Local Expert: Professionals In Italian Tourism Industry Need to Change Now

Tourism is one the main industries of Italy’s economy. It generates 13 % of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), there are 4.2 million workers in tourism from directors to seasonal employees. The country is one of the leaders in tourism in Europe. And then happened Covid-19. The estimated loss for 2019-20 in Italy is calculated between 40-70 billion euros. The country lost 300 million over Easter holidays alone. Read next some rational thoughts from local tourism expert on how professionals in Italian tourism industry need to change now.

Fabrizio Antolini
Fabrizio Antolini
Elected president of Sistur (Italian Society of Tourism Science) and president of the Economic and Business Observatory of the University of Teramo, Abruzzo region

— The Covid-19 will change the concept of tourism; there should be a cultural leap.

The way of tourism seems increasingly orienting towards a sustainability that coincides with a different lifestyle. I have just finished a study together with a colleague of mine from ISTAT [National Institute of Statistics] on sustainable tourism and we have seen that in Italy there are areas where agri-tourisms have reorganized themselves producing directly quality food products, much appreciated by tourists. The Covid-19 will inevitably change the psychological profile of tourists, who will increasingly look for destinations where they can feel good.

Food and wine can be a cherry on top, or rather a cherry, but it cannot be the cake. It will be very important to be able to continue to develop tourism, but to leave the development of tourism to food and wine would be too heavy a task. Food and wine can become an important element of sustainable tourism and well-being.

It would be much more important to focus on seasonal adjustment. Although it would require targeted marketing policies and a complex action plan with non-immediate effects.

It is important that we avoid overtourism effects, i.e. unsustainable tourist pressure (take Rome as an example). In these conditions it is not possible to offer adequate services, compromising the well-being of the tourist. What is needed instead is for tourism, or rather the local authorities, to understand that tourism has an economic value and can and must be equated with a product and service. As such, it must be offered bearing in mind that there are so many reference markets (market segmentation) that can give rise to so much tourism. Tourism is a sector where supply creates demand. Tourist destinations must be characterised by rediscovering the missions of the territories. Many times the territories do not know themselves, they cannot identify tourist attractions, around which to build tourism as an experience.

Hospitality is the ability to relieve the customer and, above all, to offer itself as the first intermediary as regards the offer of services in the territory: it is a fundamental and important step. He who manages a service, in particular the receptive one, is the first ambassador of tourism. And he can be the first tourist guide on the territory, given an adequate knowledge of the digital services present on the territory. Think of the importance that taxis have in providing the image of the country, the tourist who arrives in Italy.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of appropriate professionalism. And targeted training in hospitality.

In 2011 the then Ministry of Tourism made a portal and a lot of money was spent. But then each region proceeded on its own, had a portal with a completely different format. At that time I was one of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development,) experts on tourism, I went to Enit (Italian National Agency of Tourism) and asked why there was not a single format for all the portals, whose contents had to be clearly different depending on the territory. I had no answer. Often the public intervenes in operations that should be done by the private sector, complicating the rules for calls for tenders, or not providing sufficient control over how public money was used. There is no regional office, even in collaboration with local universities, that is able to support companies in making business plans.

For the teacher [leader of tourism in Europe] we are also behind on the “new” languages: Chinese and German, English should be taken for granted.

[Digital marketing] should be done well, not in an improvised way.

[We need to have ability to organize events and the analysis of statistical data] with particular reference to the ability to have the tools to measure customer satisfaction. In this direction should also be read the possibility of using big data in the correct way, for example the information that appears on Twitter and Tripadvisor should be filtered. You need to know how to use this raw information, in some cases, not true.

The problem of governance exists in tourism as in other sectors. In tourism, however, it is more evident, since many services, for example transport, are managed centrally, while tourism is an exclusive competence of the regions. It is good or bad? It depends. In my opinion there is a lack of a transmission mechanism between local authorities, regions and state. The state-regions conference does not seem to me to be effective.

We are one of the countries with the largest number of airports and ports, but we move mainly by car. In Italy, excluding foreign incoming, 43.7 million trips are made by car out of a total of 62.3 million. If we consider holiday trips, 41.3 million trips are made by car out of a total of 56.3 million. And the Italian motorways are among the most expensive, just as the cost of fuel is more expensive. This is where we lose price competitiveness. Going on holiday for families is not always possible. The planning of tourism should be reviewed. The distance can no longer be assessed in terms of kilometres travelled, but above all in terms of the time taken to reach the destination. This is how services should be planned.

This is the translation of publication by Maurizio Carucci in Avvenite.it from 7 April 2020 by Ivan Kuznetsov.

Cover photo: San Marco Square (Piazza San Marco) in Venice, Italy, in Aprile 2019 © Ivan Kuznetsov.

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