Maria Elena Rossi, Marketing & Promotion Director, ENIT, Italian National Tourist Board
Picturing the future of travel post COVID-19, Maria Elena Rossi, Marketing & Promotion Director at ENIT, the Italian National Tourist Board, sees an opportunity to deal with the topic of sustainability and a new way to offer and experience tourism that’s greener and slower.
“The contingency provides an opportunity to everyone operating in the sector to raise their quality standards and enact the renewal and adjustment that the sector needs with the advancement of environmental innovation and policies,” says Rossi, who based in Rome at head office. “Many places that had to deal with flows of over tourism have the opportunity to direct those flows into less well-known areas. We are confident that everything will start up again, with more strength, and it will be a call for renewal and to positioning with new energy on the markets.”
Normally Italian tourism is divided into 50% foreign tourists, including many who arrive by car, and 50% Italian visitors. This year they expect a greater rate of domestic tourism, which will signify the first signals of a restart.
“For the image of our country, it is vital to get rid of the incorrect image of a country that is contagious for Europe. This is the time for walks, to rediscover natural outdoor paths that call for small groups. It will also be the time for more exclusive experiences to make it easier to take all the necessary precautions. It has always been a sustained battle with ENIT and the agency’s three-year plan includes a distribution of flows over a period of years and developing the promotion of less well-known spots,” she says.
The agency is also looking at ways to promote its key cities, which have always produced the highest number of international tourists, in different ways.
“We will start by listening to entrepreneurs, who have always experienced firsthand the tourist trends in the city. They must always feel that the institutions are by their side. But above all we must continue to believe in ourselves, believe in tourism as a primary source of economic well-being,” she says. “Probably at the international level the first tourist sector to start up again will be those connected to affluent tourists and the luxury sector, which ensures a more rapid restart. ENIT, specifically, has developed a data and market monitoring dashboard to support businesses, operators, and other institutions to become aware of trends in real time and allow proper re-planning of promotions to support the marketing of businesses to be able to restart in the most effective manner.”
With a mix of spas, seaside and city destinations, the arts, luxury, fashion and design, she’s confident tourism will restart with more grit.
“The Italian lifestyle will come back stronger than before,” she notes. “We will want everyone’s collaboration. More than ever at this time, Italy and the world need a sense of belonging and responsibility: each of us is in the hands of the behaviour of others. The support and involvement of all Italian citizens and travellers will be fundamental, and can tell a story, that there is something lovely in the less well-known areas, a storytelling that extends to everyone. The quality of the offer will be further enhanced with travel planning, in all its details, that complies, without deprivations, with the new rules dictated by COVID.”
With the highest number of UNESCO sites, a total of 55, she says restarting “Bel Paese” —the beautiful country — will come by reflecting the traditional values of art, good living, and sustainability.
“History, tradition and cultural heritage are still a strong tourist motivation bringing visitors to the peninsula, and even at this time, it will surely contribute to the restart. The crisis will offer an opportunity to appreciate the attractiveness of the peculiarities that make Italy unmistakable and famous throughout the world, giving exclusive access to places that are less well-known and publicized, where one can experience the mystery of the origins and traditions of our country, which fill the timeless pages of history,” she continues, adding that its heritage parks will also be key to spreading new vision of slow and eco-sustainable tourism. “Following tasteful itineraries, far from the paths beaten by mass tourism, to then be directed toward the paths of the masters to discover the works of the geniuses of science and musicians that are a part of world history. Living ‘all’italiana,’ that is, the lifestyle and fashion, will be one of the trampolines for the restart.”
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