By Tadej Rogelja, Dejan Križaj, Miha Bratec & Peter Kopić, from University of Primorska, Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica
An innovative tourism experience marketplace and startup LocalsFromZero grew out of the global TourismFromZero initiative formed at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Initiative’s goal was to understand the struggles of the tourism industry and gather fresh ideas on how to start tourism ”from zero”.
One of the first and most prominent ideas endorsed by the founders of TourismFromZero was LocalsFromZero. The students of the Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica have developed a brand-new business model of collaborative economy intended for offering local experiences which pursues 7 key objectives:
- more inclusive, balanced, sustainable and regenerative tourism mobility
- empowerment and visibility of overlooked local tourism stakeholders of all kind
- dispersion of tourism
- preserving local tradition, knowledge, habits and heritage
- use of (urgently needed) advanced reservation technologies
- digital empowerment of locals (through education)
- promoting digital literacy
In recent years (especially during the pandemic), technology and digitalization has advanced at an unimaginable pace that is hard to keep up with. People (especially the young) are getting more and more used to it and it accompanies them at every turn (shopping, booking, searching, sharing, networking, etc.). Surely, its presence will only increase in the future. On the other hand, online absence, the improper use of the internet and the lack of online promotion on the supply side lead to invisibility, unattractiveness, loss of opportunities and revenue streams (Cai et al., 2019; Nugroho et al., 2017). According to our findings (we have conducted more than 20 workshops with local stakeholders all across Slovenia in the last year) this is especially true for smaller local providers mostly working in crafts sector and other creative industries (artisans, associations, clubs, etc.), as they lack financial resources, ICT skills/knowledge, time and support but still want to become part of the tourism market, get in touch with tourists, become bookable and generate additional income from their unique activities. Such actors are often overlooked, even though they contribute greatly to the preservation of local (past and present) traditions, cultures and environments, both in rural and urban areas. Normally, DMOs should take care of them, but they too often lack the resources, staff and time to take care all in the best possible way.
How does the LocalsFromZero model solve the above struggles?
Through its marketplace they provide all mentioned stakeholders with a supportive #LocalsFromZero environment, knowledge sharing and professional advice. They do this with the help of local LFZ Scouts (mostly tourism students stranded in their home municipalities during the Covid-19 lockdowns) who ensure that stories from their home regions are found, told and supported. The LFZ Scouts take care of reservations, administration and everything else that local providers lack. So far, our network consists of 22 officially registered and dedicated scouts who search for these local providers in their (mostly rural) regions. They have already uploaded 45 local & authentic experiences from Slovenia to our booking platform. Many more are in the pipeline, including from neighbouring Croatia and other countries. To achieve all this, the LocalsFromZero team is intensively working with the public, private and civil sectors of society on many levels.
Initiatives like LocalsFromZero can help build a stronger, more resilient tourism with their bottom-up concept and bring tourism back to its roots. The way we travel will greatly affect the regeneration of tourism.