Towards a new concept of sustainable tourism: the “Albergo Diffuso” as an alternative model of hospitality

Autore/Autrice: Giannina Spanu
Anno accademico: 2010-2011
Università: University of Plymouth




It is now widely acknowledged that tourism is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry.   Considering the scale and fragmentation of the sector, giving a definition of tourism can be extremely difficult and misleading (Mowforth and Munt, 2009:183).

Needless to say,  nowadays, tourism represents a big business for many Countries, and this is especially true for Italy. Blessed with an extensive coastline and endowed with a temperate climate, the trend can only increase according to the figures produced by the Wto. Furthermore, Italy is ringed with (yet) unspoiled places and blessed by a non-imitable history which embraces unique regional (and local) differences.

Nonetheless, there has been a great deal of concern since the 1980s for what has been called a “double-edged sword” industry (both reviled and revered, as described by Mowforth and Munt, 2009).

Competition in the hospitality sector is fierce amid the growing and constantly changing business and leisure market. Due to the scale of this industry, the resulting impacts are not to be underestimated, both positively in terms of economic growth, and negatively as witnessed by resource depletion, loss of biodiversity and the dislocation of local people in some areas of hospitality development.

Counteracting these negative impacts requires dedication and a synergistic, collaborative approach from, management, locals and  tourists. More specifically, it will be analysed why and how  the world of hospitality has a pivotal role  in terms of sustainable developmentt.

In order to fully understand the concept of the albergo diffuso it is paramount in the first place to focus attention on the “triad” :economic-social-environmental sustainability. (Campbell, S., 1996)

These problems  partially stem from a broader issue. With the surge of a globalised world and the rise of “no-frills” airlines, tourism has lost it elitist nature. Better life conditions,  “democratisation” of means of transportation, increase in disposable income and extended paid holidays have brought about an astounding growth in terms of leisure activities in general and tourism mobility in particular. On the other end, tourists products and services also have became “McDonaldised”, standardised, predictable, franchised, ultimately becoming “nothing”, quoting George’s Ritzer’s words (meaning by this that they are centrally conceived and controlled, deprived of their “otherness” and peculiar nature.

Certainly these are not a destination for anyone looking for fashion, pizza or miniature statues of the Coliseum. It is much more for people who want to connect thoroughly to their destination. One could call it authentic Italia, unmarred by excessive exposure to the modern life.

this dissertation has brought together the expert views of architectural engineers, economists, sociologists, geographers and others to present  a case for “Albergo Diffuso” (i.e. horizontal hotel, scattered hotel).

Clearly a more detailed financial case would be required to present to potential business investors, particularly with regard to the exportability of the concept  to, say, the Scandinavian and Baltic economies.



The following  report aims at critically analysing the concept of sustainability applied to tourism and how the Albergo Diffuso model might accommodate such challenges.

More specifically, it aims to:

  • Explain the concept of sustainability and its implications on the tourism sector.
  • Provide reasons why the hospitability industry needs to become more sustainable, focusing in particular on the social dimension of tourism in small, rural communities.
  • Introduce the model of “Albergo Diffuso”: its history and implementation in rural Italy.
  • Finally, this dissertation will attempt to trace institutional dynamics and idiosyncratic fragilities of the model which might determine its success or failure.


This will be done by exploring two different small case studies: a successfully operating albergo diffuso, “Le Costellazioni” in Basilicata, followed by the presentation of a  (partial) attempt to introduce the model in Baunei (Sardinia), project currently engulfed by financial and bureaucratic issues (since 2008).


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