The Italian Job

Prof. Eric Holmlund and five Paul Smith’s College students are in Italy helping officials develop an ecotourism plan for the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park. 

The Apennines became a national park in 2001, and since then, the wilderness area has faced many of the same challenges and opportunities as the Adirondack Park: It needs a tourism economy to grow and environmental regulation to protect it, but it also needs to balance those ambitions with the needs of the people who have lived there for generations. 

Our students are working with the Marco Polo Study Abroad Italy program to help with that balancing act. “I’m especially excited about this project because it’s not just a study-abroad program,” says President John W. Mills. “Our students are over there producing an actual product.” 

The students are well versed in ecotourism, natural resource management and policy, hospitality and culinary arts, so they can help park officials and the government promote the many opportunities for recreation, agricultural tourism, and community tourism in the region. 

The park is underused in terms of year-round visitation by domestic and foreign tourists, and is essentially undiscovered by American tourists. “We’re among the first American tourists to visit these small, exquisite mountain communities,” Holmlund says. “But we hope to change that. The students are conducting interviews with local officials and community members to help the park administration shape tourism development strategies into the future.”

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