The city of Igualada & Airbnb | ‘Healthy Destinations Lab’
A healthy tourism project between the city of Igualada (Spain) and Airbnb provides a blueprint to promote lesser-known destinations across the world. As told by Airbnb the number of arrivals of guests to the region increased 50% in one year propelled by domestic travelers. In late 2018, Igualada City Council and Airbnb announced the creation of the “Healthy Destinations Lab”. The innovative project brought together industry, policymakers and locals to explore, generate ideas and collaborate on building a healthy and sustainable tourism model for the municipality of Igualada, located within the L’Anoia region in Catalonia (Spain).
We wrote about the ‘Global Office of Healthy Tourism’ by Airbnb back in 2018 and recently they published a whitepaper on New Sustainable Tourism Destinations in which they, amongst other topics about sustainable tourism, subscribe the project with the city of Igualada in the Anoia region in Spain. The effect of the project: Guests arrivals in the Anoia region grew by almost 50% in 2019, 71% growth of domestic travel in the Anoia region in 2019, 16 of the 35 municipalities in the Anoia region received travelers through Airbnb.
‘Healthy Destinations Lab’
From February to May 2019, Airbnb and local government collaborated on a number of workshops and discussion events open to locals, small business owners and representatives from public administrations. The activity culminated with the ‘New Destinations Summit’, an international event that brought together more than 300 tourism and policy stakeholders, including 30 mayors. Following on from the success of this initiative, Airbnb asked independent tourism and collaborative economy expert, Francisco Rodríguez Bautista to assess and collect the key learnings from the activity in Igualada. The idea of this study is to create a blueprint for how technology can be leveraged to drive tourism to off-the-beaten-path destinations, both within Spain and beyond.
Travel and tourism represents more than 10 percent of global GDP and 1 in 10 jobs around the world but its benefits are often not distributed evenly. Around half of municipalities in Catalonia, for example, have no hotels or other traditional accommodation options. But in almost 120 communities with no hotels in Catalonia, travel on the Airbnb platform has helped boost the economy by €1.5 million. In January 2020, Igualada City Council and Airbnb presented Rodríguez’s Sustainable Tourism White Paper as a proposed model for how private-public collaborations can help destinations develop their tourism potential in a sustainable way.
5 key stages in the process of turning a region into a viable and sustainable destination
Rodríguez suggests first making an evaluation of a prospective new destination. He recommends an initial analysis of what attributes, services, attractions and existing infrastructure the location in question has, and whether they combine to create tourism potential.
Next, Rodríguez says, relevant political stakeholders must make a clear commitment to promoting the destination, with a focus on sustainability. The agreement between public sector and private sector must be aligned and endorsed by all key institutional stakeholders in the locality.
Community involvement and support
Respect for local culture is a lynchpin of how Airbnb operates, and Rodríguez identifies the support and consensus from the local community as a key element of any future programme similar to that carried out in Igualada. He suggests that the active participation of locals is essential, and can be facilitated through dedicated workshops. According to the white paper, similar initiatives should also foster the use of underutilised resources, such as spare rooms and empty homes.
Training and coordination
Rodríguez also emphasizes the importance of a joined-up community and local business training plan, including hands-on workshops to help demonstrate the power and potential of technology. He suggests that training participants should represent local business, culture, technology and any other influential regional groups, in order to ensure that knowledge and resources are shared as fully as possible.
Finally, this kind of tourism activity in new destinations should be underpinned by sound regulation, giving legal legitimacy to any wider initiatives aimed at improving the accommodation and leisure offer. The report also emphasizes the importance of seeking collaboration between all relevant stakeholder organizations, as well as making sure that technology is leveraged in order to support any registration of activity and collection and remittance of relevant taxes.
The white paper also offers recommendations on how to analyze the capacities and accessibility of the destination, find the target tourist, and create a communications strategy that promotes a representative picture of the destination.