Conviviality all round: the cooperative way to organise a tourism business

Damn, two days late.  Wednesday was, I have now been told, the European Day of Tourism.  If only I’d known in time…

Better late than never, however, I have been looking into what’s going on in the burgeoning area of tourism cooperatives.  I had a brief phone call this morning from Peter Hogbin of the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, a cooperative established two years ago to promote their part of Scotland.  I hope to find out more from Peter about what they’re up to in due course.

Heart of Argyll is one of only a handful of tourism-related coops in the UK, at least according to Co-operatives UK.  But plenty is happening abroad.  A press release in Spanish in my email today claims that more than a thousand worker coops in Europe are engaged in tourism-related businesses, helping to “promote a more sustainable and responsible form of tourism”.

There’s certainly plenty of ways to organise your 2014 holiday the cooperative way, if you’re so minded.  Italy in particular seems crammed with possibilities, with everything from Libera Terra coops managing lands confiscated from the Mafia to the community-based Briganti di Cerreto in the mountain village of Cerreto north-west of Florence, set up in 2003 partly to help prevent a drift by local young people away from the countryside.  The coop brigands of Cerreto offer among other things a good-looking fifteenth-century converted mill to sleep in.

Maurizio Davolio, President of one of Italy’s federations of tourism coops Legacoop Turismo,  gave examples of tourism coops from across Europe at a tourism conference in Benidorm in April this year (his slides are available online). His argument is that cooperative tourism respects workers’ rights, acknowledges the cultural identity of areas, encourages local cuisine from coop producers, and last but not least offers “conviviality and a friendly atmosphere”.

Incidentally, the International Labour Organization’s COOP unit has just announced that it will be undertaking a scoping exercise to explore the extent of tourism coops worldwide.  The ILO is looking particularly at Italy, France, the UK, Canada, Argentina, Malaysia, China, India and Egypt.  Preliminary results are promised shortly.