Searching for a relevant research and design topic for AAVS Slovenia, while facing the new realities of the Slovenian economy and landscape, we realised the potential of tourism as one of the few industries that is still growing regardless of the turbulent conditions in the global market economy. Slovenia is one of the smallest and most naturally diverse countries in the world where only some of the tourism investments have really managed to relate to Slovenia's rich natural and cultural potential. Many of them have fundamentally failed in setting their focus on enabling the visitors a fully integrated experience of its diverse contexts. These investments have brought about the extensive diminishment of natural resources and have led to counter-sustainable tourist development strategies on an already small and fragile territory. Too little attention has been given to the idea of extreme local experience tourism, where visitors can experience 'extreme architectures', placed meticulously with subtle intervention into specific surroundings, aimed at magnifying the user experience of individual travellers or even provoking them to participate.
The fascination with the growing phenomenon of tourism has to be considered carefully. To start the journey into the exploration of its potentials, we gave the research topic a name: nanotourism.
To answer the question, whether smaller-scale, non-intrusive ways of promoting tourism already exist, the AA Visiting School Slovenia teamed up with Ljubljana's Biennial of Design (BIO 50) and its curator Jan Boelen, in a multidisciplinary research process that explored the possible futures for design. Nanotourism was one of the Biennial's eleven research topics where its definition and potentials were developed over the course of six months, in collaboration with the international group of young professionals. The BIO50 nanotourism team presented their work in progress at the mini conference that kicked off the AAVS Slovenia 2014 course, highlighting a possible definition of nanotourism, the research of existing examples and development of several case studies of nanotourism. The students were prompted to react and respond with their own view and development of the topic of nanotourism in the context of KSEVT and Vitanje.
Nanotourism was defined as a new, constructed term describing a creative critique to the current environmental, social and economic aspects of mainstream tourism. It is a site specific, participatory, locally oriented, bottom-up alternative. It operates as a social tool to stimulate mutual interaction between the provider and user by co-creation or the exchange of knowledge. It is not about scale, but rather a projected ability to construct responsible experiences from the bottom-up, exclusively using local resources. It stretches beyond tourism: it is more an attitude dedicated to the improvement of specific everyday environments, and a strategy aimed at opening up new local economies.
The BIO50 nanotourism research group, lead by architects Aljoša Dekleva and Tina Gregorič from dekleva gregoric arhitekti, which includes the efforts and contribution of the AA Visiting School Slovenia, Vitanje 2014, has been awarded BIO50´s highest honor, the BIO50 Award for Best Collaboration in September 2014. The Jury issuing the award was comprised of a panel of international experts including industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, design critic Alice Rawsthorn and designer and professor Saša J. Mächtig.