Malacrida: “The potential is there but it must be regulated”
Selling ourselves well abroad and being quick about visas and direct air links - the line to adopt according to the patron of Res Hospitality Business Developers
The direct contribution of tourism to national GDP was 66 billion euros in 2014 ( 4.1% of total GDP) and the estimate is for 1.8% growth in 2015, reaching + 2.1% in the next decade, taking forecasts to 82.4% billion, which will account for 4.6% of the GDP in 2025. Jobs in the sector are expected to grow as well by over 2% and, more importantly, in a rankings list of 184 countries worldwide, Italy is in seventh position for the importance of the contribution by tourism to the national GDP: We are reminded of these figures, recently elaborated by the WTTC ( World Travel & Tourism Council), by Marco Malacrida, owner of Res Hospitality Business Developers, to highlight the role of tourism in the economy. “The trend is favourable because demand is positive. We are in first place on the world’s wish list”, he starts by saying. An idyllic picture were it not for a series of obstacles. He has clear ideas on what needs to be done: “We need to be rapid and focus on a two- pronged course of action: honing the visa issuing system and promoting direct links between Italy and the new emerging markets”. One example is the Chinese Chengdu area with its 14 million inhabitants. “SEA”, he announces, “is negotiating licences for a direct link with Milan. Opening new corridors towards India and South East Asia is fundamental”. On the issue of visas, although steps have been taken, there is still a lot to be done to prevent too many barriers to entry: “In 2015, France issued 1.8 million for Chinese visitors against the half million issued by Italy”.
The growing volume of bookings in Italy is happening on two levels, hotel and nonhotel, “but both must be regulated”, upholds Malacrida. The client will use both alternatively and therefore they will continue to co- exist, but they must be given the role of withholding agents”. This for two reasons: to guarantee safety and for economic and tax reasons. And while Airbnb for example is already a withholding agent in New York, here in Italy the question is more complicated, “because we
have bad short- term politics that are votes- based. Many are prospering in under- the- table illegal economics”, he explains, without mincing his words. Regarding the hospitality trend, the manager emphasises the most recent trend that sees a decisive improvement in bookings in secondary cities such as Turin, Mestre, Bologna, Matera, Ferrara and Mantua, “which have managed to attract attention thanks to the organisation of long- term events linked to art and culture”.
A driver for growth that must be leveraged in the future too. Two other aspects that encourage tourist presences in Italy are, on the one hand, the enhancement of the dollar and on the other the drop in demand for countries close to Italy such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey.
“There is great potential”, continues Malacrida, “but we need to learn how to sell ourselves better abroad. Spain and the Canaries in particular have realised how to best exploit the situation. Let’s invite foreign operators and journalists to try out our market”, he suggests, “let’s create niche charters ( bringing together golfing associations, traffic we then direct towards the golf courses in Lombardy or Sicily)”. After all, the inheritance left by Expo must be preserved with the planning of events and promotion of conferences with long- term initiatives. Enhancing the strong points also means “creating destination GDP”, focusing on synergies that can combine a visit to an exhibition or concert with shopping and other recreational activities. Social channels can play their part, but so far there “has not been any creation of added value. We should stop being self- referential and use story- telling in a different way, creating harmonious synergy focused on sales”.