Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and certainly one of the most relevant in the Italian economy. We are also aware, however, that mass tourism has proven to be other than beneficial to the destinations it seems to favour. On this very blog, we have often encouraged our readers to select incentive destinations in Italy that are slightly off the beaten track, ignored by the largest waves of tourism. While some select lesser-known destinations out of a desire to avoid crowds, we do encourage a more complex approach to sustainable tourism. For those who might not be familiar with the term, it is the trend in the tourism industry that encourages exploring destinations in a way that respects the natural environment, the local cultures and identities, and does not require the local communities to alter their lifestyle. This approach has proven to benefit both the tourists and the communities who welcome them. One project drew our attention recently and we interviewed its founders to discuss it. Amavido is a young and company founded by siblings Dominik and Marie-Janet Calzone, who, after spending their childhood between Germany and a small village in Calabria, thought of a way of sharing the unique and enriching experience of life in rural Italy with an international audience. By doing this, they are both opening new avenues for tourism and helping the local community revive its struggling economy.
Could you explain to our readers the concept behind Amavido?
Amavido is the synergy of a modern online platform and the personal human approach of a travel agency. We create individual and tailor-made travel offers for travelers interested in going off the beaten track, with authentic experiences with special hosts and guides in undiscovered areas. Next, to the holiday experience, we want to create a bridge between traditions and the contemporary, hoping to inspire people to learn from each other. We believe, that in these places there is a lot to discover and that is why we believe in making the invisible visible.
What makes you so passionate about wanting international travelers to discover certain hidden corners of Italy?
Our father was born in a small village in Calabria in the south of Italy. The experiences we had there were always very special to us. The people, the scenery, the lifestyle, the traditions… When we recognised problems as rural depopulation, with many places left empty and the young leaving these communities, we were sure that with new ideas we could create something beautiful and important together. That’s why we founded Amavido. Especially in our modern times, it is important to not forget the past. And it is important to have human experiences, which are direct and which we feel with our own senses rather than experiencing them on a screen. We want to open a door to these places and to the lives of the people living there, who are passionately loving what they are doing and who want to share it.
How would you say your business model impacts the local communities you work with?
As visions need their time to be realised, we are still at a stage where we are building up the base. The first impact, which we are already having, is setting a certain focus on little villages and rural areas, where we support people making a living with their existing businesses. Furthermore, we motivate people to use their passion and creativity to think of activities, which they can offer to travelers. The next evolution is a long-term vision to create a significant impact in these areas. Here we will create a possibility for private individuals to invest in supporting local tourism projects directly, through the Amavido platform. Supported projects could consist, for example, in rebuilding an old house and creating a unique B&B out of it, as well as in projects with a community approach. With that, we aim to support local communities and their in-habitants by using already existing resources with a bottom-up approach and creating new and unique offers for travelers.
Because of the very nature of Amavido, you have direct experience of professional connections and doing business in Germany and in Italy: what differences have you noticed between the two?
It is really inspiring working with both sides and see that every culture has its special strengths and challenges. What I love about working with our Italian hosts is that most of them really put all their heart in the hospitality they offer. They treat every single guest as if it was their most important one, spontaneously offer them dinner, bring them to special places in nature and take care of every detail. Of course, because they are so passionate about it, sometimes it is hard for them not to take things personally, which can be challenging for my colleagues. Another interesting part is having international meetings internally. Our team is pretty international but of course, most are either German or Italian. In working with another culture, you really understand that you handle some things completely differently because of your cultural background. During Skype meetings, some of our Italian team members tend to speak much longer about a topic than it would be normal in Germany. I recognised that I and also the other Germans are getting easily inpatient in these situations and want to “get to the point”. And of course both sides have their strengths and their weaknesses. Of course, it is important to be effective and quick in the meetings having a pretty full schedule. On the other hand it is sometimes good to not be too impatient and rational, since creative ideas need some time to evolve in discussions and also there is the social benefit of not communicating like robots. Then also one thing to notice is that every new contact with a guest, host or partner is opening up a new and sometimes surprising world, which might not fit your ideas or experiences with that culture at all. That is a nice thing in working with a lot of different personalities.
What is your long-term goal with Amavido?
The vision behind Amavido and with that also our long term goal is to show the potential of places which are almost unknown but are full of beauty and culture. We want to give tourism a human face and have a positive impact on the destinations we offer. Our goal is to work with and support local projects as for example the “NO mafia” project in Sicily, which is already offering experiences on our website. In the long term, we want to get more involved in supporting local communities and courageous individuals to reuse empty houses and spaces to revitalise villages and rural areas.
What do you think about the way the tourism industry has evolved in recent years? What direction do you feel the industry as a whole should be following?
It definitely got more individual and the tourism industry is heading in the direction of not offering just a holiday, but an experience to the travelers. There are some negative aspects in that, such as destroying parts of nature and culture in trying to satisfy the urge of some travelers to get the most special and dramatic experience (or picture for Instagram). But in general, I think it is a very promising direction for tourism as with this also a lot of people become really interested in the country they are traveling to, want to get to know the culture and choose their destinations responsibly.
As founder working across two Countries, what advice would you give to someone willing to start an enterprise in an international environment?
Be open to other cultures with all their different aspects. By being open, you will find the strengths of each country and culture. Find out as much as possible about the Countries you are visiting so you know how they work – socially, economically but also with regard to some very practical aspects as the local and international laws that regulate your area of business. Some-times things you thought should be very easy can, in the end, get complex since there might not be a common legal rule for some topics. When we did our crowd investing campaign in Italy, we found out we were one of the first companies from abroad to do this. At some times, not even the lawyers and notaries we worked with were sure which was the correct way to do things anymore, a lot of cross-Country confusion ensued.