When Migration Becomes a Tourist Brand… Lampedusa and the Refugee Crisis

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:26
Oral Presentation
Marxiano MELOTTI, Niccolò Cusano University, Rome, Italy
Ezio MARRA, Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, Italy
Lampedusa has become a global icon of the Mediterranean refugee crisis, and a good place to think the relationships between tourism, cultural change and social inequalities.

Until some years ago, the island was a major gateway for migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe from Northern Africa. The arrival of thousands of migrants and the presence of a migrant Reception Center have deeply affected local economy based on tourism.

Owing to media representation and political narratives, Lampedusa had acquired a special image as a liminal place where tourists could experience some extreme aspects of the refugee crisis, from shipwrecks to corpses on the beaches.

Recently the situation has changed: arrivals are now under control and tourism appears to be increasingly successful. Local community and tourism industry have metabolized migration, which seems to have become a new “tourist brand”. This gives international visibility, no longer frightens tourists and even attracts a new kind of niche tourism. Lampedusa is an interesting social laboratory. Owing to its tourist success, the island is deeply changing: it is acquiring global patterns and risks losing its traditional identity.

Lampedusa has often been presented as the “island of peace”: its community was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and its Mayor received the Unesco Peace Prize. Is it possible to think Lampedusa as a space able to overcome social and cultural conflicts and to contribute to building “active peace”? Could migration help the island rediscover its longstanding cross-cultural Mediterranean identity? Could migration be used as an innovative tool to build a new tourist and “sustainable” identity based on intercultural dialogue?

The paper presents the first results of a field research carried out by Marxiano Melotti (UniCusano), Elisabetta Ruspini and Ezio Marra (University of Milano-Bicocca).