martedì 31 agosto 2021

The Albergo Diffuso model could Revitalize Tourism



 The Scattered Hotel Model Could Revitalize Tourism 

CREATED IN ITALY BY GIANCARLO DALL'ARA, THE 'ALBERGO DIFFUSO' PROVIDES UNIQUE INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR HOSPITALITY TODAY 

Imagine a guest on holiday. They wake up in their hotel room, but instead of opening their eyes in a standard suite, they're in a charmingly old stone castle, or maybe in a warmly decorated cabin. Their room is at the intersection of magically unique and comfortably modern, where they have all the amenities they need. They have their own privacy and feel at home, getting to experience authenticity and hidden gems. Meanwhile, their friend is staying in a similar room just down the street, and they're about to meet for breakfast. They both know that reception is just a phone call and a couple minutes away, and, when they look outside, there's a stunning view from their small town, maybe perched in the mountains, maybe facing the sea. Behind the scenes, their presence has brought new life to their surroundings.

This is the Albergo Diffuso, created by Italian professor Giancarlo Dall'Ara. Loosely translated as 'scattered hotel,' it falls at the intersection of various industry needs. And while its name and the concepts behind them are definitely Italian, it can - and, indeed, has - been successfully adapted to various countries. What's more, while it's well-established, it's resurging this year with a promise to be an adaptable Covid and post-pandemic model. 

Travelers, nowadays, decidedly want security, safety, and assurances, and all at a value - they're not afraid to pay more for better. But they also still crave adventure, excitement, or novelty in some variety of another. Meanwhile, they still seek uniqueness, to feel like locals. They want to be able to come back from a trip with not only good photos, but good stories. Meanwhile, it may seem that current industry needs have boiled down to 'bookings and recovery,' and that's certainly part of it. Still, the way to get there is more complex, and the industry also wants what's good for it. This, in many cases, is sustainability - both in terms of what's good for the environment, and what's efficient and logistically sound. Using what you already have to get an edge and gain more revenue is, after all, a winning combination.

The idea behind Alberghi Diffusi came about in the 1980s, when Giancarlo Dall'Ara was visiting towns in the Italian Friuli region, after being sent there to revitalize the area's tourism after a particularly devastating earthquake. The New York Times reported in 2010 that, in the tiny village of Maranzanis, for example, several houses had been destroyed, and all but a few elderly residents had moved out and abandoned their homes. This gave Dall'Ara an idea.

There are several key ideas behind the Albergo Diffuso. These include sustainability, a 'hotel that is not built,' and creating a network among local resources. The concept was born to develop tourism in existing locations in hamlets and old town centres while not changing its characteristics. Its aim, says Dall'Ara in a Forbes interview, is to create a community among locals and visitors, as an integral part of a network promoting economic and social revival. 

In practice, the scattered hotel is housed in, say, a network of preexisting houses in a town centre; one is used as the central reception (sometimes also serving as the town tavern), while the others (which are all a "reasonable distance" from each other, no more than 200 metres), become the remaining hotel rooms. Guests can avail of all services including daily room cleaning, assistance, room service for breakfast upon request, and more.

And while the guests have all the modern amenities they need, they get an exclusive travel experience as 'more than a tourist.' The same remoteness that has worked against all-but-abandoned Italian hamlet residents not only yields a striking panorama, but has often also preserved 'the old ways,' such as traditional song, story, dialect, cooking and building methods. In turn, the hotel can also bring an opportunity for local tourism development - like the relaunch and rediscovery of traditions, handicrafts, events, initiatives and resources - bringing a cultural as well as economic boost for the residents. 

Originally, Dall'Ara set out to create "a model with cultural roots in Italy and in the history of Italian hospitality." Since the Albergo Diffuso model was getting simplified and misunderstood, Dell'Ara created the Alberghi Diffusi National Association, to protect the scattered hotel model while enhancing its brand. And now, the association has gone worldwide - indeed, Italy isn't alone in its capacity to host this kind of accommodation. 

When creating the concept, Dall'Ara also looked internationally, such as to Portuguese Pousadas, American Cluster Inns, the Japanese Ryokan model. The internationalization of the Albergo Diffuso itself then began in 2009, with Switzerland, followed by a test in Spain, in 2012. Since, dell'Ara says he's received requests from various countries: Ireland, Albany, France, Slovakia, Japan, Serbia, San Marino, and Germany. Most recently, they've seen interest in Nepal. 

So, what makes the Albergo Diffuso so promising, and is it workable in the current climate? As mentioned, the scattered hotel model is inherently sustainable, taking and remodeling an existing property over building an entirely new one (a resource-heavy endeavour and one that can disrupt the environment it's meant to showcase). And, as well as breathing new life into a sleepy town's cultural and touristic activities, it can also financially benefit restaurateurs, property owners, shopkeepers and whole areas, after a difficult year for many. It caters to the new generation of guests wanting an authentic, local experience, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. And, of course, it's Covid-friendly, gathering fewer people in separate buildings and in less-populated areas.

The model can be found everywhere. You can see it in the form of sun soaked spa villages in Cyprus, red-roofed fairytale-esque islands in Montenegro, upscale seaside lodges in Tasmania, Spanish colonial houses in Florida, charming Swiss mountain hamlets, picturesque mining towns in Colorado, or ancient Etruscan villages or grandiose castles in Italy. The Albergo Diffuso was inspired by Italian hamlets and their style of life, a love letter to a culture that's even unique to its regions and towns. Still, its internationalization shows that it can easily be adapted to anywhere that needs a boost, in any country. We could all use a little sunny, Italian village attitude, after all.

04.08.2021

 

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