“We decided to be the top one, the main partner, to really invest in being a part of this show,” said Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian ambassador to the UK [soon to be Russia]. “Our country has always been a prime tourism destination, but Italy is not resting on its laurels.”
The country enjoyed an almost 16% rise in arrivals in 2016, and 16% more spending by visitors.
“Italy has been receiving a fantastic boost in recent years and we are honoured to be here at such a positive time. This shows the importance we place on tourism,” said Evelina Christillin, president of ENIT, the Italian tourism authority.
But Terracciano highlighted how interest in the country continued to be more varied, with tourists looking beyond the traditionally popular regions of Campania, Tuscany and Veneto.
“The town of Matera [in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy] becoming 2019 European Capital of Culture is one of many fantastic developments we welcome and are sure this trend of diversification in where people travel will continue,” added Terracciano.
Promoting Italy’s “borghi” – the country’s 1,000 ancient towns – was highlighted as another way in which Italy has been trying to spread tourism around the country in 2017.
Fabio Lazzerini, a board director of ENIT, added that the country was “back on the scene as a superpower”.
“This is something we absolutely needed to be,” added Lazzerini. “Tourism is so important to us as a country, representing almost 13% of all employment and looking like it has increased its contribution to GDP by 2.4% in 2017.”
He also highlighted how Italy had become “the most photographed country in the world”, notching up 70 million posts attached to #Italy on Instagram. Searches for the destination via Google also increased by 14% in the first half of the year, Lazzerini said.
New research carried out by IPSOS for ENIT in 18 countries has also revealed that “if consumers could visit any dream destination tomorrow”, 37% would visit Italy, making it top of the list worldwide.
“It’s clear we are popular – of course the problem for the future is to manage this flow of tourists,” said Lazzerini. “We are investing a lot to spread the market.”
One initiative to do so will be making 2018 the “year of Italian food”: Anno del Cibo.
ENIT has two main stands at WTM London (EU2000, EU2070) and shares its exhibition space with around 230 Italian partners.