The power of ‘CO’ –T.UN.NA Winter Academy Manifesto

I wrote this article about three weeks ago, when even in northern Italy the coronavirus didn’t seem so deadly. A few days later, most of my friends from Trento and other bits of Italy – ‘The People’ I wrote about below – have been quarantined. The region that relies so heavily on tourism is suddenly not accessible to tourists. Our T.UN.NA Manifesto advocates the join work – cooperation, co-decision making, co-creation – but now we have to avoid other people to stay safe. None of us at the Winter Academy thought of such scenario a few weeks earlier when discussing risk and threats to tourism development. This is a topic for a separate article – I am just making a reference to it now to acknowledge the change. I also hope that the Second Edition of T.UN.NA will still go ahead as planned.

T.UN.NA – the Idea

The first edition of the Winter Academy for Tourism Management for UNESCO sites in Natural Areas (T.UN.NA) took place in Trento and the Dolomites World Heritage Site, in the north of Italy, at the end of 2019. Organised by the OECD Trento Centre for Local Development, in co-operation with the UNESCO Dolomites Foundation, the tsm-Trentino School of Management and other partners, the week-long training was packed with several site visits around the Dolomites as well as practical sessions run by managers of natural and protected areas from all over Europe. I was one of 25 international professionals selected to take part in the Academy.

The power of ‘CO’ –T.UN.NA Winter Academy Manifesto

The People

T.UN.NA was advertised as ‘a learning environment and training for managers, policy makers and professionals actively engaged in managing tourism in natural sites’ to share expertise to tackle unbalanced tourism development and discuss effective strategies to drive the change towards more sustainable future. It was this unique mix of knowledgeable, passionate and inspiring people from various fields – nature conservation, forestry, sustainable tourism, destination management and marketing, heritage management, mountaineering – that made the experience such a success.

We had an environmental guide from the Mount Olympus in Greece; a professor of sustainable tourism from the US; the head of an ecotourism NGO from Tunisia; botanists, researchers and scientists working in Protected Areas; managers of UNESCO sites; but also a few students with fresh ideas and great solutions.

The power of ‘CO’ –T.UN.NA Winter Academy Manifesto

The Programme

The programme was intense (8am until 6pm for a week) with keynote presentations, discussions, workshops and site visits. Each day was dedicated to a different topic – ‘a dilemma’. For example, ‘openness v closure’ (the more accessible natural sites are, the bigger threat to crowds, pollution, traffic etc. Shall we regulate/restrict or maintain free and open access?) or ‘consumption v experience’ (how can we design tourism in natural sites without compromising the natural resources?).

We worked in the same group of five each afternoon on providing management and conservation-related ideas related to the topic of the day that we then had to present to everyone. Each group had to come up with five #keywords that would best describe and summarise each day’s discussions and learnings. The most common keywords were co-creation, cooperation, stewardship, co-responsibility, trust, contribution, awareness and mindshift – and they have led us to draft our Manifesto.

The power of ‘CO’ –T.UN.NA Winter Academy Manifesto

The Manifesto

Together we have developed the “Co-” paradigm manifesto to describe the management model for designing more sustainable tourism in natural areas. It is based on the principles that conserving the diversity of life on Earth is critical to global human welfare, and that tourism has been developed on the wrong paradigm based on economy of scale that proved to be unsustainable. These “Co-” paradigm means the much-needed joint decision making and collaboration between the interested parties, co-generation of values and ideas, joint contribution, joint learning. It also means that all parties take ownership but also responsibility for this co-design, co-management, and sharing the benefits.

Some of the ideas may be idealistic and hard to implement at the time being – however, we do believe they should serve as a guidance and inspiration the sites’ managers and tourism planners, and provide the basis for more discussions and sharing the knowledge and ideas. Any comments are more than welcome!

The Future

As this was the first edition of the Academy, the organisers led by Alessandro Bazzanella from the tsm were open with us from the beginning that they didn’t know what the outcomes would be. They had a plan – and a great agenda, great speakers and great venues – but they were aware of the challenge to ensure we found it inspiring, challenging and worth our time. They did succeed as we all found it inspiring, eye-opening and just incredibly fun. The second edition is planned for 18-23 October. I will share more once this has been confirmed, but I would now encourage anyone to apply!

29 November 2019


T.UN.NA 2019 Manifesto

The ‘’Co-‘’ paradigm

The experience of T.UN.NA reaffirms the concept that Nature and Landscape protection and conservation is paramount to address current and future global challenges. This confirms the UNESCO commitment on the World Heritage Convention’s principles, stating that conserving the diversity of life on Earth is critical to global human welfare. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two. T.UN.NA experience has also confirmed that tourism has been developed on the wrong paradigm based on economy of scale that proved to be unsustainable. A shift from increasing tourist numbers into higher quality experiences is necessary.

Considering the above, at the end of the learning experience the participants to the T.UN.NA Academy 2019 agreed on these common principles to inspire and to provide guidance to natural sites managers in designing and implementing effective actions for a more balanced sustainable development and management of tourism in natural areas. Overall, these principles ground on the “Co-” paradigm: this is the key concept for both tourism development and wellbeing of residents, of local business and tourists, as well as protection and conservation of nature and landscape.

(The principles are not listed according to order of importance)

  1. [ Co-decision] The scarcity of resources and the needs of the local community shall guide the decision-making process on tourism development.
  2. [ Co-ownership] Policy-makers must engage local communities and other stakeholders to establish an enduring pact on which to build the tourism development strategy that is meaningful and relevant to them, reflecting and respecting the local identities and heritage.
  3. [ Co-responsibility] Responsibility and knowledge (both academic and common knowledge) need to be shared and widespread among communities and stakeholders to raise the awareness of shared benefits and build trust for sustainable tourism in natural sites.
  4. [ Co-contribution] A better understanding of shared and relevant benefits and, consequently, the co-contribution to sustainable development, enables the principle of a co-paradigm creating a sense of personal and collective responsibility.
  5. [ Co-learning] Tourism management in natural areas should aim at building a tourism offer not just centred on mere entertainment but on transformative learning experiences co-created with the local communities.
  6. [ Co-design and co-creation] It is paramount to match the needs of local communities and the expectations of visitors in a circular process of social investment based on mutual respect. Stewardship may be an effective tool for transforming the nature-based tourism towards a future-proof development.
  7. [ Co-management] Monitoring & Evaluation shall guide the action of destination managers and travel and tourism stakeholders by setting limits and adopting parameters – such as the ecological footprint – in order to make tourists and local communities aware of their impact on the territory.
  8. [ Co-operation] Tourism policy in natural areas – based on an effective multi-level governance that involves all stakeholders in planning and decision-making – has to be based on sharing benefits and to address present and future generations’ needs.


Trento | The Winter Academy T.UN.NA 2019 Participants’ Community

Marta Mills
Marta Mills
Marta Mills is a sustainable tourism specialist who writes regularly for Travindy on tourism development in the Caucasus region. She has worked as Sustainable Tourism expert for several projects in Georgia and Armenia, currently researching community-Protected Areas relationship in Georgia. She was one of the four volunteers who started the Transcaucasian Trail project in 2015, and worked on it till 2018. Her own blog can be found at

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