Venice is famous for its canals and a charm that is unique in the world. A charm that attracts millions of tourists each year and generates tremendous traffic towards the city of the carnival, whether on cruise ships, trains, planes or even by car. Mass tourism has an obvious impact on the life and sustainability of this type of city: large crowds are concentrated in the streets, the prices of services and consumer goods increase, an unmanageable amount of toxic and polluting waste is generated.... This situation is a concern for the residents of these metropolises and for all those who can see how their original charm is slowly fading away.
Valeria Duflot is one of the people asking themselves each day, what can we do to reduce this impact? Ten years ago, she graduated from TBS Business School, where she studied for a Master's Degree specialising in Biotechnology Management on the school's French campus. Since then she has been working to create a positive impact on people's lives. She does this by inventing solutions to our biggest challenges and helping others succeed in achieving their own missions through technology, communication and building communities.
These days, Duflot describes herself as an entrepreneur, social innovator, sustainability advocate and tech4good professional. She is also the co-founder of Venezia Autentica and Overtourism Solution, two initiatives that aim to transform the tourism industry – one of the world’s largest sectors – into a driver of sustainable development through the use of social innovation and digital technologies. On 5 February, she visited the campus of TBS Business School in Barcelona to present these projects in a talk entitled Reinventing Venice with Sustainable Tourism.
Originally born in France, Valeria Duflot has now lived in Venice for five years. During this time she has come to realise that mass tourism is not confined to the Italian city, or just to Europe: it is a global problem. If you leafed through an Oxford English dictionary at any time since 2018 and stopped at the letter “o”, you would have found Overtourism among the words being defined, demonstrating that mass tourism is already acknowledged as a reality. “Tourism is an industry with a significant global impact, especially on the lives of locals. It is growing rapidly, with the number of tourists rising each year, thereby increasing the negative impact of these trips,” said Duflot. To be precise, tourism represents 10% of global GDP.
The entrepreneur has also witnessed how long-standing Venetian shops have been forced to close. In fact, her partner – a Venice native – had to close down the family business due to destructive tourism. “But it's not just an economic impact, it’s also ecological and social,” she added. This was the impetus for starting Venezia Autentica, with the aim of providing a genuine experience and the chance to discover the city in a sustainable and respectful way, while also supporting the local community. This is what Duflot defines as “Real Tourism”. “We offer shopping in certified and sustainable locations, activities, tours and culinary experiences while always considering the direct and positive benefits for the city,” she explained.
In a city where 30 million tourists meander through the narrow streets and iconic canals each year – on any given day there can be more tourists than residents – Venezia Autentica wants to reveal the true city and support local businesses that provide high-quality, home-grown products. “This way, the people of Venice will be able to continue living in their homes,” declared Duflot. According to her, one way to care for our heritage and history while combatting the “tourism leakage effect” is to ensure that the money generated by visitors does not filter out, for example, to multinationals and instead remains in the local economy.