Sustainable Italy: culture, gastronomy, nature & sports… off peak

Exclusive Interview: Giorgio Palmucci, President, and Maria Elena Rossi, director of Marketing and Promotion, ENIT – Italian National Tourist Board

Italian National Tourist Board, ENIT, this year continues a strong push to put the nation even more firmly onto the global tourism stage. With a renewed momentum coming from the organisation’s dynamic new President, Giorgio Palmucci, ENIT is very active, supported by Maria Elena Rossi, ENIT’s director of Marketing and Promotion. Firstly, we asked them about the key elements of their strategy.

Giorgio Palmucci: The first main element is that of sustainability. Italy’s promotional strategy is centred around this when it comes to promoting our destinations and tourism products. We are also aiming to convince people to visit Italy during the low season or follow circuits that are off the beaten track.

Maria Elena Rossi, Director, Marketing and Promotion, ENIT

Maria Elena Rossi: Our marketing strategy is based on value growth, enhancing the value of our country through the promotion of authenticity and experiences to conscious travellers who wish to deepen their knowledge of “off the beaten track” destinations, but also who want to look with different eyes the most popular ones. Recent surveys show that 58% of travellers would choose not to visit a place if doing so has a negative impact on its inhabitants. Moreover, 86% of global travellers are willing to engage with actives that counteract the environmental impact of their trip.

What are the biggest challenges to increasing visitor numbers, and how are you addressing these?

GP: We do not aim expressly to increase visitors, but to do that out of the high season from June to August and to move tourism where there is slightly lesser-known cultural heritage, by suggesting for them to visit not only the big, but also small cultural destinations, coastal and inner rural areas, enjoying them in winter and spring time.

86% of global travellers are willing to engage with actives that counteract the environmental impact of their trip – Maria Elena Rossi

MER: Indeed, our value growth tourism strategy implies specific objectives, in terms of increase of income for our tourism businesses, increase of average overnights, less seasonality and increase of overnights in less known destinations, where 64% of our 55 UNESCO sites are located.

Please tell us more about your added efforts for promotion in China, the USA and the Middle East.

GP: These three markets are targeted in our promotional plan thanks to different actions that we have been planning. China is essentially a market where the tourism demand is changing in depth, moving from groups of “golden age” tourists visiting our major art cities to future couple of affluent baby-boomers, Gen X and millennials, interested in new small cultural destinations to be visited during the whole year. Therefore, in China, we are opening two new ENIT offices to be able to promote Italy correctly to each specific target. In the USA, the main target is those of affluent and HNWI (high net worth individuals) and we are organising specific workshops to connect Italian and American tourism systems. In the Middle East, we are orienting the promotion to health and wellness tourism because of the huge prospective of these tourism products both in the multigenerational groups than in the emerging market of millennials.

MER: Italy is the first tourist destination in Europe for visitors from other continents, and we are growing at a higher rate compared to our competitors. In the markets you mentioned, we are, as Giorgio stated, concentrating our efforts on the luxury segment and on Millennials and Gen Z. The current situation is not changing our strategy but our investments, especially on the Chinese market, are now concentrated in digital marketing. Also, Expo Dubai 2020 will be a great opportunity for the promotion of Italian lifestyle and tourism experiences in Asia and The Middle East.

Your job entails harmonising the promotion of different regions, and creating a “Brand Italy”. Why is this important?

GP: It is really necessary to combine the tourism promotion of specific regions and areas and the brand concept standing in the name “Italia”. Italia is not only a brand because it is a whole country, but it is much more than that, because of the Italian style and way of life, which, all born in a single place, become common heritage. These sentiments are collective, not only territorial. Therefore, it is vital that will be the “continuity” between local and national themes of tourism promotion.

It is really necessary to combine the tourism promotion of specific regions and areas and the brand concept standing in the name “Italia” – Giorgio Palmucci

MER: “Italia” is globally a very strong tourist brand, thanks to the reputation of “made in Italy” products and brands in the fields of fashion, design, food and wine. The diversity which every region, city and village carries acquires more value under the brand Italia. At the same time, diversity and authenticity bring value to the brand, as they enrich the marketing opportunities in a context were travellers are looking more and more for distinction, personalisation and unique experiences.

What is your message to the world’s travel professionals?

MER: Our message is that Italy offers, to the different market segments, new ways to be visited, new paths to be explored thanks to the beauty all around and the all year around experiences. The very important aspect of the Italian way of life is to catch and enjoy the authenticity, characterised by a profound material and immaterial cultural heritage, the joy of life and the attitude in enjoying tastes and fragrances of nature. Preserving authenticity and nature is the concrete path to sustainable development. Innovation connects the past with the future and implies both for destinations and professionals a new positioning on the market. Italy is ready to accept the challenge.

Photo: Giorgio Palmucci, President, ENIT 

GERMANY – #1 tourism market for Italy

Germany is Italy’s #1 source market, with a value of more than €7bn. Italy’s promotional strategy towards Germany has evolved over recent years, beginning with the target of lovers of seaside holidays, continuing on to the natural offering and eco-tourism for couples and families. Further to this, ENIT is proposing combinations, such as cultural and sporting destinations for active families, with the added touch of local gastronomy. The next step is that of millennials who are looking for new ways to visit Italy, combining sustainability with authenticity of experiences.