fail or to try an experience you won’t like at all.

You need to discover what you prefer to do according to your personality. For example, – whether you are – a person that likes to travel or prefers to just stay – in an office,  whether you like to be more ‘visible’ (like a star on the stage), or feel-  more comfortable working behind the scenes.

You need to get to know yourself better in order to -make  the right decisions for your career and your life in general.

 

Do you believe that new digital, social and green skills need to be – adopted in the management of tourist destinations? What has been your experience in this field?

Of course, these skills need to be – adopted. In my experience, there is a lot of work to do in Italy. -in particular, if we want to communicate – on social media about – sustainability and – corporate social responsibility, we need to know how to communicate it – taking  the ‘transparency factor’ into account. Often people and web agencies communicate in a superficial way, using random words (without awareness of their meaning) and also falling into greenwashing: they just care about having a good picture to post and not about choosing the right words to use, the right – stories to tell, the ethical way to communicate.

Often those professionals don’t know the people behind that product, or experience or destination. Online communication will never be ethical if we don’t get to know those people and all the stakeholders of the destination.

Destinations should care more about the quality of their content and the people -they wish to attract and engage with. They have -great power – to influence the behaviour of visitors and

travellers, in a virtuous way: – with the appropriate- soft skills you can better use the hard skills: it’s a bit like having the right license to drive the right cars can allow us to make a difference and win the race.

 

How could these skills be – best taught

It -can depend- on -people’s age, on the different generations. It’s true that thanks to the pandemic, everyone has had to get used to doing everything online, including training, but it’s also true that people have “overdosed” on online training. -Live human contact- has become even more important after – we have all been isolated for so long. Surely hybrid solutions will become the norm-.It’s true that in the tourism sector many people, especially those aged 40 and over, -still – have reservations about digital solutions,  and  may also – be resistant also because – so far they have had no choice.

–Younger generations, on the other hand, should almost become less digital and more -engaged with people. During this summer, for example, I had six students as interns, and they too realized how difficult it was to work remotely, in a smart working mode. Among their greatest difficulties – were the ability to self-manage time according to the goals to be achieved, to — maintain  a long attention span, to communicate and coordinate with -colleagues and  to take responsibility for everything going well, since everyone worked at different times and moments of the day.

 

How important do you think the commitment to environmental sustainability is in the tourism sector and in your job, and do you think this commitment will grow in the future?

I can speak in particular for Italy: lots of operators see the environment as an intangible thing. They think it’s just something like energy consumption, km0 or organic food, but these are just little pieces that are part of a bigger picture, like the frame of a puzzle.

Very  few operators in my experience, but also those in the public sector, have -any idea about the 17 sustainable development goals, and if they’ve heard about them, they look at -them as something  far away intangible. Nobody knows what to do with them. This is the reason – I decided to create a simple guideline, a workbook, in order to help them first be aware of which goals they are already achieving, second analyse how they are communicating those goals and how they -could do it better or in a different way, third understand how they can engage more effectively with their visitors or guests.

 

What  role -can professional associations – play regarding training needs and implementation

I work a lot with professional associations, and they can play a big role. They have the power to influence and engage with their members, and normally they want – the best for – them, because they know that if they are able to make a guest or a visitor happy, – – the whole region will benefit economically and socially.

A good association for example – will – choose the best trainers/consultants and  provide the best solutions and offers to their members, – – tailored to what they really need for their business at that moment.

 

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