Tourism remains regional

Luis Durnwalder, the president of the bilingual Province of Bolzano (Italian)/Bozen (German)  announced on the 28th of april that SouthTyrol needs a bigger airport. “We do not want a major airport in Bolzano, but we need a small and safe one, adapted to our conditions”, said Durnwalder. The improvement of the transportation infrastructure is essential for South Tyrol  to keep competitive, not in the last place on the field of tourism.

By Kai Heijneman

President Luis Durnwalder announces that the province of Bolzano needs a bigger airport, 28-04. PHOTO: KAI HEIJNEMAN

Tourism is crucial

Good connections are vital for the tourism in the region and tourism is vital for the region. The current airport is mainly used for freights and some military flights. Whereas the neighbours across the Austrian border have a sizeable airport for passenger flights in Innsbruck. It shows South Tyrol and Tyrol are still competing.

South Tyrol is in comparison to its population density even the most touristic place in whole Italy, according to the  Statistical yearbook of South Tyrol 2010.

Since the touristic heart of Italy is in the North, close to the Austrian border, tourist organizations on both sides of the border find themselves in a split between working closer together and trying to out-compete each other. To understand the possibilities and difficulties on cooperating in the field of tourism, it is crucial to look at the  promoted a three levels at which tourism is promoted in the area.

Provincial level: South Tyrol (level 1)

First of all there is the promotion every region/province do themselves. For South Tyrol the marketing is done by the South Tyrolean Marketing Corporation (SMG) through their site http://www.suedtirol.info. SMG promotes the region at exhibitions, makes and spreads brochures and folders, informs tourist through there website and even introduced a trademark for certified South Tyrolean food, so tourists can see at a glance which products are the real traditional regional products.

The promotion at this very regional level is by far the most important one.

Euroregion: Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino (level 2)

The Euroregion Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino. PHOTO: Euregio Tyrol - South Tyrol - Trentino

The second layer is the promotion of the Euroregion Tyrol, South Tyrol and Trentino. The region includes the Austrian area around Innsbruck, called Tyrol as well as the Italian part around Bolzano, known as South Tyrol and the Italian province of Trentino just south of South Tyrol.

Historically and politicly there is a lot to say to promote this region, as they have a common culture and historical background, especially South Tyrol and Tyrol ofcourse.

According to the Head of Marketing of SMG, Greti Ladurner of SMG, cooperation on the field of tourism is not as logical as it seems. For Trentino, the most Southern province of the Euroregion the importance of tourism is too small to be an interesting partner for the other two. For Tyrol and South Tyrol there seem to be too many differences for a common strategy.

Number of touristic accommodation per region:

Tyrol South Tyrol Trentino
23.859 10.285 2.662

Source: Statistics folder Euroregion Tyrol, South tyrol and Trentino, 2009

Extreme sports vs Mediteranean climate

“Tyrol and South Tyrol promote themselves quite differently. Tyrol focusses mostly on wintersports, especially extreme sports. Our (South Tyrol, red.) unique selling aspect is the combination of the alpine sports combined with the Mediterranean feel of South Tyrol”, says Ladurner

Because of its geographical location, South Tyrol has a much warmer climate than Tyrol. Add the influence of the Italian culture  and it is easy to understand why South Tyrol feels so different from the Austrian Tyrol just across the border. In South Tyrol, the Apfelstrudel meets the Italian Espresso. Traditional Tyrol clothes in the villages blend with Italian fashion from the cities.  And perhaps the best symbiosis can be seen in the kitchen.

Transnational level: The Alps (level 3)

The Alps seen from a Satelite in 2002. PHOTO: NASA, COPYRIGHT FREE

Just recently cooperation has become more serious on the Macro level of the Alps as transantional region. France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Slovenia Joined forces in the Alpes project. Luis DurnWalder points out in the interview that promoting the Alps to (e.g.) an American makes more sense then promoting every separate region within the Alps.

The bureau for the Euroregion South Tyrol, Tyrol and Trentino also sees the added value of promoting the Alpes above promoting Euroregion. Matthias Fink, the representative of Tyrol in the Euroregion office: “On a global level the competition is rather Alpine holidays versus city trips. If alpine and winter sports holidays become less popular due to an increasing interest in city tourism, every country in the Alps suffers.”

Where a beautiful landscape and a Mediterranean climate meet

Eberhardt Eugen with his wife at the Walter von der Vogelweide Platz in Bolzano PHOTO KAI HEIJNEMAN

One of the reason why tourism is still promoted at the lowest regional level is because of the homogeneous background of tourists.

A stunning 89% of all tourists that visit South Tyrol are from either Italy or Germany. “Germans and Italians know about Tyrol, its mild climate and its history. If they come to South Tyrol, they choose it deliberate above (North) Tyrol. The regions really are quite different.”

German pensioner Eberhardt Eugen visits South Tyrol for a few days. “The landscape is beautiful, but we have that in Germany. My wife and I come here for the mild Mediterranean climate. Even in April the weather is already nice here”, explains the man from Pretzfeld his choice for South Tyrol.

It is clear that for SMG, promoting South Tyrol as a part of Tyrol or the Alps does not make much sense, at least not for the German and Italian market, which is almost the entire market.

SMG, however, tries to expand to other markets including the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. “Our approach is really different in every country. For example in Switzerland we will not promote the beautiful mountainous area, because they have Alps back home too. In the new  markets such as the Netherlands and Poland we need to start from scratch. People will often not even know where South Tyrol is located. So we need maps too explain that too.”

Read more :

  • Welcome to Gossensass
    Reportage in Gossensass (Brenner), a small village that lives from tourism on the Italian side of the border.

Watch more:


The entire interview (in German, no subtitles) with Luis Durnwalder on fascist monuments, the Euroregion and cross border cooperation on tourism.

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