In partnership with RDÉE Canada and the Chaire de tourism Transat de l’ESG UQAM, this initiative is designed to share essential information to support the development of the tourism industry within Canada’s Official Language Minority Communities.
The “Slow City” brand, a key tool for leveraging rural areas, emphasizes the importance of residents’ quality of life and the local community.
A focus on the good life and local and sustainable development
The whole “Slow” movement began with the Slow Food movement in Italy in 1989, which promoted a return to healthier, locally grown food and eating as an enjoyable experience. It also worked to preserve culinary traditions and forms of artisanal food production and supply. About 10 years later, Slow Cities (Cittaslow, in Italian) was inspired by the earlier Slow Food movement, giving greater breadth to this growing trend. As of November 2017, the Cittaslow international network numbered 236 cities in 30 countries.
Cities that want to join the Slow movement are judged on a number of factors: their environmental policies, local traditions, land use, transportation, hospitality and overall well-being. Towns must have fewer than 50,000 inhabitants to apply for the title. To do so, they must meet more than 70 criteria in 7 areas (see image, below), listed in a charter that encourages member cities to:
- showcase their historical heritage;
- sell locally grown and produced food and local crafts;
- preserve local customs;
- highlight local knowledge and historic architecture by renovating old buildings, farms, etc.;
- set up local cultural events;
- increase the number of green spaces and pedestrian areas, develop bicycle path networks and alternative modes of transportation;
- reduce energy consumption;
- encourage local stores to open nearby;
- upgrade facilities that provide access for people with disabilities.
Member towns and villages are evaluated every five years to ensure that they are continuing to abide by the charter.
Regeneration of Local Areas
Cittaslow membership gives small municipalities the kind of international visibility that would otherwise be difficult for them to achieve. In fact, most of them joined the network for this very reason, as pointed out by Sandra Mallet, professor of land use planning and urban development with the IATEUR (Institut d’Aménagement du Territoire, d’Environnement et d’Urbanisme) at the University of Reims.
Segonzac, the first French town to join the movement, was looking for a way to boost its international appeal when it heard about the Slow Cities trend. The same is true for the town of Mirande, which had heard of the title because it was twinned with the Italian city of San Mauro Torinese, also a member. The initial idea came from the mayor of Mirande. It was supported by the local tourism committee which, once the title was obtained, immediately posted the news on its website.
In Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, the Cittaslow label was instrumental in revitalizing a number of downtown stores when a supermarket was being built on the outskirts of town. The councillors in Labastide-d’Armagnac saw Cittaslow membership as a way to give their village a much-needed boost and possibly attract new residents after the population had been in steep decline in recent years.
How to Make “Slow” Appealing
As is the case for many brands, one of the main challenges is to stand out from the crowd. Posting the Cittaslow logo on member village websites and signage is a good start. Poland’s Slow City network has taken it a step further by creating a directory of member towns and their attractions that provides suggested itineraries visitors can follow to enjoy the unique atmosphere of these small towns.
Poland’s example shows the marketing possibilities that come with the title. While it’s true that communities and villages could stand out more effectively if the movement (and it founding principles) were better known, some cities are nevertheless putting their membership to good use. Municipal councillors in Segonzac and Labastide-d’Armagnac believe their membership has already benefitted the towns’ economy, tourism and media visibility, and these advantages will only grow as the French network expands.
Big Cities Come on Board – Slowly
While creating Slow Cities in large metropolitan areas may seem like a contradiction in terms, this movement is so popular that a number of major cities, including Barcelona, San Francisco, Rome and Milan, are taking an interest. Unfortunately, the Cittaslow Metropole project – an attempt to apply Slow City principles to large modern urban centres – has not yet materialized. Large cities might find it problematic to comply with the network’s strict requirements, but they can still take part in the movement from the sidelines. Large cities can support entrepreneurs and organizations that operate within their jurisdiction. Establishments that support the basic principles and values of Slow Cities are allowed to display the Cittaslow and municipal logos for marketing purposes.
What about Canada?
The Slow Cities movement is struggling to get off the ground in Canada, which currently has only three members: Cowichan and Naramata, in British Colombia and Wolfville, in Nova Scotia. However, the most recent Canadian census (from 2016) showed that the country has 114 census agglomerations with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants. Many of these agglomerations may already be unknowingly promoting the CittaSlow principles of improved quality of life, being real, focus on locally sourced products, regional dishes, heritage, etc. However, joining the movement and promoting their membership would certainly confer an added advantage. More specifically, certification would boost regional and rural tourism by guaranteeing a quality experience for today’s demanding tourist, who wants to buy local, have real experiences, and meet local residents and producers.
- Coté Noble Val, “À propos de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Cittaslow,” CoteNobleVal, accessed January 26, 2018.
- Sandra Mallet, “Le label Cittaslow et sa diffusion dans les communes françaises : la lenteur pour produire des espaces durables ?,” Territoire en mouvement – Revue de géographie et aménagement, June 13, 2017.
- Matta Ellyn and Gabriel Caballero, “Possible Implementation of Cittaslow to Urban Centres of the World”, IFLA, April 16, 2016.
- Hee Jung Park, “Influence of the ‘slow city’ brand association on the behavioral intention of potential tourists”, Current Issues in Tourism, pp.1-18, December 4, 2017.
- Sabine Storme, “Le réseau international des villes du bien-vivre”, hainaut, 2011.