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Ladeja Godina Košir: “Folk customs in a contemporary way can become super attractive tourist offer.”

The media plays an important role in linking folklore and tradition in contemporary life with a local tourism, Ladeja Godina Košir, Chair European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ECESP) and Founder and Executive Director of Circular Change from Slovenia, reminds the day before the opening of Third European Conference devoted to Minority and Local Media in Novi Sad.

Ladeja is an internationally renowned expert for circular economy, speaker and co-creator of international CE events. She was the finalist of The Circular Leadership Award 2018 (Davos WEF), recognised as the regional “engine of circular economy transition”. She is the co-author of the first Roadmap towards the Circular Economy in Slovenia and creator and team leader of the annual international Circular Change Conference. She is visiting professor at the Doshisha University in Kyoto and Co-leader of the Research Group Circular Economy Systems at the Bertalanfy Center for the Study of Systems Science (BCSSS) in Vienna.

How can the minority (and local media) contribute to the development of tourism and connect the regions in which they are settled with their home countries, or with countries where larger or smaller communities of members of the same minority exist?

L. G. K.: “Tourism plays an important role in the development of local communities, cities, regions. Since this industry is based on services run by people, it offers great opportunity to connect those who share the same roots, speak the same language and embrace similar values, no matter where they live. We, as human beings, have a strong need to belong, to feel as the part of community, to have the social network we can identify with. Visiting places out of our home country, where our language is spoken and where the spirit of our home-land is shared, is always a fulfilling experience.

Today media – if understood in the wider context, not only as “traditional” media – can significantly contribute to the sense of connectivity. Social media in combination with local and minority media is enabling exchange of information, knowledge, stories, images, impressions that bring people together and rise their interest for certain topics. Tourism is an excellent “tool” that can be used for a systemic long term building of relations between minorities living in different parts of the world.”

Ecology should go along with tourism, but… How are the European minority media contributing to the development of environmental awareness, whether they or should monitor and analyse (local) environmental disasters and seek new journalistic approaches to this topic that will help the community to better understand human-nature / ecology relationships and human impact and the development of communication channels and media to the natural environment?

L. G. K.: “Unfortunately, ecology is not always embedded in tourism. On the contrary – we can find many cases even in our region, where tourism has contributed to the degradation of nature and living environment, even more, somewhere it has decreased the quality of life of local citizens. Media is supposed to be the “watch dog”, to critically observe, investigate, inform and report. On the local level local media can play an important role since the journalists are there to represent local community, they have better access to local resources of information and (usually) a better understanding of the local context than representatives of national or international media. Professionalism in combination with interest to positively contribute to the development of local community, is the best possible formula for creation of meaningful and impactful media messages. Having in mind that today we are daily overloaded with all kinds of information, particularly via social media, it is of great importance how the messages are designed, what kind of narrative is used and how relevant they are for our targeted audience. Just preaching about the need for change to preserve the nature and our planet, is definitely not enough. People have to identify with the message, understand “what is in it for me” and get excited to contribute to something what has meaning for them.

For example – when Ellen MacArthur Foundation shared the message that “There might be more plastic than fish in the ocean until 2050”, we woke up. This message is clear and it is addressing each of us. We like the sea. We like fish. And we do not want to be part of the problem – we want to be part of solution. A lot of activities have been organised since then, addressing the issue of single use plastic, plastic waste, marine litter … On the local level simple but effective campaigns can be led by local media – encouraging people to drink tap water instead of bottled water, for example. And by doing so decreasing use of plastic bottles. Small step, but positive one.”

Where tourism is there is always culture. Are minority communities in Europe also recognized as communities who brings modern culture and art, or are stereotypes underlined that minority communities only “bring” folklore and folk customs and traditions? What is the role of minority media in breaking prejudices and do the minority media “play” this role?

L. G. K.: “What is wrong with folklore and tradition? In search for our roots and identity, we shall be proud of our cultural heritage. Let’s take a look at Nordic countries. Recent phenomena of “hygge”, for example. What is it about? It is about the traditional way Danish people are spending time together in winter days! It is about building the sense of community, of belonging, caring, and love. Isn’t it something great? Inviting friends to our home, lighting candles, drinking tea and just enjoying time spend together. In our region we are too often ashamed of our traditional habits, but there is something magic in them. We just have to find a link between our contemporary life style and the essence of those traditional habits – values have not changed and they are the best possible “glue” between present and past. Once we find a way to revitalise folk customs in a contemporary way, this can become super attractive tourist offer. Based on local culture, very unique and inspiring. Local and minority media is here to help this make true!”