Per­fect Ita­lian, interview wi­th Ric­car­do Ma­ria Mon­ti

seeITALY - - Primo Piano - Le­ti­zia Strambi

The pre­si­dent of ICE, the Ita­lian Tra­de Pro­mo­tion Agen­cy, talks about the di­rec­tion ta­ken in the agen­cy’s new era

If they had dra­wn up a blue­print for the ICE pre­si­dent, it would ha­ve re­sem­bled Ric­car­do Mon­ti: fa­sci­na­ting, fluent in flour lan­gua­ges, the na­tu­ral elegance of the Nea­po­li­tan man and a friend­ly Ame­ri­can- style ap­proa­ch, but ne­ver OT T to the point of im­po­li­te fa­mi­lia­ri­ty. He uses not one En­gli­sh word du­ring the en­ti­re con­ver­sa­tion, not even a “smart ” or “friend­ly ”, terms that ma­na­gers of his ilk usual­ly be­stow upon re­si­gned jour­na­lists. We are sur­pri­sed to di­sco­ver that at the helm of the Ita­lian Tra­de Pro­mo­tion Agen­cy we ha­ve the “per­fect Ita­lian”, not ju­st a fi­gu­re­head ac­ting the part that fo­rei­gners ex­pect from Ita­lians. The right per­son to at­tract in­vest­men­ts: cau­tious to the ex­tent that as he talks not even an eye­brow mo­ves in con­tra­st wi­th what he says. All tho­se sto­ries about hand- wa­ving Ita­lians are re­fu­ted, wrong- foo­ting tho­se who still be­lie­ve we are a na­tion of noi­sy spa­ghet­ti- ea­ters. Al­thou­gh it does de­pend on the qua­li­ty and ty­pe of spa­ghet­ti. This will be per fec­tly clear to tho­se who ha­ve wor­ked wi­th Ric­car­do Ma­ria Mon­ti for four years around the world.

See Ita­ly: You are one of tho­se Ita­lians en­vied by fo­rei­gners, what mark ha­ve you ma­de on the di­rec­tion ta­ken by the new Ita­lian Tra­de Pro­mo­tion Agen­cy?

“For a long ti­me, pro­mo­tion by the ICE fo­cu­sed on ju­st so­me key sec­tors, su­ch as ma­nu­fac­tu­ring. We are try­ing to mo­der­ni­se how pro­mo­tion is car­ried out, di­rec­ting it th­rou­gh dif­fe­rent, even im­ma­te­rial, di­stric­ts, su­ch as di­gi­tal, com­pu­ting and ae­ro­spa­ce. We ha­ve tried to si­mul­ta­neou­sly al­so pro­mo­te in­vest­ment at­trac-

tion, in the sa­me way as all the other big Eu­ro­pean coun­tries. Put­ting new in­vest­men­ts in pla­ce was the third step: over re­cent years we ha­ve ope­ned ten new of­fi­ces that re­pre­sent a stra­te­gic move for the new di­rec­tion ta­ken by the ICE. In the­se of­fi­ces, ju­st li­ke all the others, the­re has been a strong pu­sh to­wards in­ter­di­sci­pli­na­ri­ty. For exam­ple, if we pro­mo­te foot­wear, we bring wi­th us the en­ti­re pro­duc­tion di­strict and the­re­fo­re food and wi­ne, crafts, etc.”.

See Ita­ly: A weak eu­ro, the Ju­bi­lee, Ex­po ju­st having fi­ni­shed: it all looks fa­vou­ra­ble. How ha­ve we chan­ged in the non- Ita­lian col­lec­ti­ve’s ima­gi­na­tion?

“This con­ta­mi­na­tion activity, this syn­cre­tic pro­mo­tion has qua­dru­pli­ca­ted the eco­no­my that ro­ta­tes around in­co­ming: ho­tels, re­stau­ran­ts and bars, ho­spi­ta­li­ty, tour ope­ra­ting. 2015 was a good year, in so­me ci­ties tou­ri­sm po­sted re­cord fi­gu­res, li­ke Florence. In others, li­ke Ro­me, the th­reat of ter­ro­ri­sm ma­de itself felt as in other in­ter­na­tio­nal ca­pi­tals. We all know that tou­ri­sm is our coun­try’s gold­mi­ne, ho­we­ver la­te­ly we ha­ve suf­fe­red from in­suf­fi­cient pro­mo­tion. Wi­th the cul­tu­ral he­ri­ta­ge we ha­ve, we sim­ply ha­ve to go wi­th the flow: suf­fi­ce to think of mar­ke­ts li­ke Chi­na whe­re the num­ber of tou­rists is gro­wing ama­zin­gly eve­ry year. The long- term is po­si­ti­ve, but we need to know how to be­co­me part of this flow wi­th pro­mo­tion for the struc­tu­red seg­men­ts: from golf, to bea­ches and con­gress. Lo­ts of seg­men­ta­tion work needs to be do­ne”.

See Ita­ly: How is the ICE chan­ging in the era of the sha­ring eco­no­my? Are the­re pro­jec­ts that can be shared wi­th the new bu­si­nes­ses on the­se mar­ke­ts?

“I ha­ve seen so­me phe­no­me­na de­ve­lop ex­tre­me­ly ra­pid­ly in Si­li­con Val­ley. They mustn’t stop, they mu­st, on the con­tra­ry, act as dri­vers. The sha­ring eco­no­my is an un­stop­pa­ble phenomenon, ju­st li­ke low- co­st air­li­nes in the pa­st. To­day Rya­nair is the lea­ding Ita­lian air com­pa­ny. Who would ha­ve ima­gi­ned? The big wa­ves need to be rid­den. Think about what car sha­ring re­pre­sen­ts for ur­ban mo­bi­li­ty. The­re are new ways of vi­si­ting ci­ties, of being tou­rists. We are or­ga­ni­sed in­to sup­ply chains and this is why it is dif­fi­cult for us to ac­cept this chan­ge, we don’t li­ke gi­ving in but we will ha­ve to”.

