Rome: Italy was the fifth most chosen tourist destination in the world while China became a global tourism market leader in 2018, according to participants at a conference held by Italian national tourism industry association Federturismo in Rome.
The conference focused on Italy’s prospects in terms of international tourism, looking at other countries’ success stories and analyzing strategies to attract a greater piece of the international tourism pie.
Both filled with artistic, archeological and natural treasures as well as bearers of traditions that are thousands of years old, Italy and China are first and second in the world, respectively, in terms of the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites on their soil.
At least 62 million international tourists reached Italy in the first nine months of 2018, out of a total of 1.83 billion people from around the world who traveled for pleasure in the period (+56 million over the previous year), according to Federturismo.
Giulio De Metrio, chief operating officer of SEA Group, said that his company’s strategy of “identifying new commercial and industrial opportunities with the Chinese market, [which is] a great generator of tourist flows” has resulted in the growth of arrivals at Milan’s Malpensa International Airport, which by this year’s close will have been used by 24.5 million passengers (up 11 percent year-on-year).
“We have been working for a while to increase the number of direct flights between China and Italy,” De Metrio said. “We are in contact with Chinese airlines and tour operators to verify the willingness to open new direct routes to Milan.”
In terms of the economic value of the tourism sector in terms of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) and employment based on current and estimated future data out to 2028, the best performer was Austria, where tourism is expected to grow national GDP from 4.7 percent currently to 16.7 percent by the end of the coming decade.
One of the main reasons for this is the relations between the public and private sectors in a given country, and one of the key indicators is the ease of doing business in that given country: the World Bank has ranked Italy 46th in its ease of doing business index (where 1st place means the most business-friendly regulations), between Romania and Armenia, according to Federturismo.
The association also pointed to the success of Spain and Portugal in attracting tourists, which it said stems from “a convergence between politics and the economic system, which places the tourism sector on center stage as a driver of development.”
“An appropriate policy of tourist penetration in strategic markets must be one of the key chapters of the overall strategy we need to design and follow in order to increase Italy’s presence in those markets,” said Federturismo Confindustria President Gianfranco Battisti, who also called for “the implementation of a grand plan of accessibility for [Italy].”
Tourism Minister Gian Marco Centinaio said that Italy must invest in digitalization and infrastructure while preserving its traditions in order to access its “incredible, still unexpressed potential.”
“The objective is to implement technology and innovation linked to tradition, because if tradition is missing, you no longer know where you’re going,” said the minister, adding that being the world’s fifth most chosen tourist destination “is not enough.”