Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs in the ferry business, Emma studied tourism economics in Rome before heading to Milan to work for TTG and at TripAdvisor’s London offices. In 2013, the road lead her back home to Brindisi, on a mission to bring her international tourism experience and knowledge. In an interview with Emily Millett, she shares the challenges and joys that come with the urban regeneration of a destination as it blossoms into a distinctive tourism hot-spot with a difference
Once an important industrial port city as well-known for smuggling and immigrant crises as it was for trade and economy, Brindisi is now shaking off its previously contested reputation, reinventing itself as a tourism destination with a focus on sustainability, digital nomadism, and a more authentic and understated breed of luxury.
And at the heart of the innovation is Emma Taveri – a dynamic young female politician driven by her passion for the travel and tourism sector, and a unique vision for the future of the city where she grew up. Recently stepping into the role of Assessor for Tourism, Destination Marketing and Creativity for the Municipality of Brindisi, Emma is also the founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Destination Makers – the destination marketing agency she founded in 2014, specializing in designing and managing tourism offerings in lesser-known or non-destinations.
How did Brindisi become a forgotten city and how are you rebranding the destination?
Until recently Brindisi had invested heavily in industry and economic sectors rather than developing its tourism offering. Today, the city is totally different, having undergone a huge conversion process over the past few years. From a smuggling city, it is now a city that thinks about the future. We want to create a different kind of tourism destination. So, we are working on attracting digital nomads and on creating experiences focused on the waves and wind, such as surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, SUP, and sailing. In fact, we have a huge sailing competition here every year, which is an important part of our redesign. The northern part of the city is focusing on luxury tourism, and we already have many proposals and offers for the development of this part of the coast. So all in all, it’s becoming a destination that has many different kinds of offerings for people who want to enjoy and live well.
What is it about Brindisi that makes it such an ideal spot for digital nomads?
It offers the perfect work-life balance, which makes it different from other big cities where you can work remotely. This morning I went for a swim at 7 am, then worked for the rest of the day and it was so easy. In fact, I work more here. There are many spots to work remotely, such as co-working spaces in beautiful historic palazzos by the sea, or coffee shops, creative spaces, spots at the marina, or even places to work from the beach. All with the blue horizon in front of you.
Also, Brindisi is not a city full of tourists, so you can really enjoy the seafront and the views in a relaxed way and easily find a spot to work… we are also working on a new website, suggesting the perfect ‘sea working’ spots and creating a way digital nomads and smart workers can easily book their spots in any of these places. We wanted to create a city that improves productivity, so we studied and analyzed how to improve psychological health and productivity for people living and working next to the sea. And we plan to create more offers, services, and experiences in line with this new kind of traveler.
“We are creating the perfect place to be with a sea-work-life balance. It’s the perfect place to work from and spend periods of the year.”
How does sustainability fit into your plan for urban regeneration?
We have had a new mayor for the past three years who is really focused on sustainability and the creation of a better city. We just launched an operation working on the regeneration of the northern coast, with a real focus on tourist places that are sustainable and do not destroy the landscape. We will not be building any new buildings or adding more concrete to our coast. Instead, we are focusing on green and sustainable design, architecture, and buildings, improving existing buildings, destroying anything that is not sustainable or aligned with our region. We have a vision of the city which is focused on the creation of green areas. For example, we just opened a five-hectare urban forest in front of the sea called Bosco Urbano del Tommaseo, and just 2 days ago we launched an operation for the improvement of a coastal area where we want to create a sea city park where you can do all kinds of water activities. We are also applying for a project to create a cultural, contemporary art, and cultural place in front of the sea.
For us, the pandemic has been an opportunity to attract new residents and temporary communities here in Brindisi.
How do you plan to redefine the luxury tourism offering in Brindisi?
The vision is not for a posh destination, but rather a destination where you can find tradition, you can relax and enjoy green space, you can enjoy life. The city is beautiful and elegant, but we are focusing on a new luxury geared towards Millennials; new digital nomads and people who look for design and high-end services, rather than a snobby or exclusive destination. We don’t have ultra-high-end, five-star hotels, but we are working on creating new beautiful and sustainable offers. It is not the luxury of the past, but a new, more relaxed kind of place where you can find your balance.
What is the timeline for the current regeneration underway in Brindisi?
The urban regeneration of the coast will take time, but we are also thinking about more immediate things like creating an easy path for tourists to book all the activities that we already have available. We have so many activities that are not exclusively tourist activities, but that we can offer to visitors as well. There are short-, medium- and long-term developments and some of the changes might take years. But we also have many amazing offerings available already. The vision is to continue to evolve and improve. It’s a path!
We are seeing more young digital nomads, city quitters and Millennial visitors that stay here for longer periods of time.
Can you tell us about a couple of upcoming projects or events to look out for?
We are currently making a lot of proposals around water sports and Seaview City. We are opening a public beach with a sustainable building, which will be the perfect place to be. You can already buy a pass for entrance into beaches where you can work. Our Brindisi – Corfu International Regatta sailing competition is already very popular and we want to create more events next year that attract tourists during the same period as the Regatta. We are currently focusing on events and activities around the sea, as well as exploring local traditions, education for children, and marine biology. We want to share our passion for the sea with our visitors. We already have many activities regarding education and the sea in the reserve of Torre Guaceto which was converted from an abandoned place into an internationally known nature reserve.
Learn more about Emma’s work at: https://destination-makers.com
On Instagram @emmataveri/