Do you remember which one of the March events we were particularly ardent about and worked so hard on in the past few months?
The Basic Course on Responsible Tourism organized by the School of AITR (Italian Association of Responsible Tourism) was held as scheduled at the Hotel Casa Valdese in Rome. It was a very special event: for the Case Valdesi, it was the first time as the official headquarters of an AITR course.
We imagined that you would want to know all about it, and so we interviewed Silvia Lazzari (Communication Area and AITR Organizational Secretariat) and Matteo Genre (Director of the Hotel Casa Valdese Roma). Let’s see what they said:
Case Valdesi: Good morning Silvia. First of all … how many participated in the course?
Silvia Lazzari: This year the course had a record number of participants, 23 members. Many of them were from Rome, but there were just as many from out of town, Milan in particular, and who were able to stay at the Hotel Casa Valdese.
CV: How was your stay in our hotel?
SL: In my opinion the reception was excellent, the staff super helpful and the spaces set aside for us were the perfect venues for the training programmes (group work, lectures, etc.). We reserve any official judgement until reading the assessment questionnaires.
CV: How did the three training days go?
SL: We began on Friday afternoon by introducing the various participants and then continued until 8 pm with the training modules of our teachers and our guest Anna Donati, President of the alliance, Alleanza Mobilità Dolce. We had dinner at the hotel and this allowed everyone to network. On Saturday, we began with Matteo giving a presentation on the Case Valdesi. In the afternoon, after a quick but appetizing lunch and the training module on the topic of Overtourism*, the group went to the Esquilino district to learn about Migrantour, the project begun in 2010 by Viaggi Solidali which involves first and second generation migrants as tourist guides in the multicultural neighbourhoods of Italian and European cities. Saturday ended at the Travel Book Bar, a place on Via Borgo Pio, where the central theme is travel. On Sunday morning, a lesson was given by Stefano Spinetti of the Tour Operator Four Seasons. He explained how to organize an eco-tourism package in a responsible way. After that our teachers concluded the sessions.
CV: Could you give a general profile of the participants?
SL: Unlike the way it was last October at the course held in Reggio Emilia, here in Rome they were all experts and well integrated into the tourism sector. There were four environmental tourist guides, receptionists, operators, tour operators and consultants, as well as six representatives of four businesses and organizations associated with AITR.
CV: Thank you Silvia and good work!
* Overtourism: a phenomenon that occurs in the most popular tourist destinations, in other words “tourist overcrowding”. The concept is closely linked to mass tourism.
Case Valdesi: Matteo, we know that you actively participated in the course. What was your presentation about?
Matteo Genre: I initially gave some historical notes on the house, from the Kaiserswerth Sisters’ long residency from 1885 to 1987, when the Church of the Rhineland decided to make a gift of it to the Waldensian Church, which turned it into a hotel. From 1989 to November 2013, the Casa Valdese was managed by an Association called API (Protestant Association for Cultural and Religious Interchange) which was headed by the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, where the proceeds went. Since December 2013, the Casa Valdese has been under the management of the CSD [Synodal Commission for the Diaconia, an ecclesiastical body headed by the Union of Waldensian and Methodist Churches, ed.] But close ties have been maintained with the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, financially supported by some of the profits from the House.
CV: Very interesting. Going back to the course, what connects the Casa Valdese in Rome to the AITR? What did you tell the participants?
MG: I explained what the CSD is, in which areas it is found, and I focused on the hospitality sector. I briefly talked about the Case Valdesi’s presence in Italy and concentrated on the aspects that unite us. In the area of responsible tourism, I pointed out that the proceeds from the CSD accommodation facilities are used to finance social projects or to support our social welfare projects. I explained the common projects and then the specific ones involving the Casa Valdese in Rome in the field of sustainable tourism. I talked about our commitment to protecting the environment. I explained what our commitment consists of and I talked about what it meant in concrete terms: solar panels, LED lights, new low-emission water heater, biodegradable courtesy set, jam dispenser in the breakfast room, recycling of refuse, etc.
CV: From your point of view, how was this experience?
MG: The course went well. It seems to me that everyone was happy with it.
CV: Thank you for your time and congratulations to the hotel staff on the success of this event.
Dear Readers, we hope to continue having an ever-closer collaboration with the AITR so that the principles and values underlying responsible solidarity tourism spread like wildfire throughout our society, allowing us to provide even more support for the projects of the Diaconia Valdese www.diaconiavaldese.org aimed at people in need.
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