The lull in international tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic has enabled Italy to take a step back and look at how to promote a slower, more sustainable form of travel.
This was the message from Maria Elena Rossi, director of marketing for the Italian Tourist Board, who was speaking at WTM Virtual today (9 November) during a destination briefing.
“We have always been talking about sustainability, for example when seeing our overcrowded cities. When you’re a destination that sees such strong growth [in visitor figures] each year it’s hard to put sustainability into practice.”
Rossi added that Italy now had a chance to look at how to balance economic development due to tourism with sustainability.
“As a world leader in tourism, this is a big challenge for us,” she said.
Rossi revealed that 2019 was a record year for tourism for the destination, with Italy welcoming 430 million overnight stays. She predicted that the impact of Covid-19 would see that figure halve by the end of 2021, with tourism figures not forecast to recover until 2023.
She also predicted that innovation in technology would help alleviate issues such as overcrowding in cities like Venice, and gave the example of an app which is being developed that allows tourists to see which areas of a city are less crowded.
She mentioned Venice’s #EnjoyRespectVenezia campaign, which was launched in 2017 to direct visitors towards the adoption of responsible and respectful behaviour towards the environment, landscape and tourism sites of Venice, and added she envisaged the campaign extending over the next year.
“This awareness of respecting the city, its citizens and heritage is key for the future,” said Rossi.
“We have the chance to do that now, and will be working with cities to support them in this direction.”