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Online shopping: does it work?

Di Antonio Caneva, 6 Giugno 2003

There are industries in Italy where the Internet has been immediataly successful, and others where – in spite of great efforts, grand investment plans and learned anglosaxon-language dissertations – it has yielded disappointing results.
One of the hotel management functions where attempts have been made from the very beginning is procurement. For many years now, it has become a common practice for large and not so large hotel companies in the United States to conduct a large proportion of buying online; Richard Barret of Starwood said that “good online buying also means managing price variables together with all others, in order to optimise purchases”.
In Italy, on the contrary, after a few disappointing experiences, we are still in the phase of establishing whether this practice will work or not, and if it does, whether in the shorter or longer term. There is also a debate whether online buying is more interesting for furniture or for equipment, for fresh or dry foods, and so on. These are no doubt important aspects in judging a service which , in consideration of the peculiar characteristics of Italian establishments (mostly small-sized, seldom affiliated to large groups, often directly managed by their owners, and highly seasonal in nature) needs to express useful and credible proposals.
We closely watched the Ospitalia experience, the first true marketplace for the tourist hotel sector created in Italy a few years ago. It was started under excellent auspices: a boom period for the Internet, an advanced American technological platform, a far-sighted executive director and a commercial director with a background in the industry and a degree from the Hotel Management School of Lausanne. Those who followed the (short) life of this project, realised that after a much trumpeted start-up its sound grew progressively muted until it became a grinding background noise, to be finally taken over by a structure of Banca Provinciale di Bergamo, which intends to revive the proposal under the name of Focus Ospitalità, as part of a specialised marketplace project, on the Coralis portal. Is it going to work this time?
If it is true that we learn from history and from other people’s mistakes, chances are that it will, on condition, however, that every proposal be based on a thorough understanding of such a complex phenomenon as the tourism industry in our Country. Any initiative that does not take full account of it, no matter how valuable, will be doomed to failure. We will follow its developments with interest.

Translation of the Italian
editorial by Paola Praloran

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