The digitalization of key travel services has the potential to be a great boost for the Italian economy. Almost 60% of reservations in Italy are already made directly online. Tourism is already the major online industry in Italy registering revenues of almost €5 billion per year.
The digitization of the economy has revolutionized the tourism market, radically changing its existing business models. Tourists have become promoters and entrepreneurs have become ambassadors through websites, social media, blogs and other online platforms.
Over time the relationship between market operators, such as tourism entrepreneurs and travel agencies, and institutions such as tourism promotion agencies has changed. To be competitive policymakers need to identify and focus on their country’s key competitive advantages and differentiate the traveler’s experience from other similar destinations.
Digitalization is a great tool for doing exactly this. As we face a more and more volatile macroeconomic environment, developing destinations should consider effective short-term turnaround digital strategies to strengthen their travel and tourism sectors and reestablish their appeal to the international traveler.
We expect tourism to remain a significant driver of future economic growth even if economic, political, and environmental challenges are growing. Policy makers who focus on their country’s most prominent assets and are able to leverage them most effectively, will be best positioned to turn volatility risks into opportunities for long-term stability.
This is why we aim to completely overhaul the Italian tourism promotion agency to equip it for the digital age.
It is important to establish strong relations with key tourism markets. For instance, our Italian tourism strategy is highly focused on the Chinese market. As a consequence Mr. Dario Franceschini, the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, recently announced that China and Italy have signed a series of cooperation agreements.
A stronger tourism and cultural partnership between the two countries will make Chinese tourists a great driving force for the development of the Italian market over the next ten years. Likewise, India, Russia, USA and other developed and developing countries are and will be solid partners and thriving markets.
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It has changed tourist’s habits, and business models. This has been most acutely felt in the areas of promotion and communication. Today, a strategy for digital tourism is mandatory if we are to successfully promote Italy’s main assets, namely life style, culture, food industry, design, and even upmarket goods.
In Italy, tourism accounts for almost 40% of ecommerce. The Italian Government therefore understands the importance of digitalizing tourism. This is why a recent government decree established a 30% tax credit for digital innovation expenditures incurred by firms.
Digital platforms will be used to create a “tourism system” focused on developing integrated ICT services shared by several operators, such as tourist cards, territorial websites, and integrated itineraries. Some provinces and locations are already establishing good practices in these areas that can be spread nationwide.
There is little doubt of Italy’s appeal as a tourist destination. The Country Brand Index 2012-2013, ranks us first for artistic and cultural heritage, history, food and wine. This appeal combined with a digital revolution will be a decisive economic boost for our economy.