This post is my submission to the UNWTO’s “World Tourism Day” competition highlighting Tourism and Community Development.
In the south of Italy, Giffoni Valle Piana is a small town that’s home to almost 12,000 people and a place where I feel, not many people have heard of. It’s beautiful green mountains made our daily trips from Salerno to Giffoni very scenic and pleasing. I have been lucky enough to visit this town for the third time this year as an attendee of the Giffoni Film Festival, chaperoning 6 teen jurors all the way from sunny Qatar.
In 1971, Claudio Gubitosi started a youth film festival that was more like a gathering, whereby children under 13 years would come to watch independent films as jurors, have debates with the filmmaker and vote for their best choice. Fast forward a few years, the festival gradually grew and opened up categories for older age groups, and additionally, started accepting international teen jurors from 52 countries, therefore creating tourism opportunities that was almost non existent. The jurors are hosted by Italian families in their homes, hence experiencing Italian life, the authentic way. Having sat with their small team of almost 15 staff members, they reminisce to way back when they participated as jurors in the same festival. It is evident in the spirit of Giffoni that kids and teen love coming back every year, hence forming an organic community of film lovers who call Giffoni their home during the festival. Sadly, this village only comes alive for 10 days. The attendees of the festival
are either jurors, chaperones, professionals in the film industry and some celebrities. Whilst the young community come travel to this town to watch and critique films, it is mostly a place where they get to forge global friendships, celebrate their differences, and express themselves creatively and honestly.
When we weren’t watching films or interviewing film makers, we’d be enjoying local made gelatos at the nearby square, or a meal at one of the charming family run restaurants. A lot of shops and restaurants are family owned, where parents typically operate the kitchen business, and other family members wait on tables and run front of house duties (since they speak better English) for convenient interaction with tourists like us. The economy of Giffoni is heavily reliant on this festival as the international delegations (i.e. toursits) help boost family run business earnings. Although such earnings are not enough to sustain them a whole year, it immensely helps their business to just about survive. Locals also find this to be a perfect time to showcase their talent and crafts by participating in street fairs. Grandmothers perfect the art of hand made homeware, beddings and tableware, while others showcase the beauty of Giffoni’s hazelnuts, cheese and cured meats for tourists learn and purchase.
For the past 4 decades, it has been evident how community developments such as this can empower the youth, families and their enterprises into productivity and a means to showcase their culture to the world via the tourism it also brings in.