The road to the future of Italian tourism

Politics - December 21, 2022

The Stati Generali del Turismo (States General of Tourism), the first national planning conference called by the Ministry of Tourism, was held in Chianciano Terme on 28-29 October.
The aim of the conference was to focus on the current state, the future of the sector, and the upcoming 2023-2027 Tourism Strategic Plan.
In the splendid setting of the Acqua Santa Park, sector operators and representatives of bodies and institutions gave life to a two-day event full of proposals and contributions, also in the light of the current recovery phase with respect to the year 2020, a recovery that nonetheless still marks a clear distance with respect to the numbers of the pre-Covid era.
One of the focal points of the debate was certainly sustainable and responsible tourism.
Open air tourism, such as cycle tourism and walking routes, is in fact registering increasing interest, especially among the younger generations.
Of particular interest is that linked to traditional ‘paths’ such as the Via Francigena, which plays a fundamental role in the economies of the villages and towns that are crossed by it.
Of course, among the protagonists of our tourism, food and wine tourism stands out, confirming how the ‘Mediterranean diet’ and the typical nature of our products are a heritage to be protected, even in spite of European policies that would like to eliminate precisely these typical products.
Tourists’ interest in taste trails, our vineyards, our oil and local products are one of the jewels in the crown of our tourism.
The other lion’s share of national tourism is, of course, that of cultural tourism, which increasingly attracts young people, also thanks to digitalisation.
So if the ‘picture’ of the present appeared clear, what we need to focus our efforts, energy and resources on is the future.
One of the issues in evidence was certainly that of training. There is a lack of higher education schools in our country, with young people being forced to turn to foreign institutes, particularly in Switzerland. Even our hotel management institutes appear to be lagging behind their European peers, all to the detriment of the quality of those who then have to enter the world of work and consequently of the difficult placement.
The process of retraining must also be followed by greater job attractiveness for young people. Currently, according to the data provided, work in the Italian tourism sector does not represent a desire for our young people, both because of problems related to low wages, especially when compared to the citizenship income that allows people to receive money without working, and because of the instability of many offers: contracts are mostly seasonal.
And it was precisely the issue of seasonality that was one of the most debated at Chianciano, where the need to make our tourist offer ‘non seasonal’ was repeatedly emphasized.
It seems increasingly necessary to follow the example of Spain, France and other European countries by boosting sectors that can operate over 12 months, such as the spa sector, but also those linked to historic villages and wine and food routes.
Another topic was the centrality and importance of major events for the sector.
The occasion of the Roman Olympics having vanished, as is well known, the next Strategic Plan for Tourism has several appointments on its agenda that Italy cannot miss
It begins with Roma Caput Mundi, an innovative process to enhance Rome’s archaeological, cultural and tourist heritage that uses the opportunity offered by the Recovery Plan to prepare the city to welcome the Jubilee 2025 and the candidature for the Rome Expo 2030. The project aims to increase the number of accessible tourist sites, create valid and qualified tourist and cultural alternatives to the crowded central areas, increase the use of digital technologies, enhance green areas and the sustainability of tourism.
Then there is the appointment of the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics. A unique opportunity to relaunch the area, to make new infrastructure investments, and to demonstrate that our country is capable of hosting and organising major events in the best possible way.
And precisely on the subject of sports events, the newly appointed Minister of Tourism Santanchè reiterated their importance on the occasion of the ATP finals in Turin, emphasising that ‘they are an absolutely important event for Italian tourism. These sporting events increase the tourist offer and the data already confirm this. We have 38% of foreign spectators and we must work together, sport and tourism, so that this share grows even more.”

Returning to the Chianciano conference, the two-day event highlighted the urgent need for operators to upgrade facilities, make them grow, improve the product, attract qualified young people to the sector, digitalise and enhance the exclusivity of our country. In order to succeed in all this, however, investments are needed, and it is precisely in this that the operators note the sore point.
In fact, 2.4 billion have been allocated through the ‘tourism package’, a figure considered low, especially when compared to those of other countries and to the incidence that tourism has on Italy’s GDP.
The funds are distributed as follows:
1,786 million for a National Tourism Fund, comprising six different interventions;
1. 500 million, tax credit (80%) and non-repayable fund for tourism enterprises;
2. 98 million to support the digitalisation of travel agencies and tour operators;
3. 500 million to set up a fund with the participation of the MEF and the EIB for the modernisation of accommodation facilities, interventions in the mountains, and the development of new tourist itineraries;
4. 358 million for a Guarantee Fund to support the entrepreneurial fabric and develop new professional skills;
5. 180 million for a non-repayable fund and activation of a revolving Cdp fund for the modernisation of facilities, elimination of architectural barriers, and environmental redevelopment;
6. 150 million for the National Tourism Fund, managed with Cdp, to strengthen structures and enhance real estate assets.
114 million to activate the Digital Tourism Hub, a digital platform to aggregate the national tourism offer online;
500 million for the already mentioned Caput Mundi project.

Certainly important investments that represent a starting point and a breath of fresh air for a sector that is recovering, but they cannot be the point of arrival.
The hope is that the Meloni government, which has the relaunch of tourism as one of the main points of its programme, can put its hand to resources by increasing those dedicated to this strategic sector.