The Retourn project is training students and employees, to reactivate tourism in Europe after natural disasters

Macerata – The Department of Economics and Law of the University of Macerata welcomes students and professionals in the economic and tourism fields on 26, 27 February and 12 March to reactivate post-natural disaster tourism. These training days concern the Retourn project (Reactivating Tourism after a Natural Disaster), financed by the European Union in the Erasmus+ axis at the end of 2021. The project, worth over 300 thousand euros, is reaching the end of its activities, after almost 30 months of work by 9 partners led by the University of Macerata, together with the Umbria Chamber of Commerce and the Pepelab association for Italy, AKMI and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Greece, the University of Maribor and CPU training center connected to the Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia, Europe Unlimited from Germany, and the TREBAG training center in Hungary.

All these countries have experienced the impact of natural disasters: central Italy in 2016 with earthquakes, but also other countries, with fires, avalanches and floods, whose territories often still suffer from environmental, economic and social damage. The consequences of these environmental events then worsened with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which contracted tourist inflows globally, further depressing the affected areas. Therefore this project was financed to recreate and strengthen professional figures who are experts in the territory, environment and tourism, to revalue and recover the territorial, economic and social balance of these countries.

Tourism is the industry that best summarizes the expression, resources and subjects operating in a territory, which if hit by a natural disaster must be able to count on new resources and skills. In fact, tourism and territorial promotion experts often lack specific skills in disaster management and strategic territorial management, to be able to guide the energies and requests of hospitality businesses, associations, tourist guides, institutions and local communities towards post-disaster recovery .

In these two years of work, the project partners have created research, study materials and a training protocol that includes traditional teaching, e-learning and experiential workshops based on the serious play method, to bring out creative and collaborative thinking for reactivation of the territories in an innovative way and consistent with the needs of the territories, through advanced knowledge and skills on sustainable, ethical tourism, strategic management of the territory. At the beginning of 2024, all partners are carrying out training in parallel in their countries, with students and professionals with an economic and tourism profile. In Italy, UNIMC is performing these activities with students, while Umbria Chamber of Commerce is focusing more on training businesses and company employees.

The project will end on 9 May 2024 in Macerata in the headquarters of the Department of Economics and Law, which will soon be officially inaugurated after the renovation after the 2016-2017 earthquakes, with a final conference in which the project partners will illustrate these training experiences and the impact had in their territories, together with Italian and European academics, companies, associations and institutions, to reflect on the impact of natural disasters on economic, social and territorial systems and share paths and best practices, trying to activate new projects.