Roots-In, the first international origins tourism exchange in Matera

Oct 19, 2022 314

The Basilicata Territorial Promotion Agency, in collaboration with Enit and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is organizing for the end of November "Roots - In," the first international tourism exchange of origins. There is another Italy in the world. Even bigger. It is an Italy made up of some 80 million people, Italians or descendants of Italians, who live abroad trying day after day to maintain strong ties with their country.

These are women and men, girls and boys who have often only heard of their homeland and would like to live even for a few days in those villages from which their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents left for new destinations in the world.

They are not tourists in the traditional sense of the word. They do not travel to discover new landscapes, but to live and discover the experiences, feelings, and values that are present in their DNA and that constitute an identity that survives even as they pass from generation to generation.

They are not hit-and-run tourists, but travelers who stay for more than a few days to recover relationships with their distant relatives, to bring their experience within a community, to socialize stories and fill their luggage with memories, tales to take to their friends, to the new children who will come by becoming ambassadors of their culture of origin.

Some of them then decide to stay, perhaps recovering their parents' house or buying others. Just as Francis Ford Coppola did, for example, when he returned to his Bernalda, Basilicata, to open a luxurious hotel where he could feel at home with his family, a place that soon became a favorite destination for Hollywood stars.

They are travelers driven by different motivations as shown by the first Roots Tourism Report (2021) sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Their reasons for traveling include an interest in learning more about the local culture, visiting places they have always heard about, learning the language, researching their family, passing on the local culture to the next generation, etc. These are strong motivations that bring with them additional opportunities to promote their home territories, and often create the conditions for exchanges of various kinds, with spillover and multiplier effects for the economies of their home countries.

As research in the field shows, this is not a nostalgic, past-looking tourism, but one that looks to the discovery of origins as self-completion, knowledge and enrichment, and opportunity.

"Roots tourism is extremely different from other tourism segments and, above all, from mass tourism. Respondents do not seek famous attractions or overcrowded destinations and places. They primarily want to learn more about and savor local culture, traditions and authenticity. Often the vacation is not a standard package, but is organized and tailored to the needs of these visitors, who appear to be very specific. In fact, right from the planning stage of the trip, root tourists require continuous assistance and personalized services, the offer of which is often still lacking" (from the first report on Roots Tourism in Italy - 2021).

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