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Expo and tourism, between promises and criticalities

Di Antonio Caneva, 3 Luglio 2014

A few days ago I spoke to a hotel manager from Milan about Expo 2015, trying to understand how hotel reservations are developing.
I was taken aback by the reply he gave me, even though, on reflection, it was not so surprising: ” At the moment, the only sure thing is that we have lost occupancy for that period ( 1 May – 30 October 2014). In fact, those who normally organise meeting or events are careful not to consider that period, for fear that prices will be too high, or that there will be too much confusion, or other possible problems”.
With regard to prices, which are expected to rise during Expo according to a “yield approach”, during a meeting organised by GP Dati, Enzo Carella, director of Uvet Itn Travel Network, warned that if prices rise beyond reasonableness (as may well happen), the tourism system of our country will suffer adverse repercussions for the following three years; studies conducted on similar events have shown that a negative perception is left for a long time after the end of an event.
Mr. Carella went on to emphasise how important it is that Expo 2015 should become a showcase for our country, not so much in terms of its attractiveness, as in terms of organisation, security, political environment, transportations, etc. In the perception of foreign travellers, in fact, Italy is “top of the mind”, but such attractiveness does not concretely translate into choosing Italy as a destination, because of existing concerns regarding the mentioned areas.
During the same meeting, Antonella Fiorelli, Isnart researcher, presented documents showing that, in a world where tourism is strongly growing, the revenues from tourist spending in Italy went down from EUR 77.432bn to EUR 73.004bn in the period 2008-2013.
In another slide, Ms. Fiorelli showed foreign travellers’ spending in the various Italian regions, subdivided into increases and decreases between 2010 e 2013. At the top of the rank is the Sicilian Region, which in percentage terms (i.e. not in absolute value) is ranking first with a 35.8% increase, while last comes the Molise Region, with a 21.2% decrease in the same period.
Should we be surprised? In don’t think so: there is a cause-effect process. I remember that, a few years ago, having the intention to spend some days in Campobasso and Termoli, I asked the local tourist board for a pricelist of the hotels: they sent me a scant list from the previous year, with the current prices corrected in ink. How could we be surprised?

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