See Ita­ly: Films li­ke “Eat, Pray, Lo­ve” or “The Gla­dia­tor” ha­ve ma­de the dif­fe­ren­ce to mil­lions in the tra­vel and pur­cha­se choi­ces of ma­ny con­su­mers. Is

the­re a re­la­tion­ship bet­ween the ICE and the va­rious Film Com­mis­sions in Ita­ly, are the­re any shared pro­jec­ts or in­vest­men­ts?

“Lo­ts of them, and I am par­ti­cu­lar­ly a bac­ker of the­se: we ha­ve quin­tu­pli­ca­ted pro­mo­tion of Ita­lian ci­ne­ma abroad, sel­ling our films means, at the sa­me ti­me, using the film con­tent to pro­mo­te Ita­ly as a de­sti­na­tion and phi­lo­so­phy of li­fe. At the sa­me ti­me the sprea­ding of Ita­lian ci­ne­ma pro­duc­ts can at­tract the pro­duc­tion of films in Ita­ly. So, in ad­di­tion to wi­th the va­rious Ita­lian Film Com­mis­sions, we are al­so wor­king wi­th the Mi­ni­str y for eco­no­mic de­ve­lo­p­ment and wi­th ANI­CA ( Ita­ly ’s na­tio­nal film as­so­cia­tion). The­se are all part­ner­ships that work to­wards the com­mon goal of pro­mo­ting Ita­ly and at­trac­ting in­vest­ment".

See Ita­ly: What is the ICE doing for in­ter­na­tio­na­li­sa­tion of the ho­tel chain? Can it use sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to at­tract in­vest­ment by in­ter­na­tio­nal chains?

“The Ita­lian go­vern­ment has in fact do­ne mu­ch to ma­ke the con­text mu­ch mo­re at­trac­ti­ve to in­vest­men­ts in ge­ne­ral; from a new ma­na­ge­ment mo­del for so­me ban­krupt­cy pro­ce­du­res, to com­po­si­tion wi­th cre­di­tors and tax ad­mi­ni­stra­tion. De­di­ca­ted areas ha­ve al­so been set up in the ci­vil courts for fo­rei­gn in­ve­stors and the­re has been great aper­tu­re to so­me issues su­ch as per­mi­ts. Proof of this is the fact that one of the in­vest­men­ts gi­ving the be­st re­sul­ts re­cen­tly has been real esta­te in the ho­tel sec­tor. As far as in­ter­na­tio­nal chains are con­cer­ned, you mu­st know that Hil­ton is wor­king on Ca­ta­nia, in the sa­me way that ma­ny other pre­sti­ge chains are in­te­re­sted in other Ita­lian de­sti­na­tions”.

See Ita­ly: Are the new BRIC mar­ke­ts, wi­th their hu­ge si­ze, sti­mu­la­ting be­ha­viour that goes beyond the ty­pi­cal lo­cal mind­set in Ita­ly?

“The­re has been great chan­ge over re­cent years. It is true that in the pa­st we pro­mo­ted our­sel­ves abroad wi­th a fla­ky ap­pea­ran­ce. This no lon­ger happens, the­re is strong in­sti­tu­tio­nal and cor­po­ra­te coor­di­na­tion. Mo­ving to­wards ex­ports se - pa­ra­te­ly no lon­ger ma­kes sen­se, in fact, it is a phenomenon that doe­sn’t exi­st any mo­re”.

See Ita­ly: What would you ask for on a le­gi­sla­ti­ve le­vel if you could? What do we need to lend im­pe­tus to in­ter­na­tio­na­li­sa­tion?

“It would be enou­gh to boo­st the pro­cess to eli­mi­na­te the po­wer of ve­to: too ma­ny or­ga­ni­sa­tions on a lo­cal le­vel can slow do­wn in­vest­ment thanks to ti­ny mi­no­ri­ties wi­th big po­wer. It happens that the re­sul­ts of a pro­ject chan­ge du­ring ser­vi­ce con­fe­ren­ces when cer tain par ties, who al­mo­st ne­ver re­pre­sent all the ci­ti­zens, exer­ci­se their right to ve­to”.

See Ita­ly: What is the­re of your Nea­po­li­tan soul and New York edu­ca­tion in your dai­ly bu­si­ness dea­lings, in how you work?

“Jo­king, I would say my pas­sion for cof­fee. Then, li­ke eve­ry self- re­spec­ting Nea­po­li­tan, I ha­ve a mar­ked abi­li­ty to adapt whi­ch is in­di­spen­sa­ble in our job – you go from a de­le­ga­tion of Rus­sians, to a TV set, to a mee­ting wi­th far­mers. Whi­le in Ame­ri­ca I learnt their ma­nia­cal at­ten­tion to prep­ping, get­ting de­tai­led in­fo rea­dy be­fo­re mee­tings”.

See Ita­ly: So did you in­ve­sti­ga­te me too, be­fo­re I ca­me to interview you?

“Not you, but the to­pics, yet ”.

See Ita­ly: Your po­li­ti­cal fu­tu­re? Is this can­di­da­cy for Na­ples true?

( Smi­ling) “No, in lieu of a can­di­da­cy, a sug­ge­stion: so­me peo­ple thought I could be useful to the ci­ty and I con­fir­med my avai­la­bi­li­ty”.

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