Val di Sole - Sustainable Mobility in Tourism Hotspots

Val di Sole developed a sustainable mobility project that involved all the stakeholders of the destination to solve the challenge of overtourism.

The valley of Val di Sole is an Italian mountain resort area located in the western part of the Trentino Alto Adige region, Italy’s northernmost region. Bordering with Dolomiti Paganella, another popular resort which we analysed in this case study, the area of Val di Sole recently developed a sustainable mobility project that involved all the stakeholders of the destination, showing how crucial is the role of the DMO in coordinating all actors.

The valley of Val di Sole is an Italian mountain resort area located in the western part of the Trentino Alto Adige region, Italy’s northernmost region. Bordering with Dolomiti Paganella, another popular resort which we analysed in this case study, the area of Val di Sole recently developed a sustainable mobility project that involved all the stakeholders of the destination, showing how crucial is the role of the DMO in coordinating all actors.

During the summer of 2018, the DTTT Team met the representatives of Val di Sole tourism board who brought us to the discovery of this beautiful area. We were welcomed by Fabio Sacco, General Manager, and Daniela from the Digital Affairs department of Val di Sole tourism board, who shared with us the current projects of the DMO.

The DMO is responsible for the product development, management, communication and sales support for the valleys of Sole, Peio and Rabbi, that border with the Stelvio National Park. The area is a paradise for mountain lovers. In winter it is possible to ski along 150km of slopes in Madonna di Campiglio, Ponte di Legno/Tonale and Peio, while in the summer visitors can go trekking, biking and white water rafting on the Noce river. The positioning of this destination on the market is also very well linked to gastronomy and local products.

A New Role for the DMO

It was until 2 years ago that the tourism board was focusing more on the sales support activities in the area, helping to establish relationships with tour operators and travel agencies. Today the DMO has a different role after having embraced a transformation process jointly with Dolomiti Paganella, through the application of the St. Gallen Model for Destination Management.

The application of this model gave the opportunity to the DMO to analyse the tourism flows within the region and the available tourism experiences that the visitors can enjoy at the destination. This created a fertile territory to expand the role of the DMO by starting to manage the destination in three different ways:

1. Coordination of the stakeholders

The DMO helps the industry and public administration representatives to collaborate and work together on joint projects aimed at improving tourism mobility. The DMO, in this case, acts as a destination project manager, ensuring that the involved stakeholders implement the structures and services for tourists.

2. Development of tourism products

The DMO has identified three key strategic products for the future that need to be developed to best characterise the destination: bike, trekking and food culture. With the identification of these three products, it has then focused all the development and promotional efforts to best represent Val di Sole.

3. Communication, content creation and sales support

The role of the DMO is also ensuring a good promotion of the destination to the widest public. In this sense, the DMO coordinates all the marketing activities, from the creation of content to the support of sales activities.

It is very important nowadays to understand what is the role of the DMO: we always encourage organisations to find their role, their x to become DxOs rather than DMOs. It is fundamental to acknowledge that DMOs nowadays do not only focus on marketing activities but need to acquire a more relevant role in the management of the destination and its players, ensuring good control of the whole visitor cycle, in which the organisation is able to supervise all the stages and touchpoints with the visitors.

Fighting Overtourism

Thanks to a clear focus on these three roles, the DMO of Val di Sole is now able to focus on major challenges of the area such as the problem of overtourism that has affected the valley of Rabbi for a long period of time.

Val di Rabbi is a lateral valley of Val di Sole and also part of the area promoted by the DMO. The overtourism problem of Val di Rabbi had always been due in part to the physical structure of the area and in part to the fact that the destination does not offer as many beds as the number of visitors would require, which, in the long run, attracted same-day tourists who visited for trekking and gastronomy and intensified car traffic to the destination, causing an overtourism issue. The peculiarity of this area is the environment, therefore it was important to invest in projects that would keep the destination environmentally unspoilt but at the same time attracting tourism.

For this reason, the DMO of Val di Sole decided to put in place a project to improve mobility in the valley that involved the local municipalities, the province and the National Park of Stelvio, in which every partner played an important role in a common effort to reduce overtourism.

The project saw the construction of a big parking space at the entrance of the valley, served by shuttle buses, and the closing of the park to cars from 9.30 am to 5 pm every day during the summer. The project saw the collaboration of the three players in a structured and practical way; the DMO took care of the service design, the municipality was responsible for the authorisations; the park of Stelvio implemented the service and invested in the shuttle buses.

The decision to keep the area car-free was very bold but at the same time demonstrated how important it is to set common goals and cooperate with the stakeholders of the region to enhance mobility, improving public transportation to the main attractions of the valley, and the results in the first year, 2018, have been very positive.

The project gave the possibility at the same time to address the problem of mobility during the winter season. Ski bus lines were redesigned to improve mobility; the corporate image was changed and aligned for better identification from the visitors, therefore applied to the signage at train stations and ski bus stops; all online and offline communication was also aligned with the new brand image.

Sustainable mobility

The mobility project was coordinated by Helios, a local consultancy company for sustainable mobility and branding. As the CEO, Patrick Kofler explained to us, the project was aimed at improving the mobility service for tourism in Val di Sole. So they redesigned both the service lines and the communication around it to make it easier and more accessible for tourists. The principle adopted for improved mobility is User-Centred Design, a method that provides simplification and consistency from the beginning to the end of the customer journey, designing services with quality and from a user perspective. To do this, the company performs a lot of desk research combined with field and user scenario testing, doing mobility checks with all transportation means to understand which are the potential gaps of information or of service that consumers could encounter and trying to fill those gaps using user-centred design, service design and quality principles.

The DMO of Val di Sole and Helios worked hard together to create a new concept for mobility in the area, finding a way to provide an added value to consumers. They decided to create the concept of “Find Your Way” and relate to it every message regarding mobility by bus, train or cable car under one unique identity, designing new signals, new brochures and all the communication tools needed with this approach and corporate identity.

The project for the sustainable mobility of Val di Sole consisted in a complete change of the bus line structure and the adoption of a new modern design for the area, inspired by big city metro lines, through the creation of a very intuitive graphical map including elements related to different destination brands.

As Patrick Kofler pointed out during the interview, most of the mobility service providers only focus on functionality, they do not focus on the user experience. This is why generally visitors find it very complicated to move by public transportation and instead prefer less sustainable vehicles like cars. It is very important instead to consider the visitor and their experience, their journey from home to the destination, being able to provide a qualitative service in a simplified way. In this way, consumers are more inclined to travel using sustainable means and to come back to the destination becoming repeating customers and increasing loyalty in the tourism experience.

This sustainable mobility project was useful to resolve two major problems:

  1. During the winter season, it was very hard to reach the different ski areas. Now from every village of Val di Sole, it is possible to reach the three different ski areas by public transportation.
  2. Bus providers were too many and private. The project aimed at reducing the use of private buses and enhance instead the use of publicly managed transportation.

But probably the most important achievement of this project was that it gave the possibility to create an environment for teamwork between public and private service operators towards the same goal.

"The DMO worked on this project, we took care of the service design, which is something that is really close and important for our role; it's the role of the DMO to design the services for the tourists at the destination." - Fabio Sacco, Director of DMO Val di Sole

“Make something with quality, good materials that last longer. Give it importance, give it value. If something is perceived as having value people want it without asking. You don’t have to convince anyone if what you offer has a value.” - Patrik Kofler, CEO of Helios

Watch the Talk "Managing Success – Perspectives from California" to complement this reading with an interesting discussion panel about the challenges of managing success in tourism while trying to prevent overtourism and keeping destinations sustainable in the present and in the future.

Key Takeaways

1. “Always have clear in mind what is the role of your DMO“

Find the x of your DxO! Nowadays tourism boards do not only represent and promote the destination, but they are also increasingly gaining a managerial and coordinating role on the different stakeholders of the destination.

2. “Focus on specific products, don’t promote everything”

The more the DMO focuses on specific products that characterise the destination the more it can create development around those products and provide improved experiences to visitors, the better it can make marketing plans and create appealing content to describe those products and experiences.

3. “Be bold and take bold decisions”

Val di Sole had to take a bold decision to tackle the overtourism problem, with the risk of limiting the access to the valleys. They went bold deciding to become a car-free destination during specific times of the day and in high-season periods. The decision was risky but it proved to be the right one and the results exceeded the expectations in terms of tourism and visitor quality.

4. “Improve services having clear in mind the customer journey”

It is fundamental to understand the visitor journey before, during and after their experience at the destination. Mobility is one of the key components of the tourism experience and it should appear easy to understand and sustainable to use. This enhances the visitor journey and increases the general perception of the destination fostering loyalty and repeat visits, which leads to increased revenues for the tourism service providers at the destination.

5. “Be brand consistent, align everything with your corporate image”

The more aligned the communication of the destination the better it stays in the mind of visitors. Despite the tourism logo nowadays is not perceived as so important for consumers anymore, a good brand can be recognised when the visitor can recall it during the experiences lived at the destination. This is why it is very important to align all forms of communication under the same brand, whether on an online advertisement or on physical signals at the bus stop.

Access our worksheet on Val di Sole below.

Published on:
November 2020
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