The UNWTO report “Walking Tourism – Promoting Regional Development” showcases examples of walking tourism (the Via Francigena is one of the best practices included) which can serve as a practical reference for destinations looking into the role of walking tourism for their own regional development.
Walking tourism is now one of the most popular ways to experience a destination. It allows tourists to better engage with the local population, nature and culture. It also meets the growing demand for outdoor activities in general. Walking tourism can be developed anywhere as an offer of sustainable tourism with a relatively small investment yet high social and economic returns for residents and tourists alike, if properly developed and managed.
This report by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) underscores the role of partnerships and the involvement and support of local stakeholders in the development and maintenance of walking tourism for regional development, considering that residents and tourists end up sharing common goods and this might give ground for potential conflicts. Therefore, access to training and inclusion of the local population in the tourism value chain is needed in order to seize new business opportunities for regional development.
Increasing consumer demand for “experiencing” a destination in an authentic way and the growing popularity of active tourism make walking tourism more and more relevant beyond walking activities, showcasing a destination as a whole including its local culture and nature.
The European Association Via Francigena has contributed to providing information and to collaborating for the implementation of this study that includes also other international best practices as the Georgia Hiking Trails, the Lebanon Mountain Trail, the Shinetsu Trail (Japan), the Sierra Greenway (Spain), the Jeju Olle Trail (Republic of Korea). The case study of the Via Francigena (pg. 41-44) is focused on the Italian section of the path, especially regarding the Tuscany region. EAVF Good practices in the field of governance, interregional and transnational cooperation, bottom-up approach along the Via Francigena are also highlighted within the study.