Michil Costa loves the ancient Greeks. Plato, Aristotle, Sappho, the mythical Odysseus… He is a hotelier from South Tyrol, well known for being a passionate one. Together with his family he runs the Hotel La Perla and Berghotel Ladinia, both located in the village of Corvara in the heart of the Dolomites, and the Albergo Posta Marcucci in Val d’Orcia near Siena. For a very long time now, he has been condemning tourism development in South Tyrol, judging it too incautious and profit oriented. He recently wrote the book “FuTurismo. Un accorato appello contro la monocultura turistica” (FuTourism. A plea against the tourism monoculture), which gives interesting insights into the future of tourism in his region.
What does all this have to do with the ancient Greeks? More than one might think. “The classics,” he says, “help us understand the world better.” A recurring theme in his book is the concept of Xenia, which can be translated as ‘guest friendship’. Among the ancient Greeks, Xenia was the moral obligation to provide hospitality and be generous towards strangers. Michil finds that Xenia tends to be disregarded in today’s tourism industry. “True hospitality is an art”, he states. However, it shouldn’t be only the host to have duties. Indeed, guests should also act respectfully when visiting a foreign country.
For Michil, South Tyrol finds itself at a crossroads. “We have to decide”, he says, “what kind of tourism we want”. Either we keep exploiting the environment while not giving back to the local communities, or we pave the way towards a tourism based on the common good. Since many years, the hotelier has been running his hotels according to these principles, specifically pursuing environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Although his visionary approach has been criticised by his colleagues, Michil has also shown that it can also be very successful.
“We have to find a way between blind faith in progress and nostalgia for the old days”. It is about giving tourism a deeper meaning again. It is also aboutcreating a political framework that enables a more sustainable tourism development. Even though politics has already been moving in this direction, for Michil there is still a lot to accomplish: he calls for a visitor limit in the historic centres and other sensitive areas. Passes in the Dolomites should no longer be accessible to private cars. Guests and local businesses should be “rated” according to their ecological footprint. Financial support should only be given to businesses that work for the common good…
While Michil Costa’s book is very personal, it goes far beyond that. He loves South Tyrol and genuinely suffers from seeing that his region is getting sold out. That is why he pleads for a different path. He advocates a different tourism that is characterised by hospitality, quality, regionality and sustainability. Ultimately, a tourism committed to the common good.
Recently, Michil Costa and laifain co-founder Ursula Pichler were guests on my radio show “Wie geht Zukunft?” broadcasted by Rai Südtirol.. We discussed many of the points raised in Michil’s book: how would a more sustainable tourism in South Tyrol look like? What course do we need to set? What does hospitality mean today? Like Michil, also laifain envisions a different way of doing tourism in South Tyrol. It offers interesting opportunities to experience South Tyrol from a new perspective with tailor-made tours on art, culture, cuisine and wine. A way of doing tourism that is “slower, deeper and gentler”, to use the words of a South Tyrolean politician.
“FuTurismo. Un accorato appello contro la monocultura turistica”(available in German and Italian) by Michil Costa has been published by Raetia.