GHOST VILLAGES AND MODERN HOSPITALITY

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 Why is restructuring a ghost village such an attractive project, which crosses horizontally the creativity and enthusiasm of all kinds of entrepreneurs?
Italy is an endless source of ghost villages, since young people tend to move to cities and/or abroad, little towns are doomed to oblivion…or not! In the last two decades entrepreneurs, real estate companies and even some foreign “hippies” decided to invest in ambitious projects to give back to life forgotten villages in the countryside, renew their little economies and make them visible to international tourism. Look at this dedicated database.
At first glance, you can realise that every village is a specific project and should be analysed as such. However, there are some common matrices for a preliminary sanity check, whether it is worth investing time and energies.
There could be many purposes to restructure an old village. The most popular in these days is by far the Albergo Diffuso, i.e. dispersed hotel, being a hotel made of several historic buildings across a community, run by a single entity. For you to have an idea, have a look to Apricale’s village, in Northern Italy.
Here go some features to check out before undertaking that dream:
– As said, each village is project specific. Except some general guidelines (listed below), there are some critical factors to take into account, such as your personal network in the area, first hand knowledge of the village, the people and its culture and your emotional connection with the place.
– Revitalising a village is a long term commitment (minimum you should consider 5 years), for which much motivation, budget and personal/professional stability must be booked.
– What is the purpose? You want to move there with your family? You want to bring back the original people? You want to establish a kibbutz? A premium Albergo Diffuso? An organic farm?
– Either purpose requires conspicuous capital to invest. The successful stories you can find in Italy are all backed by the very deep pockets of some real estate company, banks or some foreign sponsors.
– The feasibility of the project depends very much on the structural status of the buildings: an expert architect (possibly a friend) is strongly recommended to assess the health of the walls you are going to buy. Last but not least, utilities and infrastructures should be checked: is there reach for drinkable water (in suitable quantity for modern use, not for 100 years old farmer!)? Is there around a point of connection to electrical grid?
– To create a sustainable business plan you need to have a plan to generate positive cash flow as quick as possible; e.g. renting the rooms as they are ready, starting a restaurant, organise events etc.
– Accessibility of the site is key to draw as much customers as you can: infrastructures and routes need to be investigated, regional upgrade plans to be checked and proximity to an international airport.
– Do not give for granted that local (survival) population will welcome the project and will actively support its execution.
– Start small, step-by-step and have a clear exit strategy at each phase of the project, e.g. sell to a partner.
– Project finance might be the only way to approach the initial investment; mind that banks will unlikely put more than 80% of the CAPEX, requesting very high guarantees.
All in all, I believe entrepreneurs are fascinated by giving back life to a ghost village due to its connection with deep human emotions: building a shelter, return to nature and connecting with ancient roots.

Daniele Calzolari has an MBA at IE Business School (Madrid, Spain), 10+ years experience in corporates and startups, lived in 4 countries, speaks 4 languages, and is 1 time father and husband. Read